This is the story, in point form, of the sweater that I've made for my brother's 50th birthday. I call it the Solution Sweater as my way of seeing it as a wonderful learning experience redefining all of the interesting challenges that this darn thing has presented, and the solutions that were handed to me along the way.
1.About 2 years ago, I had chosen and put aside a gorgeous discontinued brown Noro Aran weight yarn for this purpose. Anthony, the brother in question, mentioned that he always wanted a green Aran sweater. Solution: Alternate the chosen brown yarn with rich green Manos del Uruguay. It looks great...just like the forests of Vancouver Island where he lives.
2. A hood, said he. I'd really like a hood. Or maybe not. Could you make it with a hood that can come off?
3. Sure, said I. Solution: a hood with a series of small buttons around the bottom that can fit in the holes on the inside of a double neck band.
4. Oh, said I. You'll have to have a zipper at the neck or it will look like a little kid's hoodie. (As I'm saying this, I realize that if the zipper is worn open it will show the tacky inside of the zipper.) Solution: Make a second band on the inside of the sweater and slide the zipper between the 2 layers. Picture at left.
5. Make a swatch to check for colours and designa compatibility. This next picture is proof that I did a swatch last December. (Check my Flickr account. I really did do this swatch before beginning.) More about this later.
6. Knit 2 sleeves to make sure that tension is really okay. Sleeves come out fine. More about this later.
7. (Full disclosure, and a little bit of a spoiler alert: I did get some help here from one of my knitters to do the back with armhole shaping to accomodate a set-in drop sleeve, according to my directions. Also had her do the front to the zipper opening and armhole shaping.)
8. Picked up and finished the front to include the zip opening but forgetting that the back had armhole shaping. Solution: Rip back the back of the sweater to the armhole shaping which is then redone to match the front. (I was not about to do all that front neck shaping again.)
9. Design hood. Knit part of hood. Run out of green yarn. Solution: Find that the emerald green of Topsy Farm's wool is almost exactly the same colour, if a bit thinner. It's okay for the bit that I have left.
10. Sew the sleeves in. Discover that the sleeves have a depth of 8". For those of you who sensibly rely on patterns, 8" is the sleeve width of a fine lady's sweater. A man's jacket type sweater needs at least 10". (You do remember that I made and measured the sleeves in step 6 and they were fine when I made them.) Solution: If you look carefully just below the little red line triangle of the blocking board on the picture here, you will see a band of knitting where the stripes are going perpendicular to the rest of the sleeve. (we'll call it a design feature of some great ingenuity and importance to the integrity of the entire piece). These are bands of short rows that I picked up along the inside of the arm on each side to add the missing couple of inches.
11. While knitting these bands, finish the skein of brown yarn that I wound a couple of weeks ago. Go to the stash and retrieve another, knowing that because this was the original yarn that I intended for the entire sweater, there was plenty. This is a picture of the first of 7 skeins of the beautiful Noro yarn that was destroyed by mice and/or moths over the past 2 weeks. Solution: Turn blue while holding my breath as I examine the 8th and last skein of the yarn. Silent prayers to the knitting gods are answered; the last skein is intact.
12. Sew the sleeve extensions and side seams. Lay the hoodless sweater on the floor to admire the rough beauty of a finished garment before it's blocked. Try to ignore the nagging optical illusion that makes it appear to be smaller than I expected it to be.
13. Flatten out the sweater and measure one last time to reassure myself. Scream. (Remember the swatch from step 5?) Breathe deeply and remind myself that the evil knitting gremlins could not possibly have stolen an inch from each side of the sweater, making it 4 inches smaller in total than it had been when I measured the pieces before sewing them together. This is simply not possible. Solution: Put the whole thing away until the morning when I get up and soak it in a bath of water and Eucalan (to relax the fibres) and block it on the board to the exact size.
14. I am planning on sewing the buttons to the hood tomorrow and HOPE that the idea works and that the effect is a good one. I'll let you know.
All this to say that despite the ...INTERESTING...aspects to this project, I've really enjoyed it as it has given me a chance to "build" a proper sweater from the beginning, refining some of the skills that might have gotten a bit rusty lately and learning as I go along. Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures that also show how nicely the colours work together and how the corrugated ribbing from the bottom of the sweater worked to tie in the blended colours.
I'll hang the finished piece at the store until mid November when the birthday guy comes to town. All in all...it was a lot of FUN.