Monday, November 13, 2017

Fixing

I made this sweater last winter.  It's a combination of the known-to-fit-me Lisbon pullover by Misa Erder and the lovely (and free!) yoke design from Rydraud, by Steinunn Birna Gudjonsdottir.  I used Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, in the gorgeous and golden colorway "Hayloft", which was harvested from my lovely, but too large (and thus unraveled) "Levenwick".  Yarn, good.  Pattern, good.  Gauge?  Not good.  I have developed a bad habit:  I have this idea that all my knitting will be 5 sts/inch.  I don't know why I think this, because it is hardly ever the case, and I fully know that gauge matters, and I swatch and I wash and block my swatches, but still, this belief persists.  Anyway, the Shelter, as knit by me in this particular case, did not make a fabric that was 5 sts/inch, and I made this a year ago, so I can't remember how much I measured or swatched or which needles I used, but I'll bet I went into it all confident that I had successfully used this pattern before, and that (due to the Levenwick, and also the almost finished but also unraveled Timber I knit 85% of before deciding it wasn't working) I knew the yarn pretty well, and so just figured, you know, 5 sts/inch.  So I tinkered with the Rydraud chart a little to make it fit the numbers of the Lisbon pattern, and then probably just went ahead and knit it without even checking any measurements.  Which is obviously a mistake.  And the yoke was really deep, which meant the armpits were way too low and there was a ton of extra fabric across the chest, which billowed unpleasantly and made me feel sloppy.  I talked myself into it at first--aw, hey, it's slouchy!  It's comfy!  Roomy!  Weekend wear! Boyfriend Style!--but every time I put it on, it just bugged me.  Slouchy, sloppy, boyfriendy, weekend-sized sweaters are great, but all that bigness has to be intentional, and I have to feel good wearing it.  And I wasn't.  I almost got rid of it.  But the color is so good, and the yarn (Shelter!  Brooklyn Tweed!) is so good. And that yoke design, oh my goodness.  I just love it so much.  Why didn't it fit?  Argh!  It seemed so close to being right.  I tried reblocking it, hoping that I could adjust things that way, and the body and sleeves became even more perfect than before, but the yoke was still too deep.  There were just too many inches in it.  Too many rows.  Now, in case you're not familiar with round yoke construction, the way these sweaters work is this:  You start at the hem and knit the body, headed upwards.  When you reach the armpits, you set that aside, and make two sleeves, the same way, headed upwards.  Then you put all three pieces on a long circular needle and start knitting the yoke, which for the first (approximately) 50% of the depth, is just knit straight up.  Just a big tall tube, with no shaping.  At the 50% mark, decreases start happening, every couple inches, or wherever it fits into the colorwork design, until A) you have the right number of stitches for the neck, and B) the yoke [the distance from your armpits to your collar] is the right depth.  So, B is where I went wrong, and this sweater, beautiful in almost every way, sat on the shelf.  Then, a few weeks ago, I read Laura Nelkin say somewhere that her personal yoke depth was fairly shallow, and that when she knits a round yoke design, she leaves out a few rounds.  Well, whaaaat?  Suddenly, I thought of this sweater, sitting at the bottom of a pile on the closet shelf, unworn, but as yet undonated, but on the bubble, and wondered if I could fix it.  I love/hated this sweater, but it was so close to good.  So close!  I decided to see whether taking out a few rounds would save it, and unless you want to rip out the neck and all the color work and re-do it (argh, I didn't want to do that) the only way is to cut.  
This would have been a lot scarier a year ago, when this was a fresh project and I still had so much hope for it, but I had tried and tried to wear this sweater and just couldn't. It was fix it, or get rid of it.  So taking the scissors, I snipped one stitch right at the front, underneath the colorwork (which I thought might help hide any messiness that might ensue later) and unpicked an entire row, one stitch at a time.  Once the whole yoke was off, I had live stitches again, on the body and on the yoke, and I unraveled about six rounds from the body, and then put both pieces back on the needles--one needle for the body stitches and one needle for the yoke stitches.  Then I told Doc not to talk to me, and that he should pretend I was not in the house, and that he should under no circumstances speak any numbers out loud, and I began grafting the two pieces back together, using Kitchener stitch.  Now, I'm a sock knitter too, and kitchenering is solid in my toolbox, but I have to count "1,2,3,4..." the whole time, and if I get interrupted, either by a knot in the yarn, a friendly comment from someone else in the room, getting startled by the doorbell--anything, really--it is all over and it is a mess and I can't figure out how to fix it.  So Doc left the room and put on his headphones and made himself silent and invisible, and I counted to four for an hour.  
When you graft some knitting, you are basically sewing in a new row, using a tapestry needle and weaving the yarn in and out through the top and bottom rows of loops in the same way it would go in a knitted row, and when done well, it can be invisible.  It should just look like any other knitted row.  However, I can't do this very well.  My grafted row was a little bit gnarly-looking, and it would never in a million years have been possible (for me) in a less wooly yarn, but Shelter is wooly and pretty forgiving.  I wove in the ends and put it in the sink for a block, and then waited a couple days while it dried, to see if the gnarly row would straighten out, and if the newly shortened yoke would be the right depth.  I want this sweater to fit me!  
Aw, yeah!  All the hooray!  There's a little bit of a visible scar, but the yoke is the right depth for me now.  It fits.  Doing this was so worth it, because this sweater is saved, and so are all the round yoke sweaters in my future.  There is always so much to learn, isn't there?