Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lessons learned: the Under Toad

For each and every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. But in Knitting at Large Land, for each and every sweater, there is an equal and opposite post-mortem. Welcome to the Under Toad lessons learned.

My Under Toad is based on Lisa Kay's Undercurrent in the First Fall 2011 issue of Knitty.

First off, I really like this sweater.

Of all the garments I've ever made, this one is the most me. My personality apparently contains stripes, yarn from recycled fiber, and a big collar/hood. When I put on this sweater, my insides sing YES.

The colors suit me.

People have always said I look best in reds, from baby pink to fire engine red to burgundy. Red makes me feel at home - and romantic, too. When I was young, I dreamed of getting married at Christmastime and wearing a red velveteen ball gown. That never happened, but it's still a good thought.

I'm proud of my yarn selection.

As I've said a thousand times before, I just don't like Noro. The dye colors clang and clash loudly for me. The one exception: Jared Flood's Noro Striped Scarf. The undulating stripes of color sing in visual harmony.

The Undercurrent obviously draws on the creative spirit of Jared's scarf, but I was leery to use Noro anyway. With a scarf, you get short, fixed color repeats. On a sweater, those repeats stretch unpredictably. I discovered this in the first sweater I made Tom four years ago. I happily knitted the body of the sweater until the V-neck - and then the colors pooled. I was a novice sweater knitter at the time and couldn't figure out how to fix it so I just kept knitting. But this lesson came to mind when I chose my Under Toad yarns.

My first instinct was to use a solid and variegated yarn. I already had a pile of Berroco Remix in my stash so I searched for a color-striping yarn that coordinates well. After hours of research, I settled on the Plymouth Kudo because I like the colors and thought the unusual fiber content would mesh well with the Remix. These two disparate yarns looks like a matched set when knitted up. I'm very happy with the results.

Finally! Back shaping that really fits!

My greatest achievement, however, is the elimination of the pooled fabric at my waist. If you read this blog, you know about my ongoing waist shaping issues. You also know that my intention was to move the extra fabric from my back waist to my front chest where it belongs.

Although I planned for this at the outset, I also ended up improvising when I realized that even though I'd done some pretty aggressive decreases from the hips to the waist, the sweater was still too wide at the back waist. I added additional decreases at the sides until the garment ws narrow enough. Then I knitted straight up instead of adding bustline increases as I have in the past. The result: a back that really fits (as shown in this mega-lousy photo).

And a front that fits, too!

The corollary to a well-fitting back is that I ended up with a well-fitting front, too. On the front pieces, I added bustline increases and made the crossfront about 18.5 inches wide rather than the crossback measurement of 17 inches. If you look at the schematic below, you can see that my front and back aren't symmetrical - and that's because I'm not symmetrical! If you want a well-fitting sweater, make it mirror your body. That's the key.

I like the length.

Sweater length is the bane of my existence - or one of them anyway. I both made the Petrea and the Undercurrent to test differing lengths. My conclusion? There is a place in my wardrobe for both sweater lengths. The longer sweaters work best when I'm wearing jeans, for example.

On the Under Toad, I added additional ease through the back hips and used a 5 x 5 ribbing to keep the sweater from pulling in under my butt. It still cups my read end more than I like so maybe next time I'll do a hem or just eliminate the bottom edging all together. But the bottom line - pun intended - is that I have a large bottom and comparatively smaller thighs. Ultimately, it just is what it is.

In conclusion, I'm pleased with this successful creation. My next task: thoroughly measure every piece of the Under Toad so I can create an updated schematic for use on future projects. I plan on using this shaping for the upcoming Deb's Cardigan and several other sweaters that are rolling around in my brain, too. Hopefully in the next sweater I can make the shaping even better.


  1. Congrats! And best of luck getting the same great fit on your next sweater.

  2. another step forward towards designing sweaters for you as well as others! A successful project.

  3. I've been following along through Laura Petrea and the Under Toad, and I love seeing how you solved the narrow back/wider chest problem (because I have it too!). Also, I love how your Under Toad has pulsing waves of color -- it looks fantastic, and it looks fantastic on you. Kudos!

  4. Julie! The Undertoad is EXTREMELY becoming on you. Stripes be damned! You've conquered the fit dilemma, too. Wow! I am impressed!

    My two cents: I think you hit the nail on the head, both with color/yarn choices and the pattern. The right yarn makes all the difference, doesn't it?

    The more I knit, the more I realize that you have to have three things for a successful project: The right size, yarn, and pattern. I've been learning the hard way that while I enjoy what I'm knitting, I'm not certain yet if I'm making the best pattern selections. Yarn/colors, that's easy in my mind, but choosing the right pattern is like choosing the right shirt. Just because it looks good on the model, doesn't mean it's going to suit me. These yarn patterns are throwing me for a loop. Knitting is the easy part; liking the final result is what I'm hoping to learn!

    Congrats on your successful summer knit-a-thon. YOU rock!...Mary-Kate

  5. It looks wonderful on you. I can't wait to see the changes you make to the A-Line Plus Cardigan when you work from the top down.

  6. I love this sweater! It's beautiful. :)

  7. I've said it once and I'll say it again...I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!! Way to go, Julie!!

  8. Agreed with all of the above. It really makes a difference, doesn't it, when you choose all the features that are right for you, and not just knit something because everyone else is making it?! Your perseverence has served ALL of you readers well...Thanks!

  9. I love this on you. Of all the sweaters you have made so far this is the tops. For some reason I love the Petrea with the white skirt on you almost as much. This sweater is very slimming, though I have been reading your blog from the start to now in just one evening. I see the weight loss and it is wonderful. I am a very heavy woman as well but not as accepting of it as you are, I don't knit myself sweaters only blankets or shawls so far. I started knitting when I was 19, I'm almost 53 now. I'm going to go finish reading your blog. Keep up the good work. *hugs*