Finishing up: Recycled Sweater, part IV

The saga of the recycled sweater has come to an end. What a process it’s been.

Working on this simple top has taught me a lot about basic seamed garment-construction. I had to stray from the pattern early on (not enough yarn), and ended up inventing a garment that looks quite different from anything I could have imagined. It helps to follow one’s whimsy every now and then.

This sweater has taught me how much reconstitution knitting involves. Knitting entails reworking and reconstituting both my materials and my aspirations (!) as I go back and forth between dreaming of perfect, fictional (and perfectly fictional) garments and the givens of reality. One can’t always have their proverbial cake and eat it, too — especially when working with second-hand yarn. This project taught me to follow my gut, stay loose, stay calm, and knit on. I’m happy that such an important set of lessons also happened to produce my very first knit tee – it’s a little misshapen and has some uneven bits here and there, but it’s wearable (and it fits!).

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I’ll have to fix those sleeves (!)

Hooray for the summer sweater! (Sonya Philip has a very fun article on precisely this topic, Wear what you make: The Summer SweaterI really enjoy her fun sense of style and colour, and she’s spot on about the need for a summer knit in cool, air-conditioned interiors).

As usual, here are some lessons culled.

First / Recycled Sweater Learnings

1. Roll with it (mods are a-ok). Stockinette fabric is a curly thing. After seaming, the sleeves wanted to curl in, and the sweater’s bottom hem wanted to curl up. During early fittings, I felt like I was wearing a big blue curly corn chip. I decided to be kind to the fabric; instead of ‘killing the acrylic’ with an iron (permanently flattening it out), I decided to work with the knitting’s natural inclinations: I rolled up the sleeves to make cuffs (with inspiration from the 80s cut off sweatshirt), and I rolled up the bottom hem on both sides to make a little garter-stitch border. Since the sweater was very fitted around the waist, I left 3″ open slits along each bottom side-seam to add some space and movement to the hemline (see above). I just did what I felt worked. Hopefully, though, I will be doing less ‘sideways’ knit garments in the future and will encounter fewer of these curly ends.

2. Bulky Seam Syndrome (BSS) is avoidable. What I call BSS is about as appealing as it reads. A number of readers (thank heavens) warned me about the possibility of bulky seams as I began finishing up. I had to see these purported bulky seams for myself, so I did an underarm seam using a regular mattress stitch. Just as expected, this method produced a bulging, heavy, rope-like thing in the armpit that was so thick, it stiffened the fabric’s natural movement.

Thankfully, there’s another way to go about it – an adapted form of mattress stitch that is much less bulky for when seams are called for. It’s still ‘concealed’ and does the trick. See it in action here.

sunday seaming
Seaming up.

3. Mark beginnings and endings of seams beforehand. I’m taking a page out of my sewing days here. I took up sewing clothes at around 19, and learned from the instructions that came with the Butterick and Vogue paper patterns. A key step in garment-making, I remember, was to pin the pieces of fabric together before running them through the machine. It turns out that this is good sense when seaming knits, too. Because I was careless, and did not count my rows on the sleeves, I produced sleeves of slightly different lengths! Securing the starts and endpoints of my seams before sewing went a long way in keeping hemlines even. Which leads to my next learning…

4. Count the rows. Another reminder to myself. Next time, I will not rely solely on my tape measure to determine whether equivalent parts of the sweater are the same. Next time, I will measure and count actual rows. Having long prided myself on my pencil-and-paper minimalism when it comes to row counting, I just may buy a stitch counter the next sweater ’round.

And finally, 5. Process is queen.There’s always a little fear that comes with straying from the directions. But there’s a lot of freedom in straying, too. If I were to picture the process of making this first sweater, from thrift-store find to intended pattern to FO, it would basically consist of a series of unexpected and make-do-with-the-circumstances strayings, like this:

sweater composite

It’s ok to fear, in the thick of things, that a project might fail. Every now and then, though, the seeming ‘failed’ part ends up being precisely the thing that leads to a new direction. And an entirely workable or downright happy direction, at that.

