Sunday, May 13, 2007

As you may have guessed,

I did not finish my birthday present to myself before the deadline. However (knowing me), though you may think that it was for lack of effort, my birthday present failed for a different reason.

Any knitter will tell you the importance of gauge. It is, essentially, the key to making sure a pattern will fit, the linchpin or the keystone, if you will, of patternmaking. And few knitted items can be made without correct gauge - shawls, scarves, potholders, and the like - though even they require some sense of gauge to be made to the correct size, or to accomodate various stitch patterns.

The first sweater I ever made,
before I knew what gauge was, was ridiculously too big. Because length was something I could control without counting rows, it was the right length in the body, but it was probably twice as big as it should have been in width, the sleeves were too long and hung heavily over my hands, and the neckline, rather than sitting around my neck in a mock-turtleneck, was something closer to a boatneck. When I first put it on, my mother and sister tried to say nice things about it, until I burst into laughter, at which point they followed suit. It lived in drawers for a long time until I threw it away two years ago - it was made of cheap (and itchy!) acrylic yarn, not worth the effort of unraveling to turn into something else. And since then, with this great big failure in the back of my mind, I have paid close attention to gauge, and had few problems.

So you can just imagine my surprise, nay, my dismay, to discover that my gauge was off on my birthday present, and that I was knitting it twenty percent larger than it should have been.

I bought several very expensive balls of Debbie Bliss cotton/silk blend five years ago. The intent was to make a shawl, which I began and quickly got tired of, and so it sat in a drawer for a very long time. Finally, I came back to it - it was high-quality, soft, and expensive yarn, after all - and I turned it into a scarf in a mock-fisherman's rib. I wore it a few times, but winters in LA being what they are, and given how rarely I wear scarves, it spent a lot more time in drawers. I had more yarn left over from the scarf, which I knit into a camisole, but I had to unravel the scarf to finish it. Which I did happily and without remorse: I would wear the camisole, I rationalized, more often than I would the scarf (I pared down the pattern to a simple stockinette with the paired keyhole cables on either side). I could not block it properly when I finished knitting it, because I had forgotten my tin of blocking pins at home, though I gave it a wash and laid it out on my floor to get some kind of blocking done. And when finished, it sat in a drawer for a few months. The fit wasn't quite what I had hoped for, and I wanted to re-knit parts of it to get it perfect, which I just did not have the patience for at the time.

But the saga is not yet over. I have long been of the opinion that if I am going to spend all the time knitting something, it should be something I really like. I can always buy frumpy things, things in colors that don't pop against my skin tone, things that hang off my body like a sack. Knitting should not only be a celebration of the fiber, the color and the yarn, but a celebration of my body, my curves, and to hell with my insecurities about them. And when I really thought about it, the camisole just wasn't right on a fundamental level. So I unraveled again, and I knit the pattern from my birthday sweater using the expensive yarn. I got gauge with little worry, and spent a few late nights knitting away at it. I began knitting it on a Saturday, and was working on the sleeve and neckline details a week later. I brought it to Spring Fling, where I knit, sitting in the sun with friends, and got a nice little sunburn (which later became a tan) to go with my new sweater. And on Monday, I wove in the last end, put it on, and sewed the neckline seam. It was an intensive week: I thought often about my sweater-in-progress during idle moments, and, it being the same week that Tomasz and I were working on our tango, I don't doubt that it contributed to the sorry state of my academic affairs that week. The body is knit with that expensive (and discontinued!) Debbie Bliss cotton/silk blend, but, not having enough to finish it, I knit the collar in Lily's Sugar 'n Cream in White double stranded with Patons Grace in White. The Paton's Grace was hand-strung with white pony beads, and the Sugar 'n Cream was added to it so that the thin Paton's Grace would not be too lacy. I do have some sense of modesty. Stringing the beads and knitting them into the fabric was by far, the most tedious and time-consuming aspect of the project, and though I like the effect, I'm not sure it was worth it enough that I will knit with beads any time soon.

And now, for the photos.

This was taken Monday night, as I finished the neckline seam. I sewed it with the sweater on to be sure it was the way I wanted it.

Sahara Neckline, mid-seaming, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

And now, a picture of it in daylight:

Sahara!, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Finally, another look at the neckline:

Sahara - the neckline, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Remember the journey of the Dead Elmo Vest (and 1, 2, 3)? I brought it home for Spring Break, and when my mother tried it on, we discovered that it was too big (can you say "I told you so?"). She had mismeasured and apologized profusely, but there was no getting around it: the whole thing would have to be ripped and re-knit. Of course, this was upsetting news, but knowing that the new measurements would make it two-thirds its original size, and that, presumably, the knitting would then take two-thirds as much time and effort, made the situation easier to swallow. And the knitting went quickly - I finished the new vest in something like a week or two, and it barely made a blip on my radar. I am now where I was before Spring Break - unsure of the neckline, I am waiting to consult with my mother when I come home for summer vacation (but a week and a half away!).

I suggest you use the squares on my blanket, or the silver ruler at the right, for scale.

The Dead Elmo Vest, Take 2, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Quote of the Day: "Remember: they aren't love handles if nobody loves you."