Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mistakes Unmade

I am in the home stretch on my Twist cardigan. I am knee deep--or should I say elbow deep?--in the sleeves at this point. I have to say that, for me, sleeves are the biggest slog of a sweater project. For one thing, they are deceptive. They start all nice and narrow, but then you have to increase every specified number of rows so they get wider and wider. They are really boring, because every row is just more of the same as the row before it. And they need to be a lot longer than you think. This one needs to be 19 inches long before I can start decreasing for the sleeve cap. YAWN.

You know the worst thing about sleeves? Once you triumph and finish have to do another one. Ack.

I am trying a couple of new strategies in my efforts to stave off sleeve ennui this time. First I started the second sleeve already, and have it going on seperate needles. When the first sleeve just seems too monotonous, I will switch to the second one and work on that for a while. So far, it is not providing any real excitement. However, I think that, when I finish the first one, it will be nice to know that the second one already has a good amount done on it. Hopefully, it will give me that "light at the end of the tunnel" moment that would encourage me to keep working and maybe even pick up the pace.
I also am blocking the body pieces of the sweater. There is no reason why I can't seam the shoulders and get going on the button bands and the collar. Hopefully, that will provide a needed change of pace.

Another one of my strategies for combating sleeve ennui is to take some breaks and knit something else. Rocket science, I know! Anyway, I caved to spring startitis and cast on a shawl in a beautiful bright color.
The color is much more fun to knit than the sedate taupe/khaki of my Twist. At this point, I am still in the super-dull stockinette increase section of the Traveling Woman shawlette, which makes even a Twist sleeve seem interesting. I am not sure if this is good or not. I am almost up to the lace part, which will be more interesting.

Spring is definitely here, and I am so glad. I switched around all the closets this week and cleared out the shirts in Mathboy's closet that don't fit anymore. Honestly, how is it that he can wear these things and not recognize how short they are? He had a couple turtlenecks that almost looked like crop-tops when he wore them. He came down for church this Sunday wearing one of these shirts and he was rather annoyed when I made him go change. Aside from the simple fact that wearing a turtleneck is ridiculous when it has been 75 degrees out for couple days, the hem of the shirt hovered right at his pants' waistband. He could not have tucked it in.

So this week I confiscated all the short shirts from both Mathboy's and Catgirl's closets, moved the t-shirts into the fronts and the sweaters and such into the backs. Then I moved on to my own closet. I was switching the contents of the shelves around when I came upon a sweater I knit for myself many years ago.

It was made with silk fingering weight yarn in a gorgeous bronze. The yarn was spectacularly beautiful. I had gotten a good deal on eBay, but it still wasn't cheap. I used it to make a pullover sweater with a deep V-neck and knitted ruffles around the V and the bottom of the sleeves. I had worn it once, right after I finished it, and never wore it again. It had spent years languishing on the shelf in my closet. Why would I neglect such beautiful silk so shamefully?

Because it was a train wreck--a knitted train wreck.

First of all, choosing this pattern was a mistake from the beginning. For example, I am a firm believer that bikinis should not even be made in sizes that have more than one digit in the number. If you need something bigger than a size 8, you should not be allowed to buy a bikini. Sometimes clothing manufacturers need to save us from ourselves, you know? Similarly, I think this sweater should only have been offered in small and extra-small sizes. The designer could have gently explained the limited sizing:

"For those ladies who do not fit into the measurements set forth in this pattern, please find another pattern to knit. Be assured that we are not impugning your body shape in any way. We simply want you to know that if you spend many months knitting this sweater on size 3 needles and using expensive silk yarn, you will be very unhappy when the result not only fails to flatter your body but instead emphasizes parts of you that you usually try to hide. Please don't be insulted; we have only your best interests at heart. There are much better uses for your time and money than to knit something that you will hate.

Sincerely, The Designer."

Would that have been so hard?

Maybe I should have known that I would look ridiculous wearing a deep-v neck with knitted ruffles all over the place, but I did not have that wisdom yet. I plunged on in and knitted it. The body and sleeves of the sweater were all stockinette, and then the ruffles were added on by knitting up from the cuffs and v-neck. It took several months of knitting, using tiny needles with this slippery silk.


I made a size medium, but I had my usual gauge issues so the actual size is a lot closer to the large and the stitches are a bit loose and sloppy. The sleeves were supposed to be 3/4 length and relatively tight. Mine ended up being way too long and wide and floppy, with the cuff ruffles hanging over my hands. By the time I was done, I knew that it was bad. My finishing work wasn't even very good, probably because I just wanted to have done with the montrosity by that time.

I pulled that sweater down from its exile in the top reaches of my closet this week and I faced the horror of it with honesty. I hate this sweater. I will never wear this sweater. Even more: I should never wear this sweater, because it is that bad. And I thought to myself, What a waste of really top-notch luxury yarn. If I had this yarn now, I could make something much better with it.

And then, just as I was preparing to throw it in the garbage--it was too bad even to force it on Goodwill--I had a thought. Why not try to rip the sweater down and unknit it?

So that is my newest project: unknitting the silk. This is going to take a bit of time. Fingering weight silk doesn't knit up too fast, and it doesn't unknit too fast, either. The crummy finishing work doesn't help matters at all. The seams are messy and hard to take apart.

So far, I have one sleeve and the neck ruffle undone. I tied what I have up in hanks, soaked it in some cold water to relax the ramen noodle effect of frogged yarn. Then I wrung it out, and it is currently hanging in the shower to dry. It's actually drying very quickly. I was a little nervous that soaking it would harm the yarn, but I figured that it anything I reclaim from the sweater is a bonus, anyway. If it's ruined, it can't be any worse off than when it was in Ghastly Sweater form.

When it's dry, I'll wind it up into balls. Meanwhile, I have to pick a project to make with it--something better suited to the yarn. I am hoping I can get a good 500 yards or so out of this thing. If so, that would be enough for a nice lace scarf or shawlette, or maybe a shrug or a vest? Any of these would be good summer knitting!

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