Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Taking the Sweater Plunge

I have recently started two new projects: a knit sweater and a lap quilt. The lap quilt will be fun, it uses an interesting technique, but what I'm really obsessed with right now (I even took it with me to the quilt class) is the sweater.

I have never knit a sweater before. They are rather time consuming, and I'm more into instant craft gratification. But, with the support of my mom and friend I have taken the plunge. I am taking a class for this sweater. I was always a very good student, and fear of total humiliation in front of a class always kept me up on my work in school, so I figure this is the most likely way for me to ever actually finish this sweater. Have I mentioned that sweaters are long term commitments? When my own fortitude abandons me, the entirely-fictional(probably)-but-feared-nonetheless guilt will theoretically drive me to finish my "homework" on this project.

I signed up for the class and then about two weeks later I went out with my mom and bought the pattern and yarn. We could pick any pattern from a group and I picked the one that I thought I was most likely to wear when it was all finished. I figure that if I am going to put all of this effort into this sweater, I may as well like it enough to wear it. Then I picked out yarn. I found some lovely, light cotton wool blend in a nice reddish brown, and because there wasn't enough of that one color I decided my sweater would need a few stripes to add interest. I decided against buying needles at that point because I needed to knit a gauge swatch first before investing in 4 new pairs of circulars. I went happily home. The next day my mom showed me her beautiful swatch which was incidentally the perfect gauge. The pressure was on to finish my own swatch and make sure it was to gauge before class in two weeks.

The next day I was measuring my own beautiful swatch before I cast-off, just to assure myself it was indeed perfect, when I realized that my 4 inch swatch was actually closer to 5 or 6 inches. Dismayed, I remeasured, counted the inches on the ruler, checked them against another ruler (because I hear these rulers are actually quite prone to errors), reread the gauge information on the yarn label and the pattern, and after all that, I checked my needle size. I was using the completely wrong needle. Completely. I have no idea what I was thinking, but they were the totally wrong needles. So, I ripped out my swatch and began anew with the right size needles. When it was done, my gauge swatch was perfect!

In the weeks before the class, I started getting nervous about the amount of yarn I had. What if it wasn't enough? Should I really be trying to put a stripe into a pattern I had never knit before? What if it turned out all wonky and I never wore the sweater after it was finished? So, I decided to go back and buy more of the color I wanted. It wasn't until I got to the store that I remembered why I had decided on a stripe int he first place. So, then I decided my best option was to just buy all new yarn. (I cleared this with my husband via the phone when I was supposed to be picking him up from work. I like to think the fact that I was his only mode of transpotation had no bearing on his decision to let me buy more yarn.) I went through three different colors before deciding on one that had enough of a single dye lot to make the large size sweater. So, now my gauge swatch is a different color, but the same yarn, and I'm hoping that won't make any difference at all. That swatch, my new yarn, my needles, and pattern all went with me to the first night of class.

There I had a pan-emotional experience.

I was very inspired during the beginning of this class (note that this is before I actually started knitting the sweater) as the teacher showed us two sweaters she had done based on these patterns, modeled a third, and showed us a fourth that still had one sleeve yet to go. It made me giddy to think that one day I too could have 3 or 4 hand knit sweaters in my closet. It helps that none of her sweaters look "homemade" in the sense that one arm is a full-length sleeve while the other is a neat three-quarter length. They all fit her well and looked neat, professional, and comfortable!

I was terrified as she picked my swatch to demonstrate how to measure for your gauge.

I was relieved when she asked if I wanted 5 stitches to the inch, which I did.

I was delighted to discover that I could knit a size medium sweater.

I was excited as I cast-on, but disappointed to discover I had made an early mistake.

Then I was frustrated when I realized that 5 stitches to the inch is actually a relatively small gauge for a first sweater. Remember that whole instant-craft gratification issue? Well, if you are knitting say a 40" sweater and your gauge is 5 stitches to the inch that's 200 stitches. If , though, you are smart, think ahead, and know yourself you might instead pick a pattern with a 4 stitch to the inch gauge (or even 3.5), which would mean you'd be working with 160 stitches or potentially as few as 140! As a result, I was complaining in class that "this is taking forever!" My friend leaned over and said, "It is a sweater, you know. It's gonna take a while." She was and is right, of course, but I was more concerned about not finishing the "homework" before the next time the class met in two weeks.

I am already up to the point she wanted us to be at for the next class (in 6 days), and I'm loving the sweater so far. The v-neck actually looks like a v-neck!

Though early in the sweater process, I have already learned at least three things. First, I should lose some more weight. I then could spend less money on yarn and knit a smaller size. That would mean that I would have less expensive and quicker sweaters, which would get me closer to that closet with handmade sweaters. Second, I should really look into chunky and bulky yarns. Third, as in most of life, it helps to have supportive friends and family that can both encourage you to try new things and bring you back to reality when you get a bit ridiculous.

It is a sweater after all. It's gonna take a while. I just hope it's worth the busy wait.

1 comment:

thefeltedsheep said...

I know how you feel about sweaters! Especially when they are for adult-sized people! Though I must say your sweater is looking fantastic and it looks as though you are making great progress!