Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux

Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux
Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux

Happy Labor Day, for those in the US! I’ll have Summer of Basics highlights, thoughts and prize news tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait to show you the “after” pics of my fisherman sweater fix. (See my previous post for the original/full rundown.) I’m not sure how dramatic the difference is in the photos, but trust me: It’s no longer rippling around me; gone is the cape effect in the back, the rolls of fabric with nowhere to go; and it is a sweater instead of a tunic. Whereas before I was thrilled with it as a piece of knitting, now I’m thrilled with it as a garment. Even my husband, the only other person to have seen it in person both before and after, took one look, nodded, and said, “It looks good now. You saved it.”

As I had postulated, I’d simply gone much too wide and a bit too long with it when I initially blocked the pieces. In the “before” (left) photos, it was about 43″ at the chest (8.5″ ease), 46″ at the hips (7.5″ ease), and roughly 26.5″ long. Which could be totally fine for a lighter, thinner sweater with less surface density, but was not working with this fabric. By giving the finished garment a nice long soak and then being more gentle in laying it out, it’s now more like 41″ in the chest (6.5″ ease), 44″ at the hem (5.5″ ease), and about 25″ long.

Before, it was not too terrible looking from the sides, definitely a little long in the front — just a bit too much of a good thing — but looked awful from behind. More to the point, I did not feel cute or comfortable (or even proud) in it. I felt swallowed. Thankfully it was easily fixed, without having to rip out a single stitch.

What is this sorcery, some of you will wonder? A piece of wet knitting is a like a lump of play-doh — you have a lot of power to mold it. In a case like this one, the broken-rib portions and and the raspberry stitch are fairly fixed in their widths, but the cables (just like lace) have quite a lot of give. When I first blocked the pieces, I had pulled them way open, making the fabric wider. Whereas in the reblock, I did not. It’s as simple as that. Likewise, rather than pulling at the length at all, or pinning it in place to dry, I gently coaxed it shorter as I laid it out, and left it free to pull up even more as it dried.

So it took only a few minutes of effort — and a couple days’ wait — and now I finally feel like I have the sweater I wanted all these years. That photo up top is of a dream come true.

See also: How do you block your finished knits?

.

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The fisherman sweater

2017 FO-11 : The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

Finished: The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

The hardest part about making clothes, if you’re like me, is that when you’re done with them you have to put them on and have someone point a camera at you. Many are the times I feel I’ve done a disservice to a lovely garment due to my ineptitude as a “model,” but never more so than with this GLORIOUS fisherman sweater. My love, my holy grail. The reason I wanted to learn to knit. The garment I searched years for in shops and catalogs, then pored over patterns for another five+ years — between when I learned to knit and when I finally cast on. The sweater that’s been my constant companion for the past two-and-half months. Dearest Sweater: You deserve better than me.

So I’m being a little bit coy with the photos here because, basically, I blew it. Although, in fairness, we’re sort of both to blame — the sweater and me. In addition to my awkward self, the photos tell an unfortunate truth about the sweater, which is that there’s just a little too much of it. As a piece of knitting, it couldn’t be more stunning. But as a garment, it’s wide and droopy in the back, too long in the front, just a bit too big throughout the whole body. Schlumpy. (You’ll have to take my word for it.) But it’s fixable.

You may recall how obsessive I was being about the gauge and the proportions — blocking the first many inches of the back and the sleeve, doing my math, calculating for my perfect shape. I’m very particular about proportion, and the actual gauge and dimensions were a bit vague with this vintage pattern. A slight difference in how the gauge was measured could mean my version would be anywhere from fitted to enormous, and which of those it would be would determine how long I made it. (If it was going to be big, it could be on the long side, but if it was going to be fitted, I would make it shorter. I don’t like a long narrow tube of a sweater.) When the first half of the back blocked out to slightly wider than the XL dimensions given, I decided to go with it being oversized, while carefully controlling the upper sleeve dimensions so I wouldn’t appear to be drowning in it. And while the sleeves are fine, I am drowning in the body. Well, not quite drowning, but treading water a bit? And because the fabric is so dense, it matters. The good news is, I think it’s just that I blocked it too aggressively and may be able to fix it simply be reblocking it. It’s not very far from perfect, and if I can coax it a bit shorter, and resist laying it out quite as wide, that may be all that’s needed. It’s literally soaking as I type, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If that doesn’t solve it — if it requires surgery — I’m fully prepared to do it. I intend for this to be my forever sweater, and I love it way more than enough to get it absolutely right.

