Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Saving sweater strategy

The sweater on this picture looks like a regular, not so sensational men's sweater in black&white. And it would be «just a sweater» if the story about how it has been made didn't hide and extremely dramatic phase of saving it from becoming a blanket! :D And, here I mean- a huge blanket!

About a year ago we had plenty of this black and white yarn stashed and my Mom suggested my father she'd make him a sweater and asked him if he had any ideas! He’s got many sweaters she has made him during the past 30 years, all rich in outstanding stitch patterns and beautiful colours; three-colours entrelac turtleneck sweaters, vests in amazing cabled patterns, worsted aran cardigans... And now he suddenly wanted a plain striped sweater in two colours. A W.H.A.T.??? (One can really get annoyed by so many beautiful handmade gifts, can't he?!!) He, of course, got an instant «NO» answer! So, they managed to reach the agreement – she'll make him a «plain» sweater in two colours similar to those old-fashioned yoke sweaters (I believe he was going through a retro phase! It must be it!) but under one condition – he must not tell anyone it was her who had made it! I mean- every sweater is representative for his creator, right? - so, if anyone would find out it was her who had made something like that, that strange person (AND potentially dangerous for her reputation) might think she can only knit in stocking stitch! (God forbid!!!) Finally, knitting in stockinette can be a huge pain in the back! (Or you could fall asleep in the middle of knitting the upper half of the second sleeve! Inconvenient!). And so he did make a promise! A fair trade if you ask me! (The only thing I don’t remember is- who the elected faux-knitter was ! :) )
We weren't too thrilled by this agreement but- there you go, a stockinette stitch sweater in b&w!

She then decided to double the strand which, making a sweater look puffier, would also allow her to work with black, white and b&w combination of strands resulting in tweed-ish look. We had a deal! (I wasn’t a included in that projects at the time but I’m always looking forward to seeing what sweaters for my Dad will look like- big garments somehow increase the beauty of the pattern used! Not that there was a pattern this time but…still…)

Now, before I continue, I must point this out- my Mother is a master knitter. She really is! She has been knitting “seriously” for over 35 years (which, of course, in case she ever reads this, means she has started knitting when she was only two years old! :))) ). Not only does she knit well but her creations are simply outstanding. She never liked «copy-pasting» patterns from magazines onto her needles! Instead, she’d pick a stitch patter and include it in her own creation, or adjust the shape she had seen somewhere and add a different pattern! Or, even, invent one! (Luckily, I inherited that approach from her.) After looking at any stitch pattern and comparing it to the instructions, she can instantly tell whether there is a mistake and how to correct it. If there are no charts or instructions- she can write them down in no time just by looking at a pattern! We got used to unknown people approaching her when she's wearing one of her projects long time ago- they sometimes just want to touch the surface of the sweater/dress/cardigan... or see it better. And I'm serious- I'll put some pictures here some day so that you can see it for yuorself- truly magnificent pieces!
BUT- there's one thing; she has never (EVER) made a single swatch! She doesn't like swatches! She makes them only to test out a new pattern but never to calculate the number of stitches. I think she even gets nervous when she sees me doing that! (Boffin!!!) In 99% she does everything right! But... Well, this was one of these «but» situations. What fascinates me is that, when she notices a sweater is growing too wide (it's never too small), she continues to knit hoping for a miracle to happen. And sometimes it, actually, does- she comes up with a trick or two and somehow manages to adjust the shape and size. Not always, though!. It's easy when you're making a huge man's sweater- but when knitting a vest for a 16 years old way! A 16 years old teenager would declare a royal tailor insane and accuse him of trying to make her look «huge»! (And fire him!).
So, if the sweater does turn out to be too big no matter what she does to save it - she doesn't stop there either- she usually says "it is just fine" (do not estimate the power of persuasion!). When you say that, either all mirrors in the house or that sweater should definitely be changed- she simply tells you- "you might gain a few pounds and what will you do then?". No way out, my friends!

OK , so, back to the sweater – my father was away when she started knitting the front part. When the front part was just about 20 cm (8 inches) high, I thought it looked a bit strange. There was no way to check if it fits (and don't ask me why neither one of us had thought of comparing it to one his sweaters!) and, so, I decided to keep my mouth shut. But, 20 cm later- I was sure «she had lost control»! The front part of the sweater was growing under her fingers like dough pastry, turning the sweater into a blanket or, even more likely - into a tent. But, oh my - she thought it was just fine. So I took her work and spread what was supposed to be just one half of the sweater over her bed and - it was a king size blanket! I suggested her to leave it on side and wait until he arrives back home - then we’d know for sure. He came a few days later, tried it on and... if he had only decided to go for a walk wrapped in «that something» , he would have made lot of kids very happy that day! :))) It was hilarious! One word- H.U.G.E.!!!
And, so the drama begins! My Mom wants to frog it in a split of a second! My father is still hoping it can be saved because he feels sorry – no way could he wear it but, again, all the effort... I decide to be constructive (it's in my nature, can't fight it! :D ) and, before you know it- I'm in charge of the whole project! Ok, so I started running around my father like John Galliano taking his measures and eliminating my preliminary ideas one by one.
Could edges be attached together? In that case, I could simply continue knitting in circle!
No, 10 cm too short! (No one suggested weight loss as a potential solution!). :)
Ok, then, we could transform it into cardigan- it still hasn't reached the underarm height so, why not adding a 10cm panel on both sides after the cardigan is finished; one withbuttons and the other one with buttonholes ? Another «NO»- he wants a sweater! (Great time to be picky!).
And then, finally, the enlightening moment- I'll simply add a «patch»- a rectangular shape which I'll put between the edges and sew them all together into a tube. A connection patch! When I attach two pieces, I'll simply switch to working in circle.

The yarn was already very thick and knit in stocking stitch - the gauge wasn't going to get any tighter, was it?! So I knew I should, then, use a 1p,1k ribbing pattern for my patch to make the "tube" (yet to be made) more flexible (the, so called- accordion effect!)

Once I reach the height of the rest of work (made by my Mom), I'll transfer all the stitches onto the same needle and continue working in rounds (as if nothing has happened! :) ) ! And so I did! When "the patch" was as high as the "blanket part" , I attached the edges with a crochet hook, just so that I'd have all the stitches in the same level and continued working in circle. But, when my father saw these temporary "hems", he liked them so much that I decided to keep them. He said they were «cool»!
Only a few rows after all the stitches were transfered onto the same circular needle it was "sleeves» time. I made them in stockinette stitch (not before he had promised me he wouldn't tell anyone it was, now, me who had made that :)) ) and continued working in circle until I had reached the neck line. I wanted it to be a turtleneck but he's not really a turtleneck fan –he says he has to shave every day when wearing one so that his stubble wouldn't turn the yarn back into fleece (fair enough)- so, I made a 100% stubble friendly semi-turtleneck. :D And, there you go- he is now literally “wrapped” in the front part of the sweater!

This is still just a plain sweater- only a sweater with a story! ;-)


  1. What an ingenious solution! And a good-looking one at that! I enjoyed reading about your mum's knitting, esp. the bit about her being a knitter for 35 years :)))

  2. Very nice story and nice sweater with a story!

  3. Thank you, girls!

    And, misha, as for the age, you know how it goes- it may sound funny but it's true! :))))))


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