Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Little Sweater That Wouldn't

And now for story time with Megan:

This particular story goes back to my senior year in high school and begins with the purchase of six hanks of Cascade 220 roughly the color of oatmeal. I had bought the yarn with a mission in mind--a sweater that called out my name from the pages of the magazine, a sweater that catered to my slightly (very) skewed sense of fashion and love for cardigans. It was the Dollar and a Half Cardigan and even now when I look at it, I want it. I also happen to know better.

I was and am a headstrong knitter. I tend to charge on full speed ahead and without doing basic things like, say, swatching or checking fiber types or, well, anything prior to casting on. This is because I am an unabashed process knitter. I love making things, and I love learning while I make them. I couldn't care less if I needed to rip back a few rows, to drop an entire cable down 3 repeats, or pick out that panel that I just sewed on like an idiot. This is the allure of knitting for me. It's why I love lace--it's so risky and so rewarding. But I digress.

As the ancient Greeks say: "Know thyself." (actually, they say γνῶθι σεαυτόν, but that's my husband's department, not mine).I knew myself, and I knew that I hadn't just spent a hefty chunk of change to screw this up. I swatched. I washed my swatch. I measured my swatch. I was a good girl.

This is when I first realized that the gods of gauge are actually malevolent forces with natures better suited to destruction and chaos than kindness and grace. I knit and sewed up that sweater 3 separate times. First, it was a massive monstrosity, then, on reduced needles it became a sweater for an elementary school child, and then (up those needles again) a sweater for someone in between who clearly was not named Megan. By this time, it was winter of my freshman year in college, and a member of the theatre department told me it could be my "theatre sweater" to wear in the dark on tech day, since it's so cold. (or: it looks alright if the lights are out.) I gave up on the dollar and a half cardigan.

I briefly flirted with a free pattern that has long since been lost (good riddance. Desperation can be an ugly thing and result in poor decision making skills). That was discarded for the Rambling Rose, a sweater available in sizes minute and gargantuan, but I thought my math-y skills could make up for the difference. This expedition into the unknown was abandoned as well (though not for lack of trying) and soon switched for a sweater from Vogue knitting: the High Neck Pullover. I love this sweater, but it's made for smaller yarn and smaller women. Also, once finished, I couldn't fit my head through the neck opening, severely limiting its viability as a piece of clothing. It was frogged the end of my Sophomore year after several people ran up and down the dorm hallway trying to get it over their skulls. Shortly after this very public failure, I started the Wakame tunic for the first time. I made it through the band before I had to admit to myself that I did not have enough yarn, and the likelihood of finding a dye-lot 3 years old when ravelry was just out of beta was slim to none.

That summer, I made most of Shiri Mor's multi shape top, or through half of the yoke. It was so nifty--the construction, the lines, those circles on the side--but I suddenly realized that it was also sort of hideous, especially in oatmeal brown wool knit at an incredibly tight gauge. I tore it apart again, but unfortunately the multishape top was also the multi-piece top, and now my yarn lived in 30 small balls. My junior year, the yarn languished in obscurity. I think I may have actually left it on the other side of the continental divide when I left for school in the fall. Clearly we were not meant to be together. The following summer interweave published Leitmotif--a very interesting little number knit sideways with lovely hip shaping, extra shoulder room in the drop sleeves, and a charming little lace and cable motif. It spoke to me, as patterns sometimes do.

And so I picked up that oatmeal yarn again and set to work. It was slow going after the body was finished (this may seem counter intuitive to those of you who don't know what it's like to get bogged down in fields of stockinette, but for process knitters, it's like watching paint dry while someone pokes you with a sharp stick over and over again in the thigh. Just like that. In fact, the two states are basically the same so feel free to use them interchangeably.) I wouldn't finish the second sleeve until I needed to power through some virology lectures on controlling mosquito-born diseases in under-developed nations and communities. also something about SARS.

And so the sweater was complete, and just in time for me to graduate. This was that oatmeal wool's last try. I told myself that before I cast on. The sweater won't last nearly as long as my others because the yarn has been through so much. In many places, the plies have felted together and it had been spliced so many times (that multi-shape top, man) that frogging it would tear it to bits. If Leitmotif hadn't been "the one," I would have thrown away the yarn, with sadness in my heart. The sweater is a bit crinkly as a result, and the gauge is a bit wonky, but it all works out in the sweaters favor and gives it some character that I think it might have otherwise been lacking.

I do really like sweater number 9.

(extra lesson learned from this adventure--boucle yarn is not a good stitch holder)

1 comment:

  1. Your sweater turned out beautifully! I admire your ability to make that oatmeal yarn work one way or the other!