Sunday, June 1, 2008

Alpaca Cardigan

Goal #1 for 2008: Learn how to make a sweater without a pattern using my own measurements and swatches.

Name of Project: Alpaca Sweater
Yarn: Superfine Alpaca
Yardage: approx 1200 yards
Yarn Source: Common Threads
Needles: Size US 4 (3.5 mm) Knit Picks interchangeables
Estimated Time to Complete Project: 3 months, including the month when it was in time-out
Pattern Notes: See below

I was keeping a look out for books or classes when I saw the four session class at Common Threads. It started on March 15 with measurements, and we learned how to take them and where. From there we took our measurements and gauge and figured out the math.

I used my measurements and did the math exactly to make a slim, close-fitting sweater. I started at the hips, decreased for the waist, increased again for the bust, then finished off with the armhole. Then I did a 3-needle bind-off for the shoulders.
One of the things I really wanted to learn was how to do a short-row sleeve cap in the round. I didn't understand how it worked. So I asked and was shown how to do the math. It seemed so easy at the time, and my sleeves turned out perfectly! Unfortunately since that was over a month ago, I have not been able to repeat the process of figuring out the math on my own. I know the idea is to work the math as if you were figuring out a sleeve cap decrease. Then you turn it around, and use it in the short rows. I've since tried it again and can't even remember how to figure out the basic sleeve cap. So it'll seem I'll be back in the classroom, but at least I know it's possible.

A little snag I hit was when I tried my sweater on, and realized that since I had put all of the decreases for the waist on the sides, I had a weird little pointy flair on each side of my hip that stood out. See picture above (think horseback riding pants). My idea was to tuck in the little points and sew them into the seams. I SHOULD have gone with my instinct because here's what happened instead...

The other option, which was deemed the CORRECT option from the other students in the class, was to cut off the bottom of the sweater where the waist shaping ended, pick up the stitches, and knit downward. I don't mind a challenge but I felt like I had already done all the learning I wanted to on this sweater and didn't want to learn how to cut up my knitting. My lack of confidence won over and instead of sleeping on it, I cut off the bottom of my sweater.

I undid the seams, wound up the balls of yarn that I unraveled, picked up the stitches and started again. Or thought about starting again. I actually didn't knit a stitch on this sweater, or anything else for that matter, for the following two weeks after this incidence. It was the longest I think I've gone since I started knitting without even thinking about it. Talk about avoidance. Now that it is completely finished, I feel excited about my other projects again. May was a crazy month and I'm really glad it's over.

When I finally finished the bottom, I tried it on and it fit okay. The flairs are gone. But there is too much bagginess underneath my arms in the sweater. Not in the sleeves, but in the body. And it just didn't fit the same after I cut off the bottom.

Here is the final blocking.

So it didn't turn out exactly how I had envisioned it, but it is so soft and does fit mostly. Nancy was such a kind and patient teacher, no discouragement about trying things that were probably a little over my head for my first sweater with no pattern. She just said, "sure, we can figure that out if you want to try it." Which is exactly what I look for in a teacher. I don't like to be told something is too advanced for me, even if I have to learn slower and it takes longer to figure out.

The final little note that kind of bummed me out was that my husband said it didn't look like me. He said maybe if it were pink yarn. Which I can see because most of the things I make are a little more colorful, but hey, who knows any pink alpacas?

1 comment:

Yarnhog said...

Pink alpacas! *snort*

Good work! It may not be exactly what you were hoping for, but you did it! Check out "The Knitters Handy Book of Sweater Patterns." They're not patterns so much as recipes. You choose your measurements, your gauge, and the type of sleeve and collar you want, and there are tables that show you the measurements and how many stitches to increase/decrease at what point for sleeves, collar, etc. I use them as blueprints for a lot of my sweaters, and then modify them to fit the way I like.