Monday, November 01, 2010

In which we make the journey from motheaten to FO

 And now, a story.

Once upon a time, there was a girl and a sweater.  The sweater was one of those light-as-air micro-knit v-neck pullovers that you see everywhere, that are staples in every wardrobe.  But this sweater was just fitted enough to flatter, without becoming sausage casing.  The v-neck was low, alluring without showing too much skin.  It was light enough to create an extra layer, but not so heavy that it made the girl sweat.  Important in a Los Angeles winter.  It was even light enough to throw in her purse in case her arms got cold later, as they so often did.  The girl loved the sweater, and it quickly moved into the rotation of clothes she wore the most often.

One day, the girl pulled the sweater out of a drawer and noticed a hole in one of the sleeves.  It was high, around the biceps, about the size of the tip of her pinky.  She was sad, but it was just one hole, so she continued to wear it anyway.  A few weeks later, she pulled it out of the drawer again and saw more holes.  The girl was living with cats at the time, and she knew that the cats liked to make a nest in the laundry.  She assumed the cats had kneaded her sweater and caused the holes.  Later, the girl's mother insisted it was moths.  But moths or cats, it didn't matter.  The girl knew how to repair the sweater, but she had no matching yarn to do it with.  Even if she had, trying to repair all those minuscule, micro-knit stitches would have been a massive headache.  And she had better sense than to wear a sweater with lots of holes in it.

So the sweater went back into a drawer, because the girl was too heartbroken to throw it away.  But that is not the end of our story.  The girl was a knitter, and she knew that this was not the end, not by a long shot.  Armed with her tape measure and several skeins of acrylic/merino blend, the girl got to work.

The girl worked quickly and steadily, measuring and re-measuring to make everything right.  She took copious notes, so that she could come back to it and have two, maybe three, of her favorite sweater in the future.  All went well until the armhole split, where the girl came across problems.  She measured and re-measured, and had to knit the armscye three times to get it right.  But she got it right.  As she was measuring for the fourth time, the girl wondered if it might have been better if the sweater was made with raglan sleeves, or perhaps a square sleeve with a saddle shoulder.  Such options would have been much easier to calculate and measure.  "But no!" argued a little voice in the girl's head.  "Part of why we love the sweater is that it has set-in sleeves, even if they are hard to design!"  The girl knew the voice was right, and she silenced the other voice in her head, the voice that had been anxious about reproducing set-in sleeves from the start.

Soon, the body was finished, and the girl tried it on, her belly full to the brim with butterflies.  As she pulled it over her head, the girl realized that, in all the time she had spent knitting, she hadn't tried it on once.  She even remembered thinking that she should try it on, and then thinking that she would have to stop knitting to try it on, and why should she stop knitting?  She was enjoying the rhythmic, meditative repetition of each little stockinette stitch.  On top of that, if she tried it on, stitches would surely fall off the needles and unravel themselves.  Not that it was hard to retrieve and fix them, but that took time and effort that the girl didn't want to spare.  Now, as she pulled on the half-made sweater, she wished she had a better idea of how it would fit, and most of all, she fervently hoped she wouldn't have to rip it apart and start over.  What if her numbers were off from the start, and the whole thing was too small?  Or too big?  What if, by being too impatient to stop knitting and try it on, she had done all this knitting for naught?  But all went without a hitch.  The new sweater fit as the old one had.  The neckline was a little low, but she knew that when she added the edging, it would be just right, just like the original.  And then the girl had a moment of clarity, and thought that this was encouraging her not to try on her knits, and to perpetuate these mistakes, when they might happen with much less favorable results.  But no time to dwell on that, there were sleeves to knit.

The girl knew, that this fabric was about twice as heavy, but she could always come back to the pattern with lighter yarn.  As it was, it would make a good outer layer, and it would keep her warmer than the original.

Flushed with success, the girl raced through the sleeves.  When the time came to knit the sleeve caps, she became anxious once again, but she fought down the doubting voices and, with her meticulous measuring and re-measuring, she finished them.  Until the sleeves were sewn into the armscyes, she wouldn't know if the sleeve caps were knit right, but the girl felt confident.  She had developed a new way of measuring the old sweater, and she trusted in herself.

Finally, with needles one size smaller, the girl picked up stitches around the neckline edge, and she knit the edging.  Compared to the rest of the sweater, which required extensive measuring, this detail was a breeze.  She folded over the edging, bound it off with the purl bumps of the first row, and tried on the sweater body for the second time.  More success.

Then, the sweater got washed, soaked and blocked.  Though it was cool when the girl started this project, LA was experiencing a heat wave.  The sweater was blocked and dry almost before the girl could blink.  And good thing it was, too, because the girl has had problems with heavy knits and mold in the past.

And then came the moment of truth: when the girl unpinned the sweater and sewed the first sleeve cap into the armscye.  She noticed that the sleeve cap seemed a little baggy, but other than that, it fit relatively well.  She tried it on before sewing in the other sleeve cap, and to her dismay, it was a terrible fit.  The sleeve cap bagged away from the girl's upper arm in a bizarre way, and the armscye felt too tight.

Now that she was trying on the sweater, the girl realized that the armscye was oddly high and snug around her arm.  She tried on the original, and realized that it was, too.  The girl knew she would have to re-do the sleeve caps, but now she considered doing the armscyes over again too.  Even if she would have to take out the edging to get to it.  But the girl knew the original fit, and never had an issue with the sleeve join in the original, so she decided to take the path of least resistance and just re-do the sleeve caps.

With much cursing, the girl measured and re-knit the sleeve caps two more times before they were finished.  But eventually, they were, and they got blocked and installed in the sweater.  The girl tried sewing them in before blocking to save time, and she already knew that they would work.  But it was still exciting, and thrilling, when the sweater was finally finished and seamed.  Worried that the armscye had originally felt too tight, the girl seamed loosely this last time, and had no trouble with the finished seam.  All was well.

And then the girl tried on the sweater.  It looked good, and it fit well.  But it was itchy.  The yarn had never felt anything but soft when the girl was working with it, softer, even, than a lot of others.  "You can't have everything," the girl sighed, and she resolved to wear it with a long sleeve tee underneath.  Or perhaps this could be the sweater to help her get over her problems with itchiness.  She had always intended to make a second, and the girl resolved that the second would be softer, and lighter.