knittingjuju

Julie knits and writes and knits.

The Shoddy Little Sweater

Some projects just find their own time. I began this sweater on June 30, 2007. Flickr keeps track of these things for me. So 18 months in the making, and another month or so for the photo shoot.

It began with the yarn. I saw hanks of Colinette Parisienne in Soft Sienna at Lizzie Ann’s Wool Company in Holland, Michigan, one of my favorite LYSs. I had to have the yarn. I knew it was for my daughter.

The yarn reminded me of dryer lint. But in a good way. You know that soft non-color of dryer lint? It’s kind of blue, kind of grey, kind of pink? It’s fuzzy, light, soft?

I brought the yarn home and started swatching with it.

I already had the idea of making something tiny for my daughter, something t-shirty or camisolish, and had been swatching with silks and merinos and rare Habu Textiles stuff, but not falling in love.

But this yarn.

I knew I wanted to live with it for awhile. I found the needle size (US 5) to make the fabric that made me happiest.

Then came a class with Lily Chin, learning to design knitwear for my own body, or anyone else’s. I’d been steeping myself in Zimmerman, and so Chin’s class layered courage on Zimmerman courage along with some techniques for drawing patterns and constructing garments.

Just watching my girl and how she dresses made the form clear: A t-shirt. But not too, too sweet of a t-shirt. A long t-shirt that pokes fun at t-shirts.

I wanted to mess with the stockinette.

And then the women in my family were having fun with this word, “shoddy.” My hilarious niece, one of the funniest people I know, started us all using the word in a way that injected it with affection and comfort and kindness. A dryer-lint sort of feeling.

I decided to call the project Shoddy. At that point the rest of the form sort of fell into place. I knew it would have random yarn-over holes. (It turns out I’m not capable of completely random behavior, because I formed rules about the holes as I knit. I couldn’t help it.)

And then the process was pretty straightforward. I grabbed one of my daughter’s favorite t-shirts, and used it to make a pattern and a fabric model for the piece, which traveled in the project bag and served as a reference as I knitted.

I knew I wanted to make a seamless sweater, and did my math to know how many stitches to cast on. I cast on provisionally, thinking I might want to knit t-shirt-style hems, but not wanting to decide right away. (I did do this in the end, but after changing my mind 42 times.)

Then I just knit to match the fabric model, marking the sides, and decreasing two stitches at each side for a few rows to form waistline curve, and increasing to climb back up to the armpits. The yarn overs are either single or double YOs, decreasing with the next stitch so that I was never increasing or decreasing stitch numbers except at the sides for shaping. I decided to swim the holes up fro the sides in the front to the center, and just run a line of them down the center in the back. Not sure why. It just felt right.

The arms were a little challenge. I wanted the exact angle of the sleeves from the original t-shirt, and if I were Elizabeth or Meg, I probably could have figured out how to increase at the armpit to make them without seams, but I chose to start the sleeves flat –again casting on provisionally — for about an inch to match the flat pattern before joining them to the body. as you would for any seamless sweater. So it’s not an entirely seamless sweater. There is a one-inch seam under each sleeve. I’ll loiter in seamless sweater purgatory for a few millenia for that, I’m sure.

I had recently made a complete Elizabeth Zimmerman EPS Saddle-shoulder, and was still madly in love with the fit and the fun of knitting it, and so chose that style for this piece. I planned on a kind of funnel-neck, and knit it that way at first, but when the girl tried it on, it just… blech. No. I knew I had to rip back to make a bateau, but… A.) ripping mohair is just not fun. B.) I had no idea how to knit a bateau neckline.

And so the piece lingered and reproached me for… a while.

I next went off to a weekend camp at Schoolhouse Press with Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen and Joyce Williams. Show and tell is part of that, and I decided to show the Shoddy, though it was incomplete. Anybody who visited with this sweater had the same impulse, to throw it up in the air and watch it float. It’s that light and fluffly. Meg did that with Shoddy. And her eyes sparkled. It was a happy moment for me, let me tell you. Well, they eliminated all of my agony in about four seconds, Meg and Joyce, who pointed me to this neckline on this sweater:

Which you’ll find in her book Latvian Dreams, which of course I had. I felt a little like Dorothy. I’d had the answer with me the whole time. And now I had more courage from the Source, the Well, from Mecca.

So you would have thought I would have ripped right into that baby. No, I kind of sat on it for awhile. Not sure why, though I have likened it to finishing a good book. I really slowed this project down.

I ripped back the neck, and found the bateau an easy and elegant thing to knit. No problem. Basically you’re knitting two little V-neck decrease points at each shoulder, then a purl turning ridge, and then increasing at the same point so that when you fold the hem back inside, it matches up, and all you have to do is stitch the live stitches down. Very easy and elegant.

And that dictated the hem treatments for the arms and bottom hem too. Simple…. so why wasn’t I finishing it?

It just sat without its hems for ever so long. I pulled it out and pet it, folded it up and put it away… for MONTHS.

Post Project Depression. That’s the only thing I can offer for why it has taken me so long. I loved this baby, and had a hard time letting it go.

But then winter returned, and my daughter was kind of wondering.. and my knitting friends were wondering, and everyone has been wondering…

I finished it. Blocked it. Gave it. And today, finally, have photographed it. It worked. It’s pretty.

Thank you, thank you to all who helped inspire and teach and offer courage.

And on to the next unfinished thing…

The whole gestation is documented here.

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1 Comment»

  tina wrote @

I love it, and most of all, I love how you inspire me to pick up things about the house, AND how you inspire me to remember my passion for all things EZ and Meg. Well, and you of course! 😉


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