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?

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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)

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2017 FO-10 : My first pants (SoB-2)

Finished: Olive pants (Summer of Basics)

These are pictures of me wearing a perfectly ordinary blue work shirt and olive green pants — ordinary except for the fact that I made them! I believe that’s referred to as leveling up. Thank you, Summer of Basics.

The shirt, of course, is my Archer (my first button-up, and first SoB finish), and the pants (my first pants) are my second SoB finish. They’re nearly as simple as a pair of pants can be — just elastic-waist pull-up pants — but they make me so proud. Mostly because of how much detail I put into them, and how nicely sewn they are, owing to my new serger. (Er, my year-old serger that I finally learned how to use, which has completely changed my life.) I started with the Tessuti Robbie Pant that some of you recommended on my side-pocket pants post. I looked at a bunch of similar patterns, and assumed I’d wind up basically drafting my own, but started with this one because I thought the leg shape looked the most like what I was after. So the four pieces of the pant legs are essentially Robbie, with just some tweaks — a little lower front crotch, a little width out of the thigh, lengthened a few inches and sewn with a wider hem. Then I made up my own pockets, changed the waistband (both the width and how it’s sewn), and top-stitched the hell out of them.

Finished: Olive pants (Summer of Basics)

My biggest concern was how the fabric would work for this, since it’s a fairly heavy canvas. With a thinner fabric, in an elastic-waist scenario, volume isn’t quite so much of a concern, but here I was trying to balance a nice, loose, wide-leg silhouette with not having too much heavy fabric gathered around my waist. These are the size small (I’m about an 8-10 on bottom in store-bought clothes, for reference) and they’re still a tiny bit big, even with my tweaks. I have a long waist, essentially no hips and a flat rear-end, so I tend to wind up with too much fabric pooling around my butt and the sides of my hips, no matter what kind of pants they are. I did pretty good on these for a first go, but on the next pair I’ll redraw the outer leg line, and also change the rise in the back — the line where the upper edge of the pant meets the waistband is too high for my liking. But regardless, I love these and can’t wait to draft the next pair.

Finished: Olive pants (Summer of Basics)

The fabric came from Elizabeth Suzann’s recent garage sale. It’s slightly more olive than army, so I have to be a little careful what I put with it, but it’s really nice stuff. I got a bolt of unknown yardage for $100 — a lifetime supply, basically. If I underestimate it at 30 yards (knowing it’s probably more like 50), that makes it about $3/yard at the most. Unless I never make anything else out of it, in which case the fabric for these pants cost me $100!

There’s also a secret happy detail to them: I reused the 2″ elastic that came out of my ancient, beloved, threadbare pink pajama pants I recently had to say goodbye to. So they’re still with me! ;)

Pattern: Robbie Pant by Tessuti (modified)
Fabric: Unknown canvas remnant
Cost: $8.00 pattern + ~$4.00 fabric + reuse elastic = $12.00

p.s. These photos were taken by my husband in his painting studio. For those of you who’ve asked about his work before, note that we recently updated his website

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Best-ever baby gift

2017 FO-9 : Best-ever baby gift

2017 FO-9 : Best-ever baby gift

I suck at baby gifts. I am much better at mommy gifts, so normally that’s what I do when the situation arises. But I suddenly have four friends with brand-new or imminent babies, one of whom is my friend (and now Fringe Supply Co. crewmate) Allison of Shutters & Shuttles. So when I got invited to a baby shower for her — my first in a decade or so — I decided I better hurry up and get better at baby gifts. I have a little obsession with Wiksten’s new Baby Harem Pants pattern, wishing it came in my size, of course, and it dawned on me that I had THE PERFECT fabric for making Allison’s gender-unknown baby a pair of them: the fabric she dyed and wove for me during the original Slow Fashion October.

Have you ever seen anything cuter in your whole entire life? You should feel how soft they are. My sense that pajama pants or other loungewear would be an excellent use of (the rest of) the fabric is 100% confirmed.

To my other new-mom friends who might be reading this: Yes, you probably have some coming your way. I want to make a pair out of every 1/2-yard scrap of fabric I wind up with from here on out — they are so simple and satisfying to make.

The only thing I’ll do differently next time, at least when making the tinier of the sizes (this pair is the 3-6 month size), is to finish the bottom edge of the pant legs before sewing the legs together. There was absolutely no chance of my being able to turn and press a hem with the french seams and all, in this squishy fabric, nevermind getting that tiny opening under the foot of the machine. (I wound up just serging the edge. And the leg opening was the exact width of the foot on my serger, so that was not easy!) But I highly recommend this pattern, especially to new sewers looking for an easy and exciting win.

