Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Story of Keith's First Sweater

Sweaters are big projects. Sure, they're not all complex in the construction, but many hours and yards of yarn go into each project. This is why it is frequently recommended that you not make a sweater for your significant other until you are married (or are about to be married.) For years I have told Keith that I planned to make him a sweater after we got married. I had him look at dozens of patterns, until we finally selected the Diamonds in Relief Pullover designed by Deborah Newton (pattern can be found in: Interweave Knits, Holiday Gifts 2008.)

You can see my timeline on my Ravelry Page.

Keith's Chest Measurement: 37.5"
Sweater Size: 43" Chest * One of his favorite sweaters is 42"
Yarn: Full Circle Worsted in Ponderosa. I purchased 7 balls, but used less than 6. The sweater itself weighs 565 g, and there were an additional 3 g of loose ends that I snipped off. This means that this sweater consumed ~1250 yards.
Needles: Size 6/7

My goal is to have the swear completed by our first anniversary (certainly by Christmas 2012!)

The Gauge Swatches

I normally don't check my gauge with a swatch. For many projects (like hats) I am aware of how I knit and how many stitches there should be at each stage to make a well fitting hat. Sweaters are a different story.

I misread the needle requirements for the swatch, and I knit the first swatch on size 6 needles. It wasn't even close to being the correct gauge. (16 sts - 4inch is the goal, and I had 20 sts - 4 inches.)

I knit another swatch on size 7 needles, and I was closer to the target before blocking (9 sts/2 inch, 11.5 rows/2 inch - measuring ~4x3 in total) I blocked the hell out of the swatch to see how much memory the Full Circle yarn has (it has a lot!) I was able to block it to the right stitch count, but my row count was off. I was able to correct this by blocking the sample a second time.

I therefore feel fairly confident that I can achieve the correct dimensions. I may have to remove some rows as I work along, but I will keep careful track of my notes.

Thoughts Before I Begin

I selected a raglan sweater because I wanted to make something without seaming. Seaming is my least favorite part of any project, and I am not very good at it. After I purchased the pattern, I realized that the main pieces are knit flat and then sewn together. Oh well. (I should have paid closer attention to the notes on Ravelry!) Challenging myself is how I have become a stronger knitter and designer, so I am going to go for it.

Also, I know I will take many breaks in this project. Lots of mostly stockinette = distracted by other projects.

Notes from the Construction of the Front/Back

Rather than continually measure the sweater against Keith's back, I stole one of his favorite fitting sweaters to use as a guide as I was knitting. It lines up pretty well! Keith said that he would prefer the sweater be longer than this one, so I will take care to do that even if it means extra rows before starting the arm shaping. (I think I want to block the sweater for width since the row gauge is almost spot on. Plus, it really stinks when a sweater is too short!)

  • 12 rows of 2x2 ribbing to hit 2.5 inches. (This number includes the 1x1 ribbing and caston edge.)
  • At the same time Decreases just after the ribbing: (K3, K2tog)x6, K1, slip marker, K48, slip marker, K1, (K2tog, K3)x6. I forgot to swap to larger needles, so I had to undo this round and then knit it again on size 7 needles.
  • I used 3 additional stitch markers in the 48 sts of the cable pattern: * 8 * 16 * 16 * 8.
  • After the first 36 row repeat of the diamond cable pattern, the entire piece measures ~7.75 inches.
  • The first ball of Full Circle was finished after row 68 of the cable portion (on back).
  • Before the Armhole shaping, the piece measures 16.5 (NOT 17). Of course I plan to block the piece... I continued the pattern as written without any modifications to the pre-armhole length.
  • Row #147 of the cable pattern (#3 in repeat) K2, SSK - 3x3 cable.......... 3x3 cable, k2tog, K2. 44 sts remain. After this round only the central 32 sts of the cable pattern were knit (the 8 st borders are eaten up enough that I cannot cable outwards.)
  • BACK PIECE - 156 cable charted rows completed before the bindoff (on RS). (#12 of the repeat) The neckband stretches beyond the amount on the sketch, so we should be good for the fit. (Fingers crossed!)
  • The second ball of Full Circle was finished after row 4 of the cable portion on the Front piece.
  • The third ball of Full Circle was finished at the very end of row 94 (Row #22 in pattern) in the cable portion of the Front Piece. I didn't want to rip back the entire row, so my streak of only adding new balls of yarn at the beginning of rows has been disrupted.
  • FRONT PIECE - 150 cable charted rows before bindoff (on RS). This corresponded to #6 of the chart as the last WS row worked before BO.

