Friday, February 23, 2007

New threads finally

Or, as me dear gram would say, "A child is born."

Pattern: CeCe
Length: 17.5 inches
Width: 38 inches
Yarn: Filatura di Crosa Amico, color 11, 7 balls?
Needles: Denise US 7

How happy I was to start this lovely little cropped sweater for the birthday of the November Sibling. November. And yet here it is, nearly the end of February.

What happened? (Get your coffee now: this is a long story.)

It began well enough. CeCe is one of Chic Knit's delightful designs, and the pattern is solid. (Bonne Marie's customer service, by the way, is top-notch.) I forwarded a photo link to the NS, who loved the sweater at first sight. Bingo! Birthday present dilemma resolved.

On her next weekend in town, the NS picked out a suitable cotton from my stash and off I went. I like to learn something new each time I knit a project, so I gave some thought to possible refinements while swatching. How about a tubular cast-on? There's a great tutorial on Knitty (though for me these instructions would have resulted in twisted stitches, so I had to pick up my stitches differently).

My swatch goes well. The cast-on looks great, and I find an increase I like for the side shaping. I try out the lace pattern. I determine I'll need to use US 7s for the body.

I pull out US 5s to cast on the sweater itself, feeling that might be a little too generous. Doesn't Montse Stanley clearly say, "Always work with needles two or three sizes finer than for the pattern to follow" when employing a tubular cast-on? Nonetheless, I cast on with the US 5s.

CeCe is knit in one piece, at least until you get to the sleeves. Still, when I finish the bottom ribbing for the entire garment and find that no, those US 5s were really too small rather than too large, I don't sweat it. I'm still having fun.

I try it again, this time with the US 6s. I decide I like the way that looks and charge on, happy to get to the lace. Wow, this isn't bad at all! A teeny sweater--a shrug, practically--and on size 7 needles! I speed up the body...and then slow down as I find myself looking harder and harder at those slipped-stitch band edges. Dang. Maybe that works for Bonne Marie in Calmer, but in my hard little cotton, it's looking just too slack and sad.

Okay. Back to references and swatching. I try most every exposed-edge treatment I can find and decide that I'm happiest making a single-stitch column at each side edge in stockinette, which rolls neatly to the inside of the garment.

Now to drop the columns in question and hook them back up. Here we go. Back in business.


Maybe I'm just dense, but for the life of me I don't seem to be able to reconstruct my very first or very last columns of stitches, the ones that constitute the edges. The geometry eludes me. I'm always left with loops--BIG loops.

But I really don't like the ribbing on the US 6s after all, as it turns out. It still pulls in too much. This realization makes it slightly less painful to rip out all my work (remember, two fronts and a back) and start again, sadder but wiser.

And I can still do this--get CeCe ready in time for the NS's birthday at the end of the month. I cast on a third time, armed with the US 7s. Perfect. I work the first and last stitches in stockinette. Exactly the effect I was hoping for. I settle in for some serious knitting.

And really, it goes well. It starts to feel fun again. (My single buttonhole doesn't please me much, but I didn't have high expectations there.) I carefully write out a list of how many times I need to decrease and where. My thoroughness pays off. I'm decreasing, decreasing away. A week and a half before the birthday, and I have maybe two or three hours' worth of knitting to go. I imagine the look on the NS's face when she opens the package.

I clearly remember I had just finished watching an episode of Doctor Who. There were my dwindling stitches and--why am I going to run out for this front before I will for that front? Everything else looks fine. I'm the same number of stitches out from the side markers. So wha...Oh. Dear. God.

Lessons learned:
1. Think long and hard before doing a sweater in one piece rather than three or more. 'Cause any mistake is likely to be three times as difficult to fix and take three times as long for your "isn't this great? no finishing!" sweater.

2. If foolhardy or arrogant enough to attempt a sweater in one piece, make liberal use of markers to clearly distinguish back from fronts.

3. Measure. Count. Repeat. No, you can't stop yet.

4. Spread it out on the sofa or bed, often. Look carefully.

I guess I must have been a little tired, or perhaps a bit distracted, when I finished the ribbing that third time. Hell, maybe the dog barked. All I know is that when I set up the first row following--in other words, the first row of the body--I lost my ability to count. Because right there, in that first row, still hung my little safety pin marker to attest to the miserable fact that I had robbed the back of any entire lace pattern's worth of stitches and bequeathed them to the left front. Right there in that f***ing first row.

There was tunnel vision for a time. And then tea.

More lessons learned:
5. If you ever again think it would "be nice" to do even a spot of lace, up your meds.

6. Remember when you used to explain to your knitting students that wool was forgiving, but each stitch you knit in cotton might as well be set in stone, because it would preserve every little variation in your gauge? Remember that? Consider what the results will look like when you drop large clumps of stitches down some 15 inches and attempt to hook them all back up--in a lace pattern.

7. Decreasing in pattern while working lace is something devised by Dante for a lower ring of Hell. I'm just saying.

I will spare you the slow slog through yet more sorry details. Suffice it to say that it felt like a death march at times.

However...would you look at this face:

And really, what more is there to say? Except this: Happy belated birthday, November Sibling. You are worth it, every bit.


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