Regarding the wrapping, the little organic cotton sandwich bag is from Natural Linens, which I had learned about last month on Reading My Tea Leaves, such a beautiful and calming blog. Apparently I did not bring a single scrap of gift wrapping supplies from California, and it made a perfect little last-second reusable wrap. The “ribbon” is a piece of bias tape — also organic cotton, indigo-dyed by my friend Molly — left over from this camisole.

And yes, she loved them.

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My first button-up shirt

2017 FO-8: My first button-up shirt (SoB-1)

2017 FO-8: My first button-up shirt (SoB-1)

Once again, I haven’t had a chance to take modeled pictures of this, but I’m so desperate for my first Summer of Basics finish, and so eager to show you this, I’m going ahead and posting it! I’ll add pictures of it on me when I can, so for now you’ll have to take my word for the fact that it’s a perfect fit! I am so proud of it.

As you know, this is Grainline’s Archer Button-Up, and I get why the entire internet raves about this pattern all the time. It comes together so beautifully (all I did was follow the pattern instructions and Jen’s sewalong posts) and apart from the one confessed tantrum, I had fun sewing it. It made me realize the reason I don’t find sewing as thrilling as knitting is that I’ve never sewn anything as rewarding as this.

The fabric is also amazing, and I’m glad I snagged it before it sold out. It’s a Japanese cotton chambray that falls somewhere between dress shirt and work shirt. One of the reasons I was much more of a nervous nelly about this project than I usually am is that not only was the fabric sold out, but I had accidentally purchased half of what I thought I had. Like yarn, I try to always buy more fabric than I’m supposed to need, just in case. Well this time, I had too little. I had to find the closest possible match to cut the yoke facing out of, and couldn’t afford a single mistake since there was literally no more fabric to be had. So that was a little stressful! But thankfully it all turned out fine in the end.

. . .

I made only a few minor modications:

– It’s a straight size 14, except that the sleeve was shortened 2.5 inches and tapers to a size 6 in the lower arm and cuff. (The muslin sleeve went down to a size 10, but a cutting snafu led to the better decision to go even smaller at the cuff.) Next time I might add an inch or two to the body length.

– I made up my own pockets, and placed them a bit higher, too. The horizontal stitching line matches up to what would be the top edge of the original pocket placement. The top-stitching on my pockets is a bit dodgy, but y’know, presence of hand.

– Regarding my whole personal drama with the cuffs, I wound up assembling and then attaching them, a la the method described here. I basted the stitch line along the sleeve edge, and just had better luck easing the curve of the sleeve into the assembled cuff while keeping the placket and cuff edges in line.

– And I left off the collar, as I’m always lamenting the dearth of collarless shirts in the world, or cutting the collars off of things. I guess I was enamored with the idea of being able to say “look at this picture-perfect chambray shirt I made,” but when I stopped and asked myself what I actually wanted to wear and didn’t already have, it was collarless. That decision also led to my adding a second pocket, whereas I was originally going to do only one.

. . .

It was a great call to give myself the whole summer to do this, and to tackle it at a very leisurely pace — just sewing a little bit of it each weekend. But now that I’ve done one and know how it works, I expect to sew the next one in a week! And there definitely will be more. I’ve entered a whole new world where a shirt can fit my shoulders without being too huge everywhere else.

Pattern: Archer Button-Up by Grainline Studio
Fabric: Yarn-dyed chambray from Miss Matatabi
Cost: $18 pattern + $25 fabric + $11.25 buttons = $54.25

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Grey pullover + striped muscle tee

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2017 FO-6 and 7: Grey pullover + striped muscle tee

This post is a little long, so I want to note up top that the coveted army-green Porter Bin is back in the shop today as of 9am CT, along with another special treat. And you can also now find the army Porter at these fine stores!

2017 FO-6 and 7: Grey pullover + striped muscle tee

Technically, this is a premature FO post since these two garments aren’t 100% finished yet — they both need their topstitching, and the striped one needs a hem — but I’m so excited about them I couldn’t wait to share. Why?

I serged them!

You may recall I bought a serger in August* of last year and it’s been in the box ever since. In my defense, I hadn’t sewn at all, anything, between last August and the beginning of June. These are two of the four garments I cut out when I had a little cutting party one Sunday a couple of months ago, thinking if there were stuff ready to sew, I might actually sew again. And I did proceed to sew the white linen top that got cut that day, but the other three (all knits) have sat at the end of my ironing board, neatly bundled and so very appealing, but just … waiting. I think the whole reason I wasn’t sewing is I didn’t want to sew stuff — knits especially — on my regular machine when I had a serger, but I didn’t know how to use the serger and didn’t have time to figure it out. So instead of that purchase increasing my sewing productivity, it brought it to a screeching halt.

