a story about a sweater

Finished Edith

So I want to talk about this sweater, and how I don’t like it, and how maybe I dislike it so much that I’m planning on ripping it out and knitting it again.

First, some context. So, way back in the fall, I went on a trip back to Ontario to visit friends and family. I had lots of things that needed to get done, but one personal errand that was really important: I was going to go to Romni Wools, and treat myself to a sweater quantity of Yorkshire Spinners’ Aran, and knit myself the Best Sweater Ever.

(I’d been in love with this yarn for some time before this. It’s a gorgeous millspun BFL with lots of loft and squish, but also fairly pricey because it’s imported from the UK, so: treat.)

My initial plan was to knit Georgetown, but after several swatches, I realized that it wasn’t meant to be. The pattern gauge was much, much denser than I could comfortably achieve with that particular yarn, and so I had three options: knit a super-dense sweater at a painfully tight gauge, recalculate the entire sweater based on my swatch, or knit a different pattern.

Finished Edith

I chose Option #3, and (using the search-by-gauge feature in the Ravelry Advanced Search, which has saved my butt on more than one occasion) decided on Edith. I wanted to make a few modifications – mostly length, as I wouldn’t have had enough yarn to knit it as written – but not very many.

So, it’s done.

Finished Edith

It’s actually been done for a while, but after trying it on for the first time post-blocking, I realized that it wasn’t quite the sweater that I wanted, and needed some time to think. See, the sweater I wanted was big, and cozy, and squishy. It had lots of ease in the shoulders and arms, both for practical reasons (this yarn gets a bit prickly if it’s skin-tight) and also because my Best Sweater Ever was cuddly and a bit oversized and wear-with-everything. There’s a term in the sewing community, for clothes that look good but are shockingly comfortable: Secret Pyjamas. I was hoping for the sweater equivalent of that.

The sweater that I got is totally adequate, but not quite right. There’s lots of good things about it! Namely: Perfect, flowy boxiness in the body. That garter rib stitch along the collar and upper back, which is perfectly squashy and works beautifully with the yarn. The way this wool blocks out with a nice, gentle BFL halo.

Finished Edith

There are some things I don’t like quite as much, though. I’d never knit a sweater with this construction before, and so I didn’t really realize these things were going to bug me like they did. First off, it’s got drop sleeves. This lends a super adorable, slouchy feel to the sweater body, but also means that there’s a sleeve seam right at the widest part of my arm. The sleeves are just a little tighter than I want them to be, and that seam right at the widest part of my upper arm doesn’t help. The other issue is the length, which I miscalculated – I want the body to be, like, four inches longer, and didn’t realize that until the sweater was already knit. The other issue for me is the neckline – it makes sort of a “point” at the back neck, which bugs me when I move my arms during wearing.

Finished Edith

Finished Edith

Now, I want to stress that none of these issues are related to the pattern itself. Rather, they’re problems with the way my body shape and fit preferences and the body shape the pattern is written for don’t quite line up.

I’ve spent a good chunk of the past few months trying to decide what to do about this sweater. I don’t think I’ll wear it in its current iteration, but I want the sweater that it almost became, the sweater that I want this yarn to be. I’ve thought about maybe just reuniting the sleeves to a bigger size, but the armhole seams and the collar and the length are still going to bug me, and ultimately, if I’m frogging to alter that many things about the sweater, I might as well knit a new one. (I also have two and a half skeins of yarn left over – clearly I knit a much smaller sweater than I was planning, which means I’ve got lots of “wiggle room” to reknit something with extra length or bigger sleeves.)

Finished Edith

I haven’t frogged this sweater yet, but I’m planning to set aside a day in the next week to take it apart and reskein all the yarn. I’ve got a few options in mind for its second iteration (Tinder is currently the front-runner). The only other decision left to make is whether I should reknit this over the summer, or to wait until fall when it’s better weather for working on something quite this heavy.

beginning again, with wool

SCF Shetland handspun

I let most of February (and March, and April) get away from me, although not without good reason. C and I got married at the end of February, and the past three months have been a pretty busy stretch of planning things-doing things-being exhausted-getting a cold-recovering-doing more things.

One of my goals for 2016 was to be better about documenting my making with photos, and I think I’m succeeding there – my Ravelry projects and stash are much more up to date, and I’m instagramming my sewing makes more often. Now, my goal is to start sharing them in this space. I have a lot of projects with stories that want to get told.

This first post is about spinning – something that got away from me a bit in February. I ended up knitting a sweater to wear at my wedding. This was a really great choice in that I got a product I’m really proud of, and it turned out exactly the way I’d hoped. This was a stressful choice because I had to knit only this one, somewhat-fussy thing, for the better part of two months.