[UPDATE: Here’s how it turned out!]

Finished: The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

I do believe it was fate that kept throwing this pattern into my path over the past few years, and am eternally grateful to the sweet reader, Catherine K, who sent me the stack of vintage booklets that included the Bernat Book of Irish Knits, seemingly the most popular knitting booklet (and aran sweater pattern) in the history of knitting. I’m so happy I decided to take Summer of Basics as the excuse to finally knit my long-longed-for fisherman, very pleased with my choice of Arranmore for the yarn, so insanely glad that when I finally settled on a pattern it was this one, and I love that I wound up knitting it in its 50th anniversary year. There’s also some poetry to the fact that I charted out the stitches on the flight to Squam at the beginning of June, knitted my swatch on the dock there on a cool early-summer morning, cast on in the car on a trip to see my family, bound off in the car on a trip back from seeing Bob’s family, and did the seaming on my screened porch at home on our first pleasant waning-of-summer day. Now I just have to wait for the weather to wear it!

Pattern mods and details are below, but remember today’s the last day to submit for SoB prizes. If you haven’t already, take a look at the notes on how to enter to win! Judges will deliberate and winners will be announced next week.

FO : The fisherman sweater

Regardless of any of the above, this is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever made and it was really very simple, which I’ll write more about another day. I know it looks complicated, but it’s just a few very straightforward, easily memorized stitch patterns knitted ad nauseum, with a decrease at each end of the RS rows for the raglan shaping, and a standard bit of neck shaping. There’s really not much to it!

The only tweaks I made were as follows:

– It’s essentially the XL at the bottom and scales down a bit in the upper regions, so I started the front and back pieces (on US5 for the ribbing, then US7) with 122 sts but I decreased three times between the ribbing and the underarms, leaving me with 116 each (in between the L and XL) when I reached the underarms. (Note that one of the ways the XL gets its width is there are 2 extra sts between the side cables and the raspberry stitch, which I didn’t like, so that’s where I did 2 of my 3 decreases on the back, with the third at the selvages. For the front, I moved those two stitches to the broken rib. You can see this in the photo below if you look closely.)

– For the cuffs, I cast on 46 sts on US5, increased to 60 on the plain knit row before starting the stitch patterns, and only increased 10 times as I worked the sleeves, so I had 80 sts at the underarms (in between the M and L).

– That meant I had fewer broken rib stitches in my sleeves (10 at each edge) than my sides (14 each). In order for the stitch patterns to stay aligned correctly at the raglans, I just decreased the sleeves more slowly at first than the body, so I arrived at the last of the broken rib stitches on the same row, then decreased evenly (every RS row) on all pieces from there up.

– Because I had fewer stitches throughout at the beginning of the shaping, I only needed to work 64 rows of yoke instead of 68, which made my yoke slightly shorter and spared me the overly deep underarms seen in the pattern photo.

– I did fudge the decreases a bit on the last few rows, since decreasing within the raspberry stitch portions is not normal and not equal from one side to the other — was careful to make sure I worked the same number of rows between underarm and bind-off on all edges, and that I had the same number of sts in each sleeve top at the end. (I kept a few more than the pattern called for — 10 or 12, I think, instead of 8.)

– And then I made up my own neck shaping, since I didn’t like the original and had different stitch counts anyway, but I did keep it high and small like the original — wanted to keep that vintage look.

– I also bound off all stitches and picked up for the neckband — I don’t believe in knitting a neckband from live stitches. I picked up 84 on US6, worked in the half-twisted rib for more like 2.5″ (pattern calls for 3″), bound off on US8 needles and sewed it to the pick-up ridge.

