Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Heartbeat Sweater

With a little trepidation I started a Knit-along for the Heartbeat Sweater from Just One More Row. One knitter mentioned a problem with the neckline being too wide and deep, and after my experience with the Sprinkle Lace Cardigan I wasn't anxious to deal with that again! But the pattern looked like it was easily adjustable, it seemed like a quick and easy knit (compared to the barely visible yarn for my current lace project), and there was even yarn in my stash that seemed suitable, so why not?

Heartbeat Sweater by Jill Vosburg, Just One More Row
Yarn: Filatura Lanarota Luxor D.K. (50% cotton, 50% Acrylic)
Needles: Denise Size 6
Gauge: 5 sts/inch
Yardage: approx. 1200 yds for 48" size

The construction of this sweater is very unusual. It begins at the center neckline and is knit outwards, with vertical side panels in garter stitch, and sleeves knit onto the side panels. The pattern is very well written, with a large number of diagrams – and thank goodness for those, because I had the whole front nearly finished before I could figure out how this bizarre shape was going to turn into a sweater! (I find that a certain amount of faith is sometimes necessary in knitting.)

Because of the design of the sweater, there are no exact measurements in the pattern – you have to take measurements (Jill recommends measuring a garment that fits you well), and from time to time there are reassuring comments like "Don't worry, the side panels will allow you to adjust the fit exactly to your size." It is possible to try it on as you go, so adjustments can be made at various points without major surgery (for yourself or the sweater).

Because I was concerned about the neckline, which is sometimes a problem with patterns written for smaller sizes and calculated proportionally for larger sizes, I followed the suggestion of one knitter in the Knit-along (I'm sorry, I don't remember who it was) and added a few extra increases on each side at the top, though it might not have been necessary.

The only other modification I made was to make the sweater a little longer than shown in the picture, so my yardage was more than the estimate for that size, even though the gauge was the same.

The Denise needles were perfect for this project, since at several different times you are instructed to slip stitches onto a holder or smooth string. With the Denise needles and several extra cables it is possible just to detach the needle tips, screw on a cap, and leave the stitches on a cable until you are ready to continue with that section. Then unscrew the cap, put the needle tip back on, and knit away.

Finishing is easy, since you use a 3-needle bind-off to join the sides. The one thing I found annoying was a seemingly endless array of ends to weave in. The truth is that I am spoiled – I have done a lot of knitting recently with yarn on cones (so there is no need to join yarn from separate skeins), and even when knitting with smaller skeins I generally use animal fibers that I can join with a spit-splice, and hence no ends. Since this yarn was a cotton blend in 130-yd. balls, there were lots of ends, and that is always my least favorite part of any project (aside from sewing pieces together).

I enjoyed knitting this sweater, I like the style, and I like the way it fits. So the only question in my mind is what yarn to use on the next one... maybe something variegated, like the one shown in the pattern photo.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reluctant Sweater Set

The problem with the Sprinkle Lace Cardigan's low neckline has been solved, thanks to the generosity and ingenuity of several knitters on two different knitting group lists who offered suggestions after my last post. Suggestions ranged from varying degrees of major surgery to adding additional edging to the neckline or just wearing something else under it. Probably the most clever was to lace ribbon all the way around the neckline (instead of just as a tie, as suggested in the pattern) to gather and pull it up. Since that solution required the least effort, I decided to try that first... but I had already started a matching shell with the remaining cone of yarn. So I now have a beautiful sweater set:

Pattern: Sprinkle Lace Cardigan by Natalie Wilson
Yarn: 100% cashmere DK from Colourmart - color China Blue - approx. 400 gm
Needles: Denise US #8 and #7
Modifications: Additional crocheted edging on neckline; eliminated waist shaping on body but knit bottom 4" on larger needles

Pattern: based on Quick & Easy Shell by Kate Winkler
Yarn: 100% cashmere DK (see above) - approx. 180 gm
Needles: Denise US #8 and #7
Modifications: Added Sprinkle Lace pattern to match the cardigan

Here is a somewhat blurry picture of it on a reluctant model (but the only one available):

Despite all the crises, I am delighted with the final product. The advantage for me, the wearer, is that I get to feel how lovely and soft it is; everyone else just gets to see it.

I have learned a few lessons from this experience. One is to try on the item as y0u go. I didn't do that because I had allowed for shrinkage, and as long as the gauge was still on track I thought it would be okay. But that didn't allow for errors in the pattern or errors in following the pattern. If I had even tried it on just before doing the 3-needle bind-off at the shoulders, it would have been easy to make adjustments before assembling the whole sweater.

AND... I learned how to crochet!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The good news and the bad news

The good news is that I have finished the lace sprinkle sweater. It is beautiful. The bad news is that I don't like the way it fits, and I'm not sure it's my fault.

As you can see from the photo, the neckline is too wide and too deep. After all, the purpose of a cashmere sweater is to keep you warm, not to show off one's assets! I don't know what went wrong – a comparison with the designer's photo (see previous blog entry) shows that the neck wasn't supposed to be low and sexy.

I already tried to compensate by increasing the edging around the neck. (Yes, I did figure out how to do a single crochet and half double crochet for the edging all the way around, and managed it quite nicely, if I do say so myself.)

The additional row of edging around the neck looks good, but it didn't solve the problem. It really needs a few more inches, so it's hard to imagine doing enough edging to fill in the gap. I'm open to suggestions!

The yarn, Colourmart cashmere DK weight, is fabulous. It was a pleasure to knit, and after the "tough love" treatment of washing in hot water and drying for several minutes in the dryer, it bloomed into something so soft that it is hard to be in the same room with it and not want to caress it. So it would really be a shame to let this sweater just hide away in a drawer, neglected.