By the beginning of March, I was craving easy. Garter stitch. Plain spinning with no planning or expectation. You know the stuff. By the middle of the month, I was in the mood for some instant-gratification spinning, and I’d been staring at a particular bump of dyed Shetland, received as a gift from a spinner pal.

Handspun SCF Shetland  

 My planning and colour-handling-fussing was pretty minimal, which I think worked out wonderfully. The fiber was dyed in such a way that it repeated itself, which meant splitting it in half width-wise left me with two sections of fiber dyed the same. I split these into four, and spun onto two bobbins for a 2-ply yarn that would hopefully have lined up colours. 

I was able to knock the singles out over the course of a few days, and plied loosely to see if I could improve my put-up.

Handspun Shetland

I ended up with about 265 yd in a 108g skein. This is absolutely enough for a hat or pair of mittens, but I really wanted this to be a shawl. Maybe in garter stitch. There’s a theme, here.

I thought about combining it with something else I’d already spun, but I had two issues. First of all, the colours – this yarn is beautiful but also extremely punchy, and hard to match with the rest of my handspun stash. Secondly, I get kind of precious about combining like wool breeds when I spin – the idea of knitting Shetland with something like merino or alpaca makes me feel weird, and I’d rather not if I can avoid it.

Then, I remembered that I had a small bump of undyed grey Shetland lurking in my stash (from Hopeful Shetlands, a farm in Ontario. I think I remember buying it at the Woodstock festival?). I decided to try spinning it up to match my first skein, so that I could pair them together.

Recently Added-281

The second skein isn’t an exact match for the first. It’s around 218yd in an 87g skein, which is slightly thinner. However: it’s close enough, and it’s also so pretty that I could die. Like, will you look at that halo, it’s so magical. This is a true worsted yarn (from roving, spun long-draw), whereas I suspect the dyed shetland is on top. There were definitely more nepps in the fibre and it took a bit more focus to spin it evenly, but the poof is bananas.

I also think there was a bit of lanolin left in the fleece during processing, possibly for ease of spinning. There was a noticeable change in texture after I gave this skein a bath, and I ended up with a lovely, fluffy hand to the finished yarn.

Recently Added-280

Recently Added-279

I’m pairing these two lovelies in another Driftwood shawl, but doing some fussy things with stripes to use both skeins up fully. I wear my original constantly, and I’m excited to have a slightly-heavier handspun version for colder days.

if you can’t beat them

I’ve always been a brick-and-mortar shop sort of person, if given the option. This is especially true for me when it comes to shopping for things like yarn and fabric.

Out West, I’ve been doing my best to find local crafty shops. Obviously, different stores are different, but I’ve had some successes and difficulties finding places with a similar ‘feel’ and stock as the shops back east.

This is, I think, especially true for quilting fabric. There are lots of great options, and the options that do exist are huge, and have a grand selection in terms of sheer quantity of fabric and notions and machines. This is great on a lot of fronts – when I was ready to upgrade my machine, I was able to find the one I wanted in store, and one of the shops near me has an excellent selection of flannel for pyjamas, which is pretty important. But these stores and I, we definitely disagree when it comes to taste in printed quilting cottons.

Granted, I was a little spoiled, living so close to amazing shops like Needlework and The Workroom, but the stores out here are just – different. A lot of the fancy ‘modern’ fabric lines and designers I’ve grown fond of just aren’t stocked out here.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t options, by any means. But the prints available tend to run towards a certain aesthetic that’s either quite traditional (lots of floral reproductions and batiks) or quite – novelty-ish. Possibly arranged by theme (Star Wars, boats, cowboys, space). But nothing quite gets me like the food fabric. Oh my god, the food fabric. You’ve seen it – that bolt that’s printed with photorealistic illustrations of potatoes, or beer cans, or halved avocados. There is so much of this, and it’s definitely not my jam.

HHFFSBS

I was lamenting this on Twitter last weekend with Austen, who also had a fairly recent move from the big city to the land of novelty fabric, and she suggested an alternative. Rather than fight the novelty food fabrics, we should embrace them, with a swap. The Horrible Hyperrealistic Food Fabric Stowe Bag Swap.

We chatted back and forth for a bit, and set out some ground rules:

1) Each swap participant must sew one Stowe bag, in the small size.

2) Each bag needs to use at least two different food fabrics. Artist’s choice as to whether these two fabrics depict foods that are palatable together, either visually or gustatorially.

3) Bags go in the mail by Feb 15th.

I’ve already picked out my Foods Of Choice, and I kind of can’t wait to turn them into something ridiculous.

Would you like to play, too? Does your local quilt shop also have an Aisle Of Horrible Hyperrealistic Food Fabric? (Or do we perhaps share the same local quilt shop?) We’d love it if you joined us. If you’re planning to swap with people you know and like (?), feel free to post on social media with the hashtag #HHFFSBS.