This recycled yarn project has been 4 months coming, and it feels good to be finished!  I will do this again, and have already taken to finding other froggable garments. If you have a little bit of spare time, it can’t hurt to try your hand at some simple yarn recycling.

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Before and After

In case you’d like to read the three previous posts on this process, here’s where I unravel the thrifted sweater,  wind up the yarn, then choose a pattern and knit it up.

Thanks for reading, and happy making!

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29 thoughts on “Finishing up: Recycled Sweater, part IV

  1. Yeah ! What a great learning experience, and thank you for sharing the different steps with us. Your finished tee is really cool : I love the sleeves, and how your turned the curl factor into a design element. There is clearly a retro vibe here, and I’m sure it would look great too with a pastel midi skirt or anything high waisted. Well done !

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  2. It’s been fascinating and inspiring to follow your progress with this sweater! So often we bloggers just show off our FOs, but seeing all the stages of this project has taught me a ton and given me ideas for things I’d like to try myself. THANK YOU so much for sharing all of the details with us!! Plus, it’s lovely to see you wearing your wonderful results! Terrific pics!! 🙂

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    1. Aw, thank you for reading, Melinda. I’m glad, and downright flattered that this sweater’s story has been helpful (I’m always happy to share my mistakes, lol!). I’ve learnt so much from your sweater-knitting stories and posts, too. Hoping you’re enjoying a lovely weekend with some spinning and/or knitting in the mix. 🙂

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    1. 😀 I’m glad you like it, Tierney. 🙂 I think the original is a nice sweater, but all I saw was “yarn” on that hanger! (like in cartoons when hungry characters see ‘food’). I hope the original knitter doesn’t mind. I love the idea of an eco-crafting award, haha. Thank you for reading. Hoping you’re enjoying your weekend!

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  3. Wow, what a transformation! Your finished tee looks great… I love how you rolled with the punches and changed up the pattern to make something that fitted with the quirks of the material as they made themselves apparent. I think the vents up the sides are a particularly good idea – cooler for summer, and so much more flattering than a tight ribbed cuff! Enjoy wearing it, and thanks for bringing us all along for the making journey! 😀

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    1. Thanks for reading, Helen. Oh yes – when wearing it out the first time last weekend (a muggy 30 C day), I was very glad to have added those vents and turned up the sleeves. It made a difference. It helped to have the positivity when taking on a kind of silly/improvised clothing project like this – thank you for all of your kind comments! 😀

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      1. You’re welcome! And wow, I really admire you for wearing it out in that heat… I would have been home sitting in front of the open refrigerator, trying to cool off 😆 Looking at it again, I actually think your version is a waaaaay more flattering shape than the original pattern you were going to use – did you keep track of what you did?

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      2. That’s very kind of you to say – thank you! The yarn is an acrylic blend of some kind, so between the stiff drape and the stringy bits, it was clear the original pattern was not going to work. I unfortunately did not take detailed notes on the mods to make the tee. The finishing up was very much trial-and-error, but I think I could hazard to make another like it – by going through (then changing) the original pattern, haha. Happy Wednesday. 🙂

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      3. I think I may give myself a little time to dream about sweaters before committing to a pattern with some new yarn. That, or another TD baby/kid cardi (there’s an abundance of little ones to knit for!). Again, I absolutely loved the ‘lil red top-down number you did! 🙂

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    1. Thank you – and I’m so very glad the sewing-up clip was helpful. I hear you! The job is made a little easier knowing that there’s hope for not producing the massive, bulky seams I did the first couple of tries. So far, I can attest that the adapted mattress stitch is holding together nicely! Looking forward to more crafting news, Aileen. 🙂

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  4. Shirley, I love the finished garment–you have some seriously awesome style! The seams look great and the photography of the process and the FO are perfect. Your lighting is always on point. Well done on a long-term project! I am inspired to do the same sometime soon 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Melissa! I’m still getting a handle on seams, but I may decide to rest and try a seamless top-down the next sweater around. A big high-five, again, on your recent Ella. It’s stunning! Hope you’re enjoying the holidays, and looking forward. 🙂

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