A sweater for the muse

Sock monkey was an unexpected gift from some dear friends, and has since become a kind of knitting muse and helper. When I’m in the middle of a long or more slow-going knit, looking at sock monkey – made up entirely of stockinette – reminds me to keep at it. When I was on the homestretch of my very first blanket last year, I pulled sock monkey into the shot to celebrate the soon-to-be FO.

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October 2016

I wanted to make something for sock monkey to wear – one gift invites another, doesn’t it?

I specifically wanted to see how the process of modifying a top-down sweater might work with a real wearer (that this wearer has long, skinny arms and no neck made this a special sweater-knitting challenge).

Karrie Flynn’s Sock Monkey Sweater pattern was just the right foundation to try my hand at some simple pattern modification. The wonder of top-down construction is that your wearer really can try the sweater on for size mid-knit, making for a customized fit. I love this idea; truly customized garments are a rarity these days.

I pulled together some ends of Cascade 220 Heathers and some leftover Patons Classic wool worsted and put my mind to some tiny sweater design. Something in me thought “stripes,” so I ran with that idea for the body and sleeves.

monkey sweater 1

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And ta-da! 

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I like how the eyebrows are popping in this picture. I’ll take it as a sign of sock monkey’s excitement at getting some brand new threads. 

Learnings

Spit splicing! The mysterious, felting properties of wool are such that a little bit of heat, spit, and friction are enough to magically join two separate ends together. Joining old and new yarn in this way isn’t perfectly invisible, and works mainly only with wool and other animal fibers, but the method yields a more or less seamless strand.

Like so many other knitting things I’ve encountered, spit-splicing is pure magic. See?

Do you have a little crafting helper? Or a symbol that reminds you of the work you love to do?

Happy making to you.

Starting small: the parts of a top-down sweater

Lately, my sweater-knitting reservations have been less about whether I am capable of knitting myself a sweater, but are more about scale – how to manage and complete all the parts of a big, human-sized project. It occurred to me that if I scaled down and knit a small human sized project, the task of knitting a big one, and learning about its make-up, could become more approachable. And, it did. Small is beautiful.

I decided to knit a baby sweater, My gift to you, by Taiga Hilliard Designs. I liked the pattern’s raglan construction, and I thought that the off-set buttoned front-closure was fun and unique. Also, the sweater is worked top-down – a method of sweater-knitting I’d eventually like to try on a sweater for myself.

I started this project knowing very little about top-down sweater construction. To consolidate what I learn, it helps me to document the process in pictures so as not to forget the next time ’round.

The top-down cardigan knit-cycle

gfy sweater collage

1. This cardigan starts with the collar (on smaller needles) and the yoke, worked back and forth. A series of increases create raglan ‘seams’ across the shoulders, and an 8-stitch section creates a button-band at the front of the cardigan. I like to think of the garment as in its ‘caterpillar’ stage.

2. I think of the next step as similar to biological cell differentiation: stitches are differentiated into types. Some stitches will grow into functional sleeves, others will constitute the body of the sweater. Sleeve-stitches are held on waste yarn and asked to sit tight.

3. Working and casting off the body is the next stage. The project is now looking very much like a garment. I kept my double-pointed needles close at hand for the next step…

4. After completing the body, the sleeves are taken off the waste yarn and are worked individually on double-pointed needles. The sweater grows its wings, er, I mean, sleeves!

Without knowing what to expect, I watched the project transform in my hands into a full garment with shape, texture, depth and dimension. This was amazing. Getting to watch these kinds of slow transformations on the needles is why I come back to knitting again and again (I feel similarly about knitting cables).

A-blockin’ we will go…

I am reforming my habit of neglecting blocking. After weaving in the sweater’s ends and sewing up the gaps which had formed under the arm-holes, I knew it was time to buckle down, soak the knit, grab those pins and….let time work its magic. It was worth it. Blocking is like hitting the reset button; the wonky neckline and bottom-edge curling on the unblocked sweater (top) were smoothed out by being pinned into shape (below).

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The gloomy blue lighting of the ‘before’ shot was entirely unintentional; consider it part of the before/after effect.

Finishing touches

I decided to wait until after blocking to add the buttons. I spent quite a while in the button aisle of Jo-Ann Fabrics. A set of pink, pearlescent square buttons popped into view and spoke to me. A little embroidery floss helped secure them…

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…and this wee garment was ready to go. A sweater is born!

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To Learn: Next steps

On the next project, I’d like to learn a little more about how to get more polished button-holes, and also how to avoid the underarm-gaps which occur when switching from the body to the sleeves. Sewing up these gaps is a fine tactic, but I’m aware that there are ways to pick up stitches to avoid those holes. Even farther on the horizon would be to get my colour work skills in shape and try a top-down Icelandic lopapeysa pullover with a stranded yoke (swoon). I tell myself I’ll hazard a colour work project when I improve my skills, but of course, stranded knitting is as stranded knitting does. One doesn’t improve without the hands-on practice. All in due time, dear lopapeysa.

Until then, to tiny sweaters.

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Source: facebook.com/sunflowerfarmcreamery/

Do you remember your first sweater?  What moved you to choose that pattern or design?