Pattern: Bernat 536-145 from Bernat Book of Irish Knits (1967)
Yarn: Arranmore in St. Claire, 8 skeins
Cost: Free pattern (gift from a friend) + $112 yarn (paid wholesale price)  = $112

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater hereInstagram posts here, and put a like on it at Ravelry if you do!

FO : The fisherman sweater

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My first pants (SoB-2)

SaveSave

Q for You: What stitch are you?

Q for You: What stitch are you?

If you were a dog breed. If you were a wine varietal. If you were a color … what would you be? There was a Wool and the Gang newsletter recently with the subject line “What stitch are you?” and I thought it was that old parlor game we’ve all played how many times and ways, but that somehow it had never occurred to me to think or ask: If you were a stitch (knit, crochet, handwork, whatever), what would you be? (We did have that chat about “what gauge are you” once upon a time, but that’s a little different.)

The thing about this sort of game is you can be anything from really dismissive to super goofy to deeply philosophical with your answer, possibly depending on whether there’s alcohol involved … or you’re on the longest, most boring road trip of your life.

My immediate, flippant answer when I read that subject line was stockinette. Whether as in sartorially speaking, or in the sense of what a plain jane I’ve always thought myself to be. But I’m not stockinette! Like any human, I have my textures and complexities. (Was it Whitman who said, “I am large; I contain cables”?) My next thought was maybe I’m Ann Shayne’s rambling cable sweater of life, and certainly there have been phases of my life where that would be a fair statement. But I think I’m a bit like this fisherman sweater I’m knitting.

There are the swaths of nice, orderly broken-rib texture (or rice stitch?) at the edges; the rigid columns of meticulous, “tightly wound” raspberry stitch (which would be a teeth-clencher and overthinker if it were a person, right?); and then there are the two cable motifs. The single cables running up the sleeves and the sides of the sweater are wrong in some ways (the “ropes” bend without twisting and without reason), and yet they’re weirdly appealing. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, there were multiple instances of perfect strangers telling me I looked “very European.” I had brown hair and a stick figure and a face full of giant features at a time when everyone was expected to look like Christie Brinkley, and I came to understand (and even appreciate) that what they meant was “I don’t really understand your looks, but I don’t find them unappealing.” That’s what that cable reminds me of.

And then there’s the central cable panel. It’s a little like Ann’s planless cables, in that it’s puzzling and unpredictable at first, but it’s more like my resumé, actually — what seem like a lot of unrelated jobs have all crystallized in what I’m doing now. In the end (if this is the end for me — ha!) it makes its own kind of sense.

What drew me back to this sweater pattern over and over again for years is the fact that the two cable motifs really don’t go together — they don’t rightly belong on the same sweater. And where did the weird streak of garter-stitch raglans come from? On the whole, it’s a little warped — in a good way. So maybe that’s not a bad description of me.

And hey, getting this ridiculously philosophical about it didn’t even require alcohol! So that’s my Q for You today: If you were a stitch, what would it be? Have fun with it.

I look forward to your response, and wish you a happy weekend!

SHOP NOTE: The ever-popular indigo Double Basketweave Cowl Kit is back in stock!

.

PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you feel about mistakes?

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Queue Check — July 2017 (Summer of Basics)

Queue Check — July 2017 (Summer of Basics)

Ummmm … grey cardigan? What grey cardigan? That poor thing has definitely not seen the light of day since my last Queue Check. No, it’s been all about the Summer of Basics dynamic duo up there, my vintage fisherman sweater and my first button-up.

I can’t believe it, looking at where it was a month ago, but the sweater currently sits at 4 parts all now at underarm height, so it’s time to start the yoke decreases. Thank heaven! Even knitting the parts round-robin style like this, the stitch pattern has gotten monotonous — as amazing and simple but oh-so-repetitive as it is — and I’ve been dying to get to the shaping. It will speed up from here, but I’m still nervous about getting it blocked and seamed and neckbanded by the end of August since I’m only working on it in the late evenings and allocating any weekend time to sewing.

