The sleeve, now knit properly (I hope)A few days ago, I cast on the Wispy Cardi by Hannah Fettig (you can scroll down at the linked page to see it). I’m knitting it in this beautiful grey Malabrigo lace yarn, and I love it. The yarn is so soft, I feel like I’m knitting a marshmallow. Even though the yarn is laceweight, I’m knitting on size 7 needles, so it’s knitting up much quicker than I thought it would. (As an aside, I had to go up a needle size to get gauge on this pattern).

This is the first grownup sweater I’ve even knit. I’ve knit several baby garments, but fit isn’t that important in baby sweaters. Babies are round and chunky. If the sweater is too big, the kid will grow into it. If the sweater is too small, another baby will come along that is smaller. Babies don’t complain if something makes them look fat. And, even if the whole thing is a disaster, baby sweaters are small so it’s not too much of a waste. A grown up sweater is much more difficult, because I want to look good in what I knit. So the fit matters.

The pattern has an interesting construction. Instead of knitting like a regular top-down or bottom-up sweater, you knit a sleeve, continue knitting across the back and then knit the other sleeve, like a shrug. Then you pick up around that opening you have to knit the collar and the body of the sweater. This totally appeals to me because there is minimal seaming, and seaming is not my favorite thing in the world. Plus, I can try the garment on as I go, and that is always a good thing.

And here is where I got attacked by my knitting, just a little bit. In part it is because I was a bad knitter. In part it was because I just didn’t understand certain things about sweater knitting that I now have learned the hard way. In part it was because I did not trust my instincts.

I go to cast on and the pattern tells you to cast on with the size 7 needles and knit in ribbing for the sleeve cuff for an inch and a half, and then switch to stockinette. The pattern does not tell you to cast on the ribbing with a smaller needle, and I blithely just cast on with the size 7 needles and started knitting.

My ribbing looked so sloppy, I had to rip it out. The frustrating thing is that I know that it’s best to knit ribbing with a needle that is a size or two smaller than the size called for to knit the stockinette portion. I even considered casting on and knitting the ribbing with size 5 needles, which is the size called for in the pattern to knit the ribbing on the collar, but I decided that there must be a reason that the pattern does not specifically tell you to knit the ribbing on smaller needles. But I hated the ribbing so much on the size 7 needles that I couldn’t leave it.

The lesson I learned here is that I really should trust my instincts. I knew what I should have done. I should have just done it.

So I cast on the cuff again, this time in size 5 needles. And as I was knitting, I thought that the cuff looked huge. I checked my gauge and I was still where it needed to be. Then I did some math and realized that the number of stitches cast on for the sleeve would make the sleeve about 17.5 inches around at my forearm, which is way too big. There is no shaping in the sleeve as the pattern is written, so the cuff was the same size around as the part that was going to have to go around my bicep. I’m not really a fan of that. So I ripped out again, did some math, cast on for a smaller cuff, and knit the sleeve with increases up to the appropriate size.

The lesson I took from this is that I really should have done that math sooner, especially because I am not proportionate. I know I’m not proportionate. I have to pick a pattern size that is appropriate for the largest part of me, and I know that that usually means other parts of the pattern will be too big for me. So I have to do the math, not be lazy, and figure out how to adjust the pattern for me. Preferably, I should do this before I start actually knitting.

I recommend that if a pattern tells you that you will have a certain number of stitches at a certain point, calculate what the measurement will be based on your gauge. Make sure that number actually gives you a measurement in inches (or cm) that actually will fit your body at that point. Ease makes this a little tricky–the garment measurement may be supposed to be a bit bigger or a bit smaller than your body is. But sometimes it’s obvious that something is not going to work. For example, while I think that sleeves usually need a little bit of positive ease so that you can actually bend your elbow, the six or so inches I was getting on my sweater was a bit much.

And thus ends my unfortunate sleeve tale. I’m hoping that this time I’ve gotten things correct and that I won’t need to rip out and re-knit this thing again because as it is, I still LOVE this sweater pattern and I don’t want frustration to make me not love it. Of course, part of making sure that I have a final sweater that I love to wear is being willing to rip out and try again, until it’s something that works for me. As a knitter, I’m trying to be less afraid to do that. It helps that I now know from listening to podcasts that knitters with a whole lot more experience than I have make mistakes too and have to rip out knitting all the time. And maybe this will help you knitters out there avoid some of my mistakes when you knit your own sweaters.

Other than that, it’s been about a million degrees here, so this light sweater is about all I can stand to knit. I’m certainly not holding a heavy acrylic baby blanket on my lap to weave in ends. So no updates on any of that for now. But soon, I promise.