Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My first sweater

I follow a blog called Carolyn Knits.   The writer, Carolyn, is a knit designer and a friend of my cousin.  Stop by her blog for a visit.  You won't be sorry.

One of her posts looked back at older completed projects, evaluating the the pluses and minuses.  I left a comment on her blog about my first sweater.  I thought it might be a good thing to write about on my blog sometime ... and then promptly forgot about it.

Carolyn didn't forget!  And when I introduced my new yarn room, she reminded me of this topic.

So here we go with the story of my first sweater - a sweater that I would never ever give away, but can only wear in the privacy of my own home.

An indoor shot so the color is not quite right.
The sweater construction is simple.  Crew neck cardigan with drop shoulders created in pieces - meaning for this project there is a large back, a left front, a right front, and two sleeves - with an added button band.  Once all the pieces are knitted separately, they are hand sewn together.  Blocking usually is done before the sewing.  For my non-knitter readers, blocking means that the garment pieces are dampened, the items are than placed on a blocking board, spread out to fit the measurements, pinned in place and left to dry.  Blocking helps hand knitted items look more finished and assures that the sizes are correct before sewing.

The first thing you notice is this sweater is gi-normous!  Really, I could fit two of me into it.  The second thing - that probably only regular knitters would notice if they saw the garment in person - is that the right front and the left front don't match all that well.

Without rolling up the sleeves, they fall over my hands.
So what went wrong that this sweater is so wonky.  A couple of major mistakes caused this result.  First of all I didn't check gauge.  Gauge is making sure before casting on for the project that the number of stitches per inch and row made by the knitter matched the guidelines of the pattern.  If they don't match correctly, then bigger or small needles should be used until you get the right gauge.  Without the right gauge, you have no idea what size the finished garment will be.

Typical me - at that time - decided that I was using the correct yarn and the needle size they suggested so all would be well.  I also didn't measure myself to determine which size sweater I should knit.  I didn't check the measurements offered by the sweater pattern.  I remember thinking that I like my clothes loose so the large size would be just fine.

Famous last words.

I was a new knitter, I was eager to get to the actual knitting and the preliminary stages and planning just seemed so boring and unnecessary.   So I jumped in and began knitting.

Each piece began with a ribbed hem knitted on smaller needles.  Once the rib was completed you changed to larger needles.  All was well as I completed the back.  I charged ahead to knit the right front panel.  Still everything was going gang-busters!  Onward to the left front panel.   Before you knew it the second panel was done.  Looking at the sweater you can see that the body stitches are a lot of knitting - especially when you have chosen the large size.

At that point I stopped and held the back piece up to my body.  Hmm ... seemed kind of big.  I held up one of the fronts.  Yes, it was pretty darn big.  I began to rethink that skipped step of doing a gauge swatch.  But I had poured so much time into these 3 pieces, I had no intention of stopping now.

And then I made a terrible discovery.  The left and right front panels were not the same size.  Yikes!  What the heck happened?  Then I remembered that when I knitted the rib hem of the second front panel, I didn't change up to the bigger needle to complete the piece.  The size difference was considerable ... like about 3 inches in length and 2 inches in width.  Holy Crap!  Now what.

Well, the experienced knitter in me today knows the answer - you rip out the second panel and do it again correctly.  The inexperienced knitter of 1997 would no more rip out all that knitting than cut off her arm.

Then the light dawned.  I would block the second panel bigger to match the first panel.  Just stretch it out to fit!  Yes ... problem solved.

And it did stretch out to match length and width, but it made the actual knitted fabric thinner - giving one side more drape than the other.  Sort of a floppy side.

And, of course, when I put the fully finished sweater on - it was HUGE!

I really like the buttons.  :-)
Oh well.  It was a major learning experience.  I now always do a gauge swatch - sometimes several.  If I make a major mistake, I rip it out.  If I don't like it while it is being knitted ... if the error is visible or the quality not acceptable, I won't like it any better a year from now - and the item won't get worn.

Now I will say, I do wear this sweater occassionally.  It covers anything I have on. (I could probably wear all the clothes I own layered under it.)  :-)  It is warm and ... it is my first sweater.  It reminds me that the preplanning for a project really is important - and now after so many years, I really enjoy the prep.

And when I am not feeling well, it is the perfect sweater.  It seems to envelop me in warmth and it make me feel cozy.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I am still not a confident sweater-knitter….

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  3. OK, it is on the large side. But it looks very well-knitted and has lasted well all these years. The colour was a good choice as well. A good learning curve.

    I just had to delete my earlier comment as it contained a big spelling mistake!

  4. Well you certainly set the example for the importance of doing a gauge. I have been a "poo poo" of the doing a gauge thingy. No more!

    Redoing an entire knitted panel or sleeve might be the end of my knitting days. Oh I have had to stop, take out, redo . . . But not something as large as a sweater.

    I must say . . . The sweater is beautifully knitted fr a "first piece." On these cold winter days it must be the perfect warm up for you.

  5. I never got over the 'can't wait to start knitting' part of the program so now I just knit scarves. Your sweater looks comfy and cozy...everyone needs one of those.

  6. Way back when I knitted and crocheted, I never got past the easy projects before I gave up. I really wish I would have kept at it. The knitting itself looks really great. Thanks for sharing your story. :)

  7. Sounds like the first sweater I tried to knit for myself. It was huge also.
    I'm about to try knitting myself another one. This time I'll take the time to figure out the gauge.
    My mom just sent me a sweater to finish knitting for her because she is just tired of knitting. I'm sure it will not come out right. : ) But I told her I'd try.

  8. Wonderful story and photos, Elaine! I am a longtime knitter, and the longer I knit, the more I swatch. I think of it as a chance to get to know the yarn. I like thinking of knitting as an art form, so swatching to me is like keeping a sketchbook or like fingering exercises for a pianist.

    All that being said, my second "Swirl" jacket (a recently very popular set of patterns in a book by Sandra McIver) came out so big and long that it looks like a robe on me, and I only wear it indoors on the days when it is so cold that I need more than a couple of warm layers. I do know why you have kept your "first sweater". Thanks for sharing!

  9. I loved the first sweater story. I have never learned to knit but my mom was super at it! I think your sweater looks very warm and comfy

  10. Whoops! Sorry, Elaine, for my forgetting to thank you for the link to my own blog and your very kind words!

  11. Thank you for sharing this warm story. And your sweater looks so cozy :)

  12. What a great first project - you learned a lot and are still able to wear it! LOL - sounds like a sweater for our winter weekends at the condo. I swatch and kind of enjoy the process. Thanks for the interesting story.


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