Friday, November 18, 2005

La Historia de Gloria

I think I've got your number.
I pulled you from that stack of crap
That you've been living under.

But I really don't remember
What the lost instructions said.
Did they fall under the bed
For the 'Gloria'?...."

The Fates did not want me to finish this sweater. I thought it'd be an easy one. Garter stitched sleeves, borders and upper body, heavy worsted yarn, no special patterns to remember - it should have been easy.

Here are the things that went wrong:

I bought the Mountain Colors yarn at Stitches, but from two different vendors. I didn't realize that my two matching skeins colorwise were two different thicknesses. 4/8s isn't the same gauge as Weavers Wool Quarters. It's close, but not the same. Thus, I got home with two skeins of 4/8s that don't exactly interact harmoniously and one skein of Weavers that can't be mixed in with them. I'd also bought the solid yarn at Stitches, but in spite of my careful reading and rereading of the yardage requirements, and my knowledge that I was knitting a medium, and the fact that I kept a copy of the pattern in my purse as a reference, I managed to buy just enough to finish the small.

I started the sleeves but quickly figured that they'd be too wide at the bottom. Frogged them. I restarted the sleeves using the smaller size, but lost track of my row count while shaping. I frogged them again, because they wouldn't have been even unless I ripped both of them back to the second row.

I decided that I should give up on the sleeves and work the body instead. I made the fateful decision to knit the body in one piece up to the armhole split. Not stopping to read the pattern at a critical point, I didn't start waist shaping at the right time. By the time I realized that I'd forgotten the waist shaping, I was at least twenty rows beyond where it whould have started. But the whole body was that far along because I knit it in one piece, so frogging back wasn't an option. Sure, it could have been done, but emotionally? Not an option. I started decreasing from where I was, and just shortened up the space between decreases. Decreasing every ten rows five times turned into every five rows five times.

Well, O.K., that wasn't so bad. The waist shaping was a little more pronounced, but I kind of liked it when I laid the piece flat and looked at the contour, and...wait a minute. Why were the edges curling that much? Another failure to read the pattern. The edges were supposed to have a garter stitch border to hold them flat. Oops. But if it was too late to frog back for the waist shaping, it was WAY too late to restart for this.

I got up to the garter stitch portion of the body. This is where I realized that my two skeins of 4/8s didn't match. The colors in one skein were much stronger than the colors in the other. Well, that was fine, because I had two skeins of the subtler colorway, the one I like. Except that I didn't. See above. So I knit the upper body with two rows of the stronger colorway, then switched and knit the rest of it with the subtler one. I got everything on stitch holders and took stock of my remaining yarn.

This is where I realized that I didn't have enough of the Debbie Bliss to finish two sleeves. I pawed through the project bag, through my yarn stash, under the couches and the bed, and in my desk drawers at work. It didn't make sense...until I figured out that I'd bought enough yarn to make a much smaller sweater. No problem, because the solid color would be mixed in with the variegated wool, so dye lot matching wasn't an issue. I ordered two more balls from and went to work on other projects.

When I came back to this one, it was sleeve time again. Still thinking I had two skeins of 4/8s in the softer colorway, I did the smart thing and divided my yarn into two piles, one for each sleeve. Then I realized that I did not, in fact, have enough of the subtle yarn to make both sleeves, that the Weavers was DK weight and I needed heavy worsted. I started knitting the two sleeves at the same time with the brigher yarn, and figured I'd switch about halfway up the arm. The sleeves looked a little big and awkward, but I was following the pattern, and there was no turning back.

Until I got about three quarters of the way up the sleeves and realized that the stronger color made the striped sleeve look like a sarape, and that it would have comfortably held both my arms when sewn up, and that I'd run out of the subtler color at the sleeve cap. I tried to use the Weavers Wool, but the gauge difference between it and the DB Cashmerino Aran was just too great. Frogged both sleeves.

At this point, nearly broken but unwilling to stop for another seven month break, I made the choice to completely redesign the sleeves. If I only had enough 4/8s wool to knit the sleeve caps, then only the sleeve caps would be garter stitch. I'd make the sleeves themselves stockinette in the solid color, and I'd knit them in the round so I didn't have to seam them. They'd look just like the body.

I had two sleeves to do, and now they weren't going to be striped, so color matching was suddenly going to be an issue. I knit up one sleeve with one skein of the solid color, and stopped just before any shoulder cap shaping. I got about to the elbow of the second sleeve and ran out of yarn again. Yep, I hadn't taken the stockinette modification into account, and I used up way more yarn than I would have with the stripes. I bought more yarn, this time from Webs because I couldn't make the Knitting Garden website sell me the color I needed, I think because they were out of stock. It let me add every other color to my basket, but not the red. Desperation won out over loyalty. It showed up at my door a few evenings later, and I happily tore into the package, dug out my yarn and set to work finishing the solid portion of the second sleeve. But the lighting over the chair where I was sitting isn't very strong, and sometimes subtleties in shading get lost. You see where this is going.

Meanwhile, somewhere in my house, the pattern book disappeared. I'd been working from a dog-eared photocopy of the pattern, hauling it around in the bag with my yarn, so I hadn't kept track of the book. In a fit of organizational zeal, I'd also recently gone through every scrap of loose paper in my office, my purse and my file pile and either thrown out or shredded every unnecessary piece. I suddenly had this sinking feeling that I'd thrown out the printout. I hadn't needed it for most of the sleeve, because I'd made it up as I went along, but I really needed it for the cap shaping. I didn't want to get that wrong, not when I was so close to being done. I spent the next two hours overturning every cushion and rifling through every book and notepad in my house. I never found the book, but I did find the printout in a stack of mail. I guess it was making a bid for freedom.

The next night, I was happily knitting the sleeve cap on the first sleeve, and stopping about every three minutes to lay it next to the second sleeve. "See, honey?" I'd say to Accountant Boy, "It's going to be so pretty! Look how good the stockinette looks...stockinette...that's the part that looks like knitting...see how nice it looks next to the garter stitch...yeah, that's the bumpy part..." I was sitting in a different spot in the room, because Buddy the Cat prefers that I sit on the chaise with him, and he meows at me if I spend too much time in the armchair. The lighting's stronger in that spot. "Hey, honey? Take a look at this sleeve and tell me what's wrong with it..." "It looks good, but why does the shade of the red change at the elbow?" Yep, two different dye lots. The second sleeve got frogged completely one more time, and knit back up with a single skein of the Cashmerino.

Once I finally got all of the damned thing knitted, everything fell into place. The seaming went well, because I took the time to read about garter stitch seaming in my handy copy of 'Stitch 'n Bitch'. Buddy the Cat provided moral support.

So here it is. It's a little bigger than I wanted it to be, but that's O.K. Once I weave the ribbon in around the collar, it'll fit a little closer. I've worn it twice, and I've almost picked all of the embedded cat hairs out of it. Welcome to the wardrobe, Gloria!

What did I learn from this experience? I learned that I'm not as wide as I think I am, which is a recurring theme among my post-project musings. I need to remember that knit garments stretch, and that I'm usually a small in store-bought sweaters. For my next fitted project, I'm going to take accurate measurements, and more importantly, I'm going to believe them.

I learned how do work paired lifted increases, something I didn't understand when I was making the Greek Pullover. I'm really proud of the increases on the arms, and now that's my favorite kind of increase.

Would I make this sweater again? Definitely. I'm thinking of making another one out of some alpaca yarn in my stash. Just as soon as I buy another copy of the pattern book.

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