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.
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.
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 here, Instagram posts here, and put a like on it at Ravelry if you do!
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