Tuesday, January 9, 2007

My First Sweater

Today was one of those days that reminded me why I quit knitting 30 years ago (or at least one of the reasons I quit). It's too hot in L.A. most of the time to wear woolens, even light wool. I know I shouldn't complain, but I'm a "dyed-in-the-wool" New Englander! I love wool. I love the feel of it, and yes, even the smell of it. I love the colors that wool comes in and I love it's stretchy give and take when it is knitted up. It can be super soft and so-o-o warm. Today I wanted to wear the sweater I completed last fall, my first major project after returning to the fiber arts, but at 83 degrees, it was too hot. I guess I will have to plan a ski trip in order to wear the stuff I have been making. Maybe that's another reason I am drawn to lace. I think I will have more opportunity to wear it.

The Gedifra sweater was an ambitious undertaking to say the least for someone who barely remembered how to do a purl stitch and knew only one method of cast-on, too. It came out pretty well considering it was a learning project. The pattern was from Gedifra Highlights 042. It has no name like some of the patterns nowadays with their dreamy names like "Glade" and "River," it's just No. 606.

I used a Gedifra yarn as the main color, but not the one called for. The name of the yarn was "For Classic" which I can't find on the Gedifra website, so it probably has been discontinued. But it was a wonderful yarn to work with, 50% Merino wool and 50% acrylic, a one-ply yarn. Even though I got the gauge required, I think the yarn was thicker and had a heavier look to it when knitted. This was a problem because the other yarn that I wanted to use was a mohair, very light and airy, "Showstopper" by Ironstone. That yarn is aptly named because it really is outstanding. It is actually three yarns, "Paris Nights," "Eyelash," and Mohair, blended together. But how was I going to give it more substance, more body to balance with the For Classic? I got the idea to knit them together, one row of Showstopper and one row of For Classic, and added some garter stitching at random in the otherwise stockinette background. I was very pleased with the results.

Another problem was the sizing. The smallest the pattern would go was not small enough for me, so I decided to decrease some stitches in the width and worked to my measurements in the length and I'm so glad I did. My years of sewing fabrics came in handy here. I knew how the pieces were going to be sewn together at the end and I knew how to measure them to make it fit right.

When I finished the cuffs, they were way too big. It was like the tail that wagged the dog. I think the reason was again because the For Classic yarn was too heavy. The pattern called for the cuffs to be knitted after the shoulder and top of the sleeve had been sewn together but the bottom seam would extend from the cuff all the way down the sides which would add to the thickness of the cuff. So I "frogged" (is that the right term?) them back, sewed up the side seams, and tried knitting the cuffs on dpns (there's a whole lot of new jargon for me to learn), in the round with no seam. That was a struggle with needles going in all directions and forget trying to get gauge! Luckily I found the help I needed on the web at KnittingHelp.com and switched to the "magic loop" method for circular knitting with a small diameter.

The ribbing that goes all the way from the lower right front side seam to the bottom of the left front took several tries before I got it right. too. There weren't enough stitches on the mohair side and too many on the Classic side to balance out. I undid the ribbing so many times, I was afraid the yarn wouldn't take another try and I didn't want to go all the way back to picking up the stitches again. Luckily, it all came out satisfactorily in the end. And my daughter tells me that the weather is going to get cold again this weekend.

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