As I have mentioned before, my mother made a few requests this year. The first one was mittens, the second one was a sweater. She wanted a very long and roomy sweater that she could pair up with a variety of clothes. After the fair isle mittens, she was somewhat thinking of a fair isle sweater too, but had no specific design in mind. To work around this, I showed her a selection of patterns I had found on Ravelry, including designs from my own queue.
She spotted immediately Oranje from Ann Weaver and pretty much decided on it for good. Next, we had to choose yarn. She wanted something machine washable, that would be durable, not too warm and affordable. We investigated several options, but settled on DROPS Safran: it had the right weight, colors and price. After I took the appropriate measurements, I made a few calculations to lengthen the sleeves and body, change the body shape to an A-line and create a high-low bottom hem.
I started working the sleeves first, in order to make a proper swatch. Luckily I didn’t have to fiddle too much to find out which needle gave me the tension I needed. After working both sleeves and setting them aside, I started working on the body. For creating the high-low hem my mother wanted, I incorporated Wrap and Turn short rows. I worked them 15 times at each side and created just the right amount of extra fabric. For the A line, I worked simple evenly spaced decreases as I worked upwards.
After finishing the body and started working on the yoke, I joined the sleeves and body at the underarm with a new to me method, Russian Grafting. This technique is a very nice and easy alternative to Kitchener stitch, with the visual difference of creating a nice tight twisted braid on the right side of work. It also connects the stitches quite securely and without any holes. I will be using this technique again in the future for sure!
Working on the yoke was of course the part I was after the most, and also, the Latvian braids! This is my first time working with them, and I will say, they are quite amazing. Their construction is very simple, and if I may say so, genius. Taking advantage of both right and wrong side of work? Check! I also loved how Ann Weaver used them not only in the yoke, but also at the garment’s hemmed edges: great technique and visual result.
Another technique I got to use for the first time in a garment, was steeks. I have steeked before, in Lettlopi wool, but it was in a swatch, basically for practice. Also, that was 3 years ago. No matter your machine sewing experience, steeking in feltable wool is pretty much easy: even if you mess up, the wool will compensate with it’s stickiness and stitches won’t unravel. Working in cotton though is a whole other matter. Here the yarn will most likely unravel if stretched even a little bit. So, since at the time of the steek, my machine sewing abilities were non-existent and I had to cut through several centimeters of patterned yoke, I experienced what many knitters call the ‘fear of steeking’.
No matter how uneasy the thought of going through the steeking process made me feel, I sat down and did everything I could with the skills I had at hand. I practiced sewing a little bit on scrap fabric. I had to fiddle with the sewing machine for many hours to figure out why my sewing thread tension was so terribly bad, because all I could produce at that point, was a tangled mess of thread instead of proper seams.
When I thought I had found the right thread tension, I went to test it on the sweater’s edge – a knitted cotton fabric is a lot thicker than regular cotton fabric and usually behaves differently in sewing. After getting something somewhat satisfactory, I went on to create two sewn lines (two, in case one failed miserably) at each side of the line where I would cut the yoke. I tried to work following a particular stitch column each time, and sewing only half of the stitch, not the center. Of course, keeping that line was not easy, and sometimes I missed, but it was ok.
Then I cut the yoke open. (slowly)
It worked! No unraveling, just some ugly stitching. It seems that this process worked quite ok, even if my sewing was not particularly beautiful. I did not want to put the seams under too much stress, so I immediately started working on the button bands. After adding cute wooden cat buttons, I went on to find some ribbon for the inside of the neck opening. These ribbons were to be added on top of the just-cut edges, to secure everything and also hide the messy ends. They had to be hand sewn in order to prevent the sewing from showing up on the right side of the garment. Each side of the neck opening took me about 5 hours of hand sewing.
And this bring me to another topic: time spend on this garment. Each sleeve was about 8-10 hours. After working on the body I totally lost track, as it was enormous! Because I started with more than 300 stitches, working upwards took a lot of time, and that was boring me to death. The only compensation was that it was stockinette in the round. It was not completely mindless knitting, because there were short rows and decreases all the way up to the top.
The beginning of the yoke, before the decreases, that incorporated both stitches of the body and the sleeves, was also a bit of a pain, as it was slow, but it was better than the lower body hem. I had to work other projects at the same time as this one, so this slow progress was stressing me out a bit, but that eventually motivated me to actually knit faster! And that’s a good skill upgrade, don’t you think? 😉
There also a few other valuable things I learned with this design and modified project:
Latvian braids are awesome.
Steeks are not that horrible – if you know how to sew well.
Working fair isle in the round with a circular needle that is a lot smaller in circumference than your working garment is A TERRIBLE IDEA*.
I should be very glad that I only need to make small to medium sweater sizes to fit myself and I don’t have to work seemingly unending rounds of stitches**. To all the knitter gals with big boobs out there, I respect your patience and persistence!
Did I say this already? Latvian braids are awesome!!
*working with a shorter circular needle bunches up the stitches. That in turn messes up with the tension of the floats.
**my mother wanted a garment with lots of positive ease, so this project was a very large size indeed.
No matter how tiresome it got at times, I really liked working on this design. There are quite a few things going on, it keeps things interesting. It is also a good first project for several techniques. The cotton yarn, Safran, also works very nicely in this design: the drape and fit are wonderful.
I am going to make one for myself too, as this was my initial intention. I already have the yarn, which I bought back at 2013 (I think). I only need to find the time to make it. Then mother and daughter would have matching sweaters?! Yeah!