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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Refinished object - Candy sweater

A couple of episodes ago Brenda Dayne of Cast-On asked what she should do with sweaters which were too good to throw out or rip back but not quite right to wear. This is my solution.

The first proper sweater which I ever knit (back in the days when Oxford still had a Rowan shop) was the Candy sweater from Rowan 32. I picked out yarn (Kid Classic--the recommended yarn--in two shades of pink, one light, one deep and bright) and needles. I knit a gauge swatch, I was even on gauge (or thereabouts), and I started knitting. And it went pretty well. Even though I didn't really know the best way to cast-on, or increase stitches, or hold my yarn. My stitches were pretty even and I managed to follow the pattern pretty well (i.e. I usually remembered to do the shaping within one or two rows of where I should have). At last I got to the bit where I had to sew up the left shoulder seam before picking up stitches for the collar. This too went pretty well. Finally there was lots of sewing up (a bit wonky in places due to the dodgy increases), and darning in of ends and snipping off of yarn and it was done. And I was very pleased with it and I wore it.

Of course there were a couple of things I wasn't thrilled with. The sleeves could have been longer, and the waist. I hate sweaters that I'm forever tugging down. And the huge collar did need a lot of rearranging and usually got tangled up with my earrings when I tried to take the sweater off. Still, the yarn was lovely and soft, and the colours were great and the stripes were a great size and I still wore it (just with high-waisted skirts).

Until, one Wednesday night about three or four months back I wore it to the Bluestockings meeting after work (there's something about meeting up with lots of other knitters that inspires grandiose plans - of course I can knit a Shetland shawl! etc.). I had been toying with the idea of lengthening the sleeves for a while and in a post-knitting buzz I felt inspired (one or two glasses of white wine may have also helped). When I got home I went at the sweater with a pair of scissors. Actually I first started unpicking with a darning needle but that didn't go very fast. Kid classic is an absolute pain to rip back (at least it is after two years of wash and wear), especially upwards. My plan was to rip out the huge collar, the cuff and bottom ribbing and then knit down an extra stripe or so from the plain stocking stitch then knit some replacement ribbing to finish off. I would have plenty of yarn from the collar and the leftovers from the original project (maybe this is why Rowan are so generous in their yarn estimates). I won't go into details on the ripping back. Suffice to say it was pretty nasty and left me with a bad case of knitter's lung (all those fibres) for a few hours after each session.

Once I had ripped out the original ribbing and got the resulting live stitches on the needles I knit down the two sleeves to the place where my hands actually started. Then I tried it on. It looked OK from a distance but close up the stitches seemed baggy and uneven - could it be the ripped-back yarn, or the difficulty of knitting back and forth over something which started off in the round? It was a while before I realised the obvious answer, my gauge had changed (no really?). At the same time (luckily as it avoided two lots of ripping back) I realised I didn't want ribbing on the cuffs. Instead I knit (on a size smaller needles to match my 2 year old gauge) plain stocking stitch in stripes down to the correct length for the sleeves and body and cast-off. I left the neck hole as it was, it was actually a very nice shape once I had taken out the huge collar, and finally trimmed all the edges with crocheted shell stitch. The result is a sweater I now wear a whole lot more.* I still wish that the sewing up was a little neater but there's no way I'm opening up that can of worms.

* I actually finished this sometime before Christmas, but then Christmas knitting happened.

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