Tuesday, December 31, 2002

My First Sweater

Doesn't everyone have a "First Sweater" story? Well this is mine.

Overall, it's amazing how far I've come since that first attempt at knitting myself a sweater, and it's truly amazing that I ended up with a sweater that fits reasonably well, and that I can still wear to this day.

A friend/co-worker of mine had a great cardigan that she kept at work. It was a beautiful charcoal gray and when I tried it on, I liked the way it looked and I wanted to have one of my own to keep at work. I had knit some small items (like underwear), but I didn't understand yarn weights, or sweater design, or needle sizes, etc., etc.

The Search
I started out by searching through the few pamphlets I had, but I found nothing that was even close. I went to a now-defunct yarn store about 20 minutes from me and looked for patterns and found a pattern for a sweater that I thought would look good on my sister, but nothing for me. Then by chance, I was in my grocery store and found a knitting magazine (Woman's Day, wouldn't you know) and it had a pattern for a Shaker Rib Cardigan that I thought would be perfect.

Now for the yarn
I definitely wanted a gray yarn, so I trekked into Princeton, NJ to a very good yarn store (that is also now defunct). Suffice it to say that the woman "helping" me was not very helpful. I told her what I wanted to do, I showed her the pattern and she said she didn't carry the yarn called for in the pattern. She seemed exasperated when I asked if there was any other yarn I could use. I'm sure I showed my ignorance by picking out a random gray yarn that appealed to me that was the wrong weight. She told me I couldn't use that yarn, although she didn't explain why.

Finally, she pulled out a skein of Brown Sheep Cotton and Wool in a charcoal gray and said that I could use it. GOD it would have been useful to have a knitting mentor to help explain what a surly bitch this woman was, but I thought it was just my ignorance.

I bought the yarn and brought it home to immediately cast on my new sweater.

The knitting
Now, most eagle-eye knitters would notice that my gauge at the start of the sweater was a tad tighter than the majority of the sweater. My excitement of starting a big project resulted in a tight (white-knuckle tight) gauge, but eventually it evened out. The pattern stitch was relatively simple and could be followed with simple reading of instructions. KTB (knit to back of stitch) was about the most complex instruction I had to interpret. Also, since the sweater is a standard drop-shoulder cardigan, there was very little shaping and the knitting of the back, two front sections and sleeves was relatively uneventful.

I do recall hating the yarn, the color, the project...well, everything about the stupid sweater once I got up to the second sleeve, but I persevered.

I found the concept of knitting pockets very cool, but I stalled a little on the button band, since I didn't know how hard/easy it was to test the length as I went along, but I followed the directions and got it all done.

The Finishing
Now, I have to admit, I've never disliked the finishing process for sweaters...not even for the first sweater. I sewed up all the pieces as best I could. I used completely inappropriate stitches for seams, for shoulders and for the button band, but fortunately the unevenness of the yarn hides those newbie mistakes pretty well. I also learned quickly how to fudge matching pieces that weren't quite the same length.

That sweater got sewn up in a decent amount of time.

Now I needed buttons. Did I go to my local fabric store? Did I go back to my yarn store? Did I search through knitting magazines for button sellers? No, no, no. I had an old rugby shirt that didn't fit anymore that I was going to throw out, and I thought..."I'll just recycle these buttons." Now, of course the buttons are rubber (as most rugby shirts are), and they didn't exactly fit the buttonholes...but they were free, so I sewed them on.

The Result
The sweater was designed for Red Heart yarn which is MUCH lighter than Cotton and Wool. I also didn't realize that I was wrapping my purl stitches the wrong way resulted in a twisted stitch which creates a very dense fabric. The overall result is what my lover calls "The Arctic Sweater" since it's heavy enough to keep you warm in the coldest arctic climate. But as I said at the beginning, it's amazing that such ignorance could produce a sweater that I still like today.