At long last, this week I scheduled time to go back to Craft South and take the lesson that came with the purchase of the machine. I showed up for my serger lesson on Wednesday without my serger, because that’s the kind of day I was having — the kind of day where I would normally prohibit myself from sewing, because sewing and a foul disposition are the worst possible combination — but I wasn’t letting anything stop me from finally getting that machine out of its box and learning how to use it.

Bob brought the machine to me, Michelle showed me how to thread it and use it and, clumsy and fog-brained, I fumbled my way through the afternoon. And within a couple of hours, bam!, two knit tops with serged seams. Homemade tees and sweatshirts here I come!

. . .

The grey top is a modified Hemlock Tee identical in process to the black wool gauze one I made last year, so all of the pattern modification details are in that post. The only difference (at the moment) is I haven’t decided whether to hem the sleeves like before or leave them rolled like this, but they’ll likely stay as is. The fabric is a dense grey wool knit that I got at Elizabeth Suzann’s fabric sale a couple of years ago; this was a bundle of scrap pieces I paid $10 for and used maybe a little more than half of for this top. It’s a little wonky — I think I even cut the pieces with the grain going different directions — but it’s totally fine and the simple alt-sweatshirt I’ve been needing.

Pattern: Hemlock Tee from Grainline Studio (modified)
Fabric:  unknown grey wool knit remnant
Cost: free pattern + about $6 fabric = $6

The striped sleeveless tee is my second Adventure Tank View B, following the black one last year, which was the first (and only) knit thing I’d ever sewn. Having now sewn one on the regular machine and one on the serger, it’s crystal clear how worth it the serger is. This is also the same fabulous organic cotton-hemp as the black one, only in an awesome ivory-and-black stripe, and my gold star moment of the day was that I had cut the front and back with perfectly matched stripes and managed to keep them aligned as I sent them through the serger, breath held, teeth gritted. And look how symmetrical the bands are! (I needed that, since I was definitely not wowing anyone with my mental sharpness or sewing acuity.) The last remaining kit-of-parts from my cutting party is this same tee again but in the grey wool knit above, the rest of that scrap bundle, which will be fantastic for transitional weather and for layering. So that will be my third of these, but definitely not my last — I love this pattern so much.

Pattern: Adventure Tank (View B, muscle tee) from Fancy Tiger Crafts
Fabric:  striped hemp jersey bought for $20/yard from Fancy Tiger
Cost: reuse pattern + $20 fabric = $20

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By the way, speaking of sergers, this post on the Grainline blog came at the perfect time! That tip about only buying one cone of the contrasting color is pure genius and will no doubt save me a ton of money. Thanks, Jen!

Happy weekend! What are you up? And don’t forget about the Porter Bin

*I keep saying I bought it in October for some reason, which might have been me trying to trick myself into thinking it wasn’t as bad as it really was?! It was 11 months ago, wow.

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The white linen shell

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2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

Despite my careful planning and copious outfit projections, I’ve actually been struggling a little bit to get dressed so far this summer. For a few reasons: A) I haven’t replaced my ankle boots yet, which dampens my enthusiasm for all the dress-based outfits I want to be wearing. My poor old boots are just way too shabby. B) Many of the outfits in the rundown hinge on garments that are either still WIPs or that need to be mended, refashioned, lengthened or shortened, and thus aren’t actually available to be worn. And C) I really just want to wear my black linen pull-on pants every day, and I do! Yesterday, blessed with a few hours to spend in my sewing room, I decided the best thing I could do with the time was tackle the fix-it pile and get a couple of existing garments back to usefulness. So instead of cutting out the muslin of my Archer for Summer of Basics, as I had planned:

  1. I shortened my black linen slip dress to knee length and added patch pockets (which you can’t actually see in the photo, but I swear they’re there!), and
  2. I mended the 3″ tear in the side of my precious old camo pants.

Which means all of the above and below are now actual wearable outfits:

2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

Please excuse the lack of a better (or modeled) dress photo — it was a seriously dark and stormy day. I’ll be sure to include it in a future FO post!

For details on the garments pictured, see my Summer closet inventory. And the more recently added black linen Sloper sweater and white linen shell.

Also, while at Squam I had the pleasure of chatting with Renee of the new-ish East London Knit podcast. Man am I fidgety when you point a camera at me! But if you’re interested, you can watch it here. Thanks again to Renee for inviting me on!

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The white linen shell

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