Thursday, October 13, 2011

The problem with success

Oh boy! (Or girl as the case may be.) The brisk fall breeze, swirling with golden leaves, chills just enough to warrant a sweater. Hurray! All those cardigans I've made since spring can finally make their autumn debuts.

I've been cuddling up in my creations every chance I get. As it turned out, I wore my new sweaters in reverse order. I started with my latest, the striped Under Toad. On a cool October evening, I pulled on my cardi and headed to dinner with friends. The best news is that no one asked me if I'd made my sweater. I always wait for that question - and am convinced if asked that the sweater must look homemade, not handmade. But this time, no one noticed or at least bothered to mention it. I smiled inside though, happy with the fit and stripes, too.

Next, I donned a denim skirt and my pink Laura Petrea for a date with the beloved boyfriend. Tom never needs to ask if I've made my sweater; he's sat beside me for millions of stitches holding my arm while we watched TV - and I knit. Somehow, however, he managed to tell me I looked pretty. He's a good boyfriend. :-)

I was pretty happy with the Laura Petrea, but frankly it didn't fit as well as the Under Toad. I learned a lot making this Amy Herzog pattern, including the princess-style darts she uses to fit her garments. They rock! So much more becoming than side seam shaping. But the upper bodice didn't fit so well. When it came time to make the Under Toad, I took all those lessons learned and managed to fix the upper bodice so it fit perfectly. No gaps, no pulls, enough room for my busty bustline and small enough in the back to remove the extraneous fabric.

And then yesterday, I pulled out the Waltham. I've been dying to wear this because I love the luscious shawl collar and the mellow blue Ultra Alpaca. My plan was to wear the Waltham with a pair of jeans and a burgundy gingham collared shirt to a casual business meeting. Psyched, I pulled on the cardigan - and literally froze. The Waltham is pretty. It's fine. It really is. But it doesn't fit well and certainly not well enough to wear to a client meeting. Off it went. I wore a commercially made cardigan instead - and thought of the 4,000 things I'd do differently to improve the fit. (And no, I'm not going to reknit this. Onward and upward.)

With the Waltham, I put all my shaping in the side seams, which is better than no shaping at all. Part of the problem with the Waltham is that there really isn't any way to insert any other shaping. If the area on the side of the sweater was stockinette or garter, I could sneak in some shaping. But there wasn't any way to add waist shaping without disturbing the ribbing that wraps the sides of the Waltham.

I now think of side seam shaping as being two dimensional, left and right. Don't know about you, but I don't get wider and narrower at my side seams - my shape undulates in all sorts of directions! The best shaping I've found thus far is the princess shaping which takes my flat, two-dimensional garment and turns it into a well-fitting, three-dimensional, cylindical shape. The reason the Under Toad fits me so well is because it uses princess shaping.

My experimentation continues. I've been talking a bit about my first sweater pattern which I hope to someday soon sell on Ravelry. More details soon, but here is a sneak peak at the shaping. Look at how the side panel curves in and out at the waist. I'm really proud of that! (Don't worry. My pattern will include instructions for a straight-sided garment for those of you who don't need waist or A-line shaping.)

So, to end where I began, the problem with success is that you realize how much you missed! If I knew then what I know now, it would all be different. Clearly, I garnered lessons from every sweater I've made, but by wearing my sweaters this week, I realize how far I've come in just a few months. It ain't over, but I am on the trail to a perfect fit. My pot of gold is right over that rainbow - of autumn-colored leaves.


  1. oooohh you mentioned the sweater you're designing!! Dare I hope it's almost finished??

    .....getting out my Signatures....

  2. You can still sneak some shaping into a sweater that, like the Waltham, has ribbing at its sides, without having to shape at the side seams and without visually disturbing the patterning. The trick is to decrease the width of the ribbing's purl furrows. So, if the ribbing is initially k1, p3 rib, gradually work a series of evenly distributed p2tog decreases until you have k1, p2 rib instead (or even k1, p1 rib, or whatever you need to achieve the desired stitch count). Your eye will focus on the knit columns rather than the purl furrows, and will see the ribbed patterning as continuous.

  3. Julie, you have certainly changed the way I think about modifying a sweater pattern. Thank goodness I don't have a waistline, a simple a-line does the trick!

    I can't wait to see the rest of your 'experiment'. The cable pattern is looking good!!! I hope to buy that pattern the minute you offer it for sale.

  4. I'm with JC Briar. Also, you can incorporate pattern into the decreases too. Take a look at some of Anne hanson's sweater designs for examples of decreasing and increasing a small lace motif for shaping.

    The new design is looking lovely and the fabric cuddly. :)

  5. What accomplishments, Julie! Kudos! You set out to achieve your goal(s) and you develop strategies to get you there!
    Your creations are fab and I applaud you.
    The Undertoad is my favorite.
    You make it sound so easy! DO this ,do that and...... Bob's Your Uncle!!
    I believe the problem with most of the ample knitting world, however, is not the "What" but it is in the 'How'.Oh so many workshops$$$ out there on the "What".
    Perhaps I am wrong, I dunno. Not one of the 'Knitting Mensans', I'm afraid.
    But for now, I will keep on knitting my sweaters with no shaping aka: designer 'sacks' until light dawns on MarbleHead.
    It's not the 'What'... it's ALL the 'How'!(and I think I am not alone in this from what I read online)
    Keep on knitting, keep on reaching those are an example.

  6. So looking forward to your creation!

  7. I love your Blog! I've developed a "watermelon on stilts" figure with menopause. All the excess is sitting out front & nothing fits anymore. Darts & short row shaping have been a bit of a mystery to me since I'm not quite sure where to start & stop, nevermind figure out exactly where they should be . . . But it looks like I better learn fast. You give me encouragement. Keep up the good knit!

  8. What happens to the sweaters you've knit in the recent past that no longer fit due to your weight loss (or your improved techniques)? Do you give them away? Sell? Rip and recycle the yarn?