Notes from the Construction of the Arms
  • As with the front and back pieces, I knit 12 rows of the 2x2 ribbing to get to 2.5 inches (inc cast on edge.)
  • Row 12 of the ribbing was a little different, because according to instructions "dec 6 sts evenly spaced on last WS row." So on this row I P2, *K2tog, P2, K2, P2* until last 4 sts, K2tog, p2. (40 sts remaining.)
  • On my counter, increase rows happen on rows 7, 13, 19 (6n+2)
  • The fourth ball of Full circle finished after row #89 of the stockinette portion on the Right Sleeve.
  • On the body pieces, there were 94 patterned rows before raglan shaping, measuring 16.5 actual (17 when blocked) inches. My first arm measures just shy of 17" after 97 rounds (the end of the increase section), and I'm going to need to knit in stockinette until the piece measures 19-20 inches.
  • At 110 rows, the sleeve measures just shy of 19". I want to block this a little more on the width, especially near the cuff so I don't want it to be too short... I'm going to try to get to 20". (I'd rather the sleeve be a little too long than too short!) At 116 rows, still shy of 20". 118 stitches it is!
  • At row 173 on the right arm, I hit 16 sts. (This is important to note for when I do the left sleeve, since the cap decreases start sooner there.) On the right arm, the cap decreases started after row 174.
  • I tied a green rubber band to the bind off edge of the right sleeve so I can tell the difference between the two after blocking.
  • I finished the 5th ball of Full Circle after row 80 of the stockinette portion on the left sleeve.
  • Success! All pieces knit at ~ 5.5 balls of yarn total.

Notes from Blocking

  • The pieces of the sweater weigh 548 g before any sewing has begun.
  • Because of the curling of the pieces, I want to block them before I try to sew them together.
  • Wet blocked the pieces. I submerged them in cool tap water for >30 min before pinning the pieces out on my blocking mat.
  • I blocked the front and back pieces to the specified measurements. The neckline is a little wider than it should be (without blocking), but I think I might make a ribbed neckband anyway so this shouldn't bee too much of a problem.
  • I did not have enough space on my blocking mat to block the arms properly. I had to overlap one of the edges when pinning it out, and even then I didn't quite get the required dimensions. When I'm done with this round of blocking I will try the arms on Keith to see if I need to re-block them.
  • I made a schematic from the first blocking. I doubt that I would make the exact same sweater again for Keith, but it would be useful to know the fit for future sweaters. (Especially since it will be hard to measure once sewn.)
  • What a difference some blocking makes. The fabric looks so much more even and feels divine!

Notes from Sewing it All Together
  • I AM SO NERVOUS! This is where I could ruin the whole project. This is the first time I'm doing a proper mattress stitch.
  • I'm not loving this yarn anymore. Full Circle has been a joy to knit with, but a nightmare to seam with. The yarn splits, and even breaks when I'm pulling the mattress stitch closed. It was pretty frustrating the first time it happened. I ended up adding extra twists to the yarn as I sewed it closed. I really REALLY hope that the seams don't split while Keith is wearing it!
  • For the raglan shaping, I started at the neck and worked down. Maybe Mattress stitching would be easier starting from the bottom up... I plan to go this way for the rest of the stitching. I figure I can hide any mistakes or misalignment in the armpits.
  • It took a while to seam up the sweater (2 days), but it went very well. Some of the top edges on the neckline aren't perfect, but the bottom edge of all sleeves and he turned out great. The hardest seams to do were the armpit because this was grafting along cast off edges rather than a mattress stitch.
  • I decided that I love the sweater, and it is super cozy. If it doesn't fit Keith well now that it is sewn together, I'd be happy using it to cuddle in. (I'm finding myself wanting to knit a baggy sweater for myself!)

Notes from the Neckline
  • By my count, there would be 102 stitches (12+12+42+36) around the neck cast off edge. I am supposed to pick up 72 stitches. The pattern then calls for a garter stitch neckline. I'm feeling more inclined to make a ribbed neckline, but I'll know more once I am able to try the neckline-less sweater on Keith.
  • I decided to pick up and knit stitches in the following way. Pick up 2, skip 1, pick up 2, skip 1, pick up 3, skip 1. Repeat. This should result in ~70% of the stitches being picked up.
  • I only picked up 69 stitches. Close enough! (The small adult size has you pick up 68.. so it should be okay.)
  • I decided to try the collar as written. If I hate it, I can wrip it out and then redo a ribbed collar.
  • The first time I bound off, I did it too tight. I ripped it out and then did the K1, K2tog-tbl bindoff.
  • IT IS DONE! The only other thing I may do at the last fitting (or after the first few wears) is tack the BO edge to keep the curl over steady.

Final Thoughts

This sweater is so cozy and fits Keith perfectly. I am so glad that I took the I am now starting to think about what plunge to knit my husband a sweater. He deserves the effort that went into this project 100x over. Now that this project is complete, I am itching to start another sweater! I think I'll wait until it gets colder outside, Keith has not enjoyed August fittings!

I think that Keith likes it!