The lovely Archer button-up is proving to be way more fun than I could have expected … so far. I’ve got the front/bands, pocket (made up my own), back/yoke all assembled, sleeve plackets sewn (ok, that part wasn’t so fun) and one sleeve basted on. My goal for yesterday was to have both sleeves attached and the seams serged. (I’ve decided to serge them, because I want to use my serger!) So I’m slightly behind schedule and gonna have to pick up the pace. The hardest parts are all still ahead of me — the collar and cuffs — and I don’t know how long to expect them to take, but I still need to fit SoB piece #3 in here, so I need to get this one wrapped up!

Speaking of which, you were all immensely helpful with the pants suggestions last week, and then on Saturday morning I totally scored at Elizabeth Suzann’s garage sale — the most exciting bit of which was some light army-green cotton canvas (garment weight) which I’m hoping will become my pants for piece 3 — I just need to commit to a pattern purchase. But all of that said, I’m still reserving the right to claim one or both of last week’s tops/tees as my third SoB if it comes to that! I sewed them in the time frame and they are definitely basics (and were under original consideration, even) but I don’t want to let that fall-back prevent me from trying to get the pants done. I can do it!

And for the moment I’m trying to not even think about what comes after any of that.

• Sweater is a 1967 pattern, Bernat 536-145, in Arranmore
• Shirt is Archer Button-up in sold-out fabric

(Porter Bin from Fringe Supply Co.)

.

PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: June 2017

Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Knitters will always tell you about socks and sleeves: knit them two-at-a-time so you don’t have that dread feeling of starting over with the second one. I feel the same way about ALL the parts. As much as I love a seamed sweater, I don’t enjoy starting back at the cast-on edge 4 or 5 times, especially once I’ve gotten into the rhythm of a chart or stitch pattern. So no matter what I’m knitting, I’ve become a polygamist: I rotate between the pairs or component parts rather than knitting them in the ol’ serial monogamy fashion. (Same for a top-down sweater — you’ll usually see me moving back and forth between the body and sleeves, advancing them all gradually.)

In the case of this fisherman sweater, I’ve now blocked a half-sleeve (as previously discussed) and the partial back, so I can see what’s really happening with my stitch gauge between the two (their being quite different, due to the differing stitch patterns) and make decisions about the respective sizes of the body and upper sleeves before I get to the underarms. So each time a piece went into the bath, that was a perfect chance to cast on the next one!

.

PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Count, don’t measure

SaveSave

Queue Check — June 2017

Queue Check — June 2017

I’m in Kansas right now — I came for a family reunion and have stayed for a funeral.* My eldest aunt, who had been ill for a very long time, succumbed just at the moment when eighty-something of us had already come from near and far to be together, which was characteristically polite and organized of her. May she rest in peace. So I’m about one-third of the way into the first sleeve of my Bernat fisherman sweater (in Arranmore) for the Summer of Basics and already there’s Squam dock time and this precious family visit knitted into it. And if that weren’t enough, this is the most joy I’ve ever gotten from two sticks and a ball of string. I crave it when it’s not in my hands and love working every stitch. (My top three Joy of Knitting projects — pure pleasure in the stitch patterns and the yarn in my hands — are this, Gentian and Channel.) Having charted out the vintage written-instructions pattern and seen what is happening, which is quite straightforward, I have no need to look at either the pattern or the chart and can just knit away at this happily, with just the right amount of brain detachment and engagement, watching the textures develop. It’s true love in every way.

I even made a tiny mistake in the very first cable cross, and left it, so that’s out of the way!

I did make some more progress on my so-called Summer Cardigan (in Balance) before casting on for the fisherman, but at this point it’s going to be impossible for it to get my attention. Hopefully the same won’t be true of my Archer shirt for #summerofbasics, which I plan to cut the muslin of this coming weekend.

*Hence the lack of response from me on Friday’s Q for You answers, but I have read them all and hope to respond when I have a chance — great conversation as usual.

.

PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: May 2017

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

I began the first of my Summer of Basics garments on the plane last Tuesday — in this case, not with a ball of yarn and knitting needles but with a Knitters Graph Paper Journal and a freshly sharpened Blackwing pencil. This is for the 1967 Bernat fisherman sweater — my choice for the sweater I’ve wanted for decades — and Step 1 was/is to convert the written instructions to a chart, so I can actually see what’s happening and make any necessary adjustments thereto. After an hour or two of converting words and abbreviations to marks on graph paper, I could see that the sleeve is just panels of raspberry stitch, one repeating cable motif, and what I believe will become broken rib with the underarm increases. What I haven’t puzzled out yet is why they took what became clear is a 12-row repeat and wrote it out as 36 rows, but I’m guessing it’s because the front/back center panel will prove to be a 36-row repeat and perhaps they meant to make sure you kept them aligned in some way that the pattern never ultimately specifies? I may never know. But anyway, I began with the simpler sleeve chart so I could have it to swatch with.

I’ve been thinking Arranmore might be the perfect yarn for me and this sweater. I do want it to be a classic ivory fisherman, but feel like the slight tweediness of the Arranmore (it has little flecks of tan and light blue) might be my friend in terms of long-term spots or discoloration. Plus I just really love this yarn, which I previously used for my black yoke sweater. So one morning, chart in hand, I sat on the dock at Squam and began to swatch.

The first swatch was on US8/5mm and the fabric was too loose for my liking, so I began again on US7/4.5mm, which is the swatch pictured above. As I knitted it, I thought the yarn might not be right for these stitches, as the fabric felt stiff and the cables looked underwhelming. (It’s such a weird cable.) I took it to class to show my students and we talked about how I plan to take my time, swatching with as many yarns and needles as it takes to find the right thing, given all I’ll be putting into this sweater and how long I’ve wanted it. Then I decided I might as well take the time to dunk the swatch and make sure I didn’t like it any better after blocking, and guess what: it’s pretty dreamy. This photo was taken while it was still damp, and I really should have taken a dry one to show you, but you’ll have to take my word for it — I can’t stop draping it around my arm.

That meant trying to sort out size and gauge as compared to the vintage pattern, which is rather short on the sort of details we’re used to these days. There’s no schematic, and the gauge is simply given as “11 stitches = 2 inches.” Eleven stitches of which of the many stitch patterns, we can’t know. Is it an average across the whole sweater? If anyone out there is an expert on the way things used to be done, I’d love to hear from you, but meanwhile that will have to be my assumption. If true, my gauge is slightly more compact at 6 stitches per inch, which means I’ll need to knit the XL and still come out with a sweater slightly smaller than intended — or figure out some tweaks to the patterning to compensate.

[UPDATE: A couple of commenters have said it would have been implied in those days that the stated gauge was for stockinette stitch — which tells a very different story than cables! But looking at the pattern’s stitch counts and finished circumference, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. For example, the XL (44-46″) calls for a 122-st CO for the back, which divided by 22″ is 5.5. (I.e., their “11 sts = 2 inches.”) Same for the other sizes. So it does seem to be the average gauge of the finished fabric and not taken from stockinette.]

On the flight home, I was too brain dead to do anything but stare at the swatch, my chart, and the photos I’d snapped of the pattern photo so that I could zoom in on them and try to sort out the details that aren’t present in the pattern itself. The swatch had me thinking even the smallest sleeve would be too big, and I was toying with the idea of eliminating two of the cables from the sleeve, leaving just one down the center of the arm. But as usual, it’s a good thing I was prevented from rushing in, since while staring at it all, I realized that would necessitate the same change along the sides of the body — a change I don’t want to make — AND the fully dry swatch is actually totally fine. Patience does pay off, even if it’s imposed.

So all that’s left is to commit to the investment it will be to do a yarn-eater like this in this particular yarn, but I feel like it will be more than worth it.

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

ARMY PORTER NOTE: What remains from our starter batch of the army green Porter Bin, launched at the Squam Art Fair, will go into the webshop this Friday morning, June 16, at 9am Central Time — set your alarms!

.

PREVIOUSLY  in Summer of Basics: My plan

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave