Knitting: The sweater called Vivian did actually get finished

posted in: Creativity, Knitting | 5

Warning: this is a longish, and knit-technical, post.

Let us now quote June Hemmons Hiatt's 571-page masterwork, The Principles of Knitting (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), page 372:

"Technically, of course, it is possible to use a sewing needle and yarn to weave the duplicate of any stitch done on knitting needles, but in practice this exercise would generally become so complex as to not be worth it at all."

And let me share what I have discovered as I finished this sweater, which could be useful as a knitter's curse:

May your next project require you to graft in seed stitch.

Final suggestion: just don't do it. Technically, grafting one section of seed stitch to another, without a directional change, involves just one row of single rib grafting (described on p. 375). In practice, because each stitch you work must match neither the stitch on the row below nor the stitch on the row above (nor, of course, the stitches on either side of it), there is little solid ground to be found and even at the end of a row that has gone pretty well there is likely to be at least one place where two knits, or two purls, have neatly—and in error—managed to elude the pattern, teased your needle into going the wrong direction, and stacked themselves.

At a certain point, you give up on perfection, if you have a shred of sense (I do have one shred of sense). Members of my knitting group noted as I worked on the task of grafting seed stitch that if I were to attempt this feat and accomplish it imperfectly, the location of any error on the sweater in question would be under my wrists, and that would not be something people would see in most situations. They suggested that I avoid getting arrested, and thus having to raise my hands with wrists facing outward, while wearing the sweater. I told them I thought I could manage that.

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Backing up in this story

The sweater called Vivian is finished. In theory, it should have been the challenging-but-relaxing project that I needed. As it turned out, the size I knitted (38) required a lot of creative problem-solving. Other people appear to have knitted this size successfully. I assume they came up with a different set of solutions, or are less opinionated about their knitting than I am (I admit to being obstinately opinionated about my knitting).

I should actually have foreseen the problems that I ran into. Designing a sweater with intricate cable interactions in ten sizes requires tech editing at a level that is not affordable. The tech editing the pattern received was thorough in terms of sizing adjustments, but did not, as far as I can tell from my experience with the size I knitted, take into account all the transitions between the cable sections for every size . . . or else I've lost my ability to read a pattern, which, given the other work I've been doing, is definitely a possibility. However, considering the number of years I've been reading patterns and my awareness of what it takes to do really good tech editing, I'm guessing that I read the pattern correctly and that there simply wasn't the time or budget to do the grueling work of making sure that everything in the pattern worked perfectly in all ten sizes.

As I noted in a previous post, I'd knitted to the underarm when I discovered that there weren't enough stitches in the side panel to do the underarm shaping without interrupting the cables. I ripped back to the beginning, increased each side panel from 3 to 5 stitches and knitted up again, removed the requisite 5 stitches at the underarm and proceeded.

At that point, all should have been smooth sailing. It wasn't. (Also, at a number of critical points in the pattern, the number of stitches that should have been in play was not indicated, so because I didn't take time to make up a full tech-editing spreadsheet, I was winging it.) I needed to adjust the upper body so that the integrity of the cables was maintained; change the width of the saddle for the same reason (because of my shoulder structure, I chose to make it narrower rather than wider), which entailed a minor shift in the length of the body sections; and, as a result, had to completely rework the cables at the intersection between the top-of-body neck area and the hood.

While I was at it, I reshaped the hood (making the back-of-head section even more head-shaped) and made it somewhat longer. (Throughout, I chose to mirror my decreases, a minor alteration in the pattern as written.)

Having navigated a number of detours, I completed the knitting with results that met my standards.

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I blocked the garment, measured the front opening, and ordered a custom-length zipper in a matching color—a two-way zipper, so I could zip up from the bottom as well as down from the top.

I was still hoping to have the sweater ready to go along with me for a month on the road (long story short: it was, and it did). Apologies for the photos, which were all taken on the fly and under a variety of less-than-optimal conditions.

Blocking:

4298-blocking

Here's my modification of the back-of-head shaping on the hood:

4300-hood

And I tried it on. I'd read about other people's sleeves being too long, but I have longer-than-average arms and tend to like sleeves that I can pull over my hands to keep them warm, so I thought that might be a good thing.

4308-Vivian1

They certainly were long. I considered for a while whether I would be able to enjoy this abundance of length or whether it would make me crazy. I ultimately decided on the latter. So the question became what to do about it.

The cable pattern that runs up the sleeves requires quite a few rows. There was enough bonus length that, amazingly, taking out a full repeat could solve my problem neatly. After snipping out a repeat on each sleeve, I could graft in the cuffs again (see the start of this post).

The question then became whether the sleeve increases began before or after the first full repeat of the cable sequence. If before, I'd need to knit new cuffs, redesigned so that I'd have the correct number of stitches to graft to the newly released lower edge of the sleeve. If the increases began after that first full repeat, i.e., if there were the same number of stitches at the bottom of that repeat as there were at the top, I could use the existing cuffs. Miraculously, the increases started after the repeat. I could use the cuffs I'd already knitted.

So I marked the top and bottom of the first full cable repeat on each sleeve, picking a location in the sequence where the pieces would be relatively easy to graft together (no cable crossings on the grafting row; there was no way to avoid seed-stitch grafting).

4310-sleevefix1

I removed one full cable repeat from each sleeve. (This was shot at night with flash on a friend's floor. No time to wait for better lighting.) I "broke" the sleeves a little bit above and below the actual rows that I wanted, and gently pulled out the final few rows so I'd end up exactly where I wanted to be.

4311-sleevefix2

I began my grafting with the cable panel on each sleeve, because it was the easiest part of the row to do and because a grafting error in this section would ruin the sweater. It took more than one assault on each sleeve to get this section looking the way I wanted it to.

4315-sleevefix3

Then I worked my way around the back of the sleeve, grafting the seed-stitch areas. My results weren't perfect, but they got to "good enough." Grafting seed-stitch is not a job to be rushed, nor is it for people who are out of patience with the task at hand as well as out of time for completing it!

The good news is that, overall, the fixes worked. I'm not annoyed with the sleeves every time I put the sweater on. I'm very glad I reworked the hood shaping and made it longer.

4319-fixed2

The minor discrepancies within the seed-stitch area bother me significantly less than the floppy, overlong sleeves would have. They're still plenty long and can be pulled down to keep my hands warm.

4320-sleeves

The sweater is done. It went on the trip. It was perfect for travel, including for keeping me warm on two transatlantic flights.

Whew. I wanted to have this project done by mid-June for a previous trip, but at least it was ready for the bigger of the two adventures it was intended to facilitate.

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The Vivian sweater posts (I think this is all of them):

March 17, Knitting and mental (and physical) health: starting it all

March 20, Incidental note on beginning stages

March 24, A few notes on beginning stages

May 7, Progress

May 10, Stalled

May 11, Moving forward again

June 26, Update

 

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5 Responses

  1. Gorgeous, and wonderful fit!

    I wonder which size the model is wearing, and whether it’s my size. I really want my patterns to work without a ton of figuring. I like challenging knitting, but I do enough figuring and fiddling with the rest of my life that I don’t want it in my sweaters.

  2. Renee, I am almost certain the model is a small. It could work for you. A slight gauge adjustment could make the math from the small work for a variety of neighboring sizes.

  3. Wow, congratulations! that is a gorgeous sweater and after all the mods you needed to do to the sleeves, you should feel fabulous wearing it!!!

  4. Sometimes the road to a successful sweater is long and twisted – good on you for persevering. It looks great!

  5. OMG, girl! You win the too-stubborn-to-stop award. And the results show you were right to keep fighting until you got it the way you wanted it. I can’t believe you were able to take an entire cable out of the sleeves and have them fit, though. Talk about LONG.

    Anyway, congrats on a project well done.

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