Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Fight to Pare Arms

I finally had to admit that I wasn't happy with the length of the sleeves on my recently-completed Sawyer Sweater. Something needed to be done.

At first I thought I could just unravel the end and rework the ribbing further up the length of the sleeve. But since I don't do this sort of thing often, I forgot you can't simply unravel the cast-on edge of a ribbed fabric piece like you can the cast-off edge. I knew this 9 years ago, but have since forgotten (see link below). Something about the moving of the yarn in front of and behind the work locks it in in that direction. It's possible to pick the yarn out through each stitch individually (which I laboriously did for a few rows), but that would eventually wear the yarn, and my patience, to a fragile thinness.

My second approach was to try and define a row on the sleeve from whence I wanted to start the cuff ribbing anew, and then cut the yarn. It's unnerving and plays havoc with the stitch count, but it's possible. I've done it before. But not this time. The nature of this pattern is such that it's very difficult to define a row in the completed work. I kept trying to run a line through what I thought was a row only to realize I was working on the diagonal, as this fabric naturally runs.

That left Plan C, which was remove the sleeves, unravel them (from the cast-off edge!) and start them over -- this time without the extra inch that I thought I'd needed the first time around and measuring more carefully. Daunting, but necessary. Ive got the first one finished and will start on the second today. As you can see, the length is coming out much better. The schematic in the pattern tells me it should be 25" long. This second attempt is 25 ¼" long. I'll take it.

It's going by pretty quickly now. I almost feel I can knit this pattern in my sleep at this stage. It's difficult to get motivated to do this kind of alteration for several reasons, among them the feeling that I should know better by now, the lovely spring weather and other planned time-sensitive knitting projects. But ultimately it feels good to be addressing this now so that it will all be squared away in 11 months when winter comes again.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Sawyer Sweater

I finally finished it up today!

As of this morning, I had completed all the large pieces, sewn the shoulder seams together, and added the collar. All I had left to do was add the button bands, sew on the buttons, and seam everything together.

One of the things I'm not used to doing with patterns is knowing that when it says to make the button band a certain length, the pattern expects it to fit in a certain place and way -- and I should check that. I made the button band and the buttonhole band the requisite 8.25", but when I held them up, I could see they were an inch short. So I added an inch to the button band, and totally remade the buttonhole band, since the old one had holes in all the wrong places. This set me back a bit.

Once fixed, the afternoon was devoted to sewing. Because Shelter is a fragile yarn when pulled, it doesn't work well for sewing seams (ask me how I know this), so I found some old chocolate brown sport weight yarn that I'd used to make some gloves several year ago. Perhaps not an ideal match, but it doesn't show anywhere, so it did the job.

This pattern doesn't lend itself well to invisible seaming -- which, as the programmers say, is a feature rather than a bug. However, it's interesting to note that none of the model photographs in the pattern show any of the seams on the sides or on the sleeves. I can't remember who it was that pointed this aspect of pattern marketing out to me years ago. Flaws -- or at least details that some might find off-putting, don't make it into photos. I get it -- we all have a good side. And the seams don't bother me -- I only really noticed when I referred to the pattern to see what they were supposed to look like.

Another takeaway that I didn't catch onto in the pattern photographs was that one of the models had the cuffs rolled back. You may recall that I'd added an inch to the body and the sleeves to accommodate my anatomy. Didn't need it in the sleeves, it turns out. They go all the way to my knuckles -- which wouldn't be a bad thing on frosty mornings -- but not what I'd planned for. I did hold them up to my arms before sewing things together and saw that they looked a bit long, but I've been burned before and ended up with short sleeves. This time, it seemed I overcompensated. But I can live with turned back cuffs.

The buttons turned out great. They are a bit of a tight squeeze for the holes I made, but they work. They are also a little heavy, being metal, and tend to make the collar sag a bit when not in use. But I still like them. I'm not entirely sure I got the bands anchored at the bottom of the Henly opening quite right, but they're secure. If there's one aspect of sweater making that makes me feel like a fraud, it's sewing on buttons. I never quite feel like I know what I'm doing. I watch videos of HongKong and Saville Row tailors whip through it in a minute and think, "how hard can this be?" And 30 minutes and wads of snarled thread later, I know just how hard. Let's just say you won't be seeing photos of the back of the button band.

In the final assessment, though, I love it. It's the tiniest bit big, but that's okay. I was always thinking of this as an outer garment. The sleeves are a bit long, like I said. But looking at the photos Jeff took this afternoon, I have to admit it turned out pretty good, despite my tendency to sweat the small stuff. Thanks to my knitter pals who gave me the birthday gift of this yarn. I'm going to treasure this for quite a while. And now, I think I'll go walk the dogs in it before summer arrives tomorrow.