One of my goals for the year was to try knitting a sweater. I had a few patterns in mind but nothing concrete or planned. Then I won the January Tangerine Designs FOs contest on Ravelry. The prize was a giftable pattern, and I chose Breakwater by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. Thank you Tangerine Designs!
The next stage was to find yarn. The Luxe Merino Fine yarn from Kitchen Sink Dyeworks listed in the pattern is no longer available as they have closed up shop, so I began to search for yarn with the same or similar content – a merino, cashmere, nylon blend. The search took a few days: noting similar bases, checking out colourways, coming back to look through sites again and again. When I saw Pacific in Hazel Knits’ Entice my search was over. It was perfect!
On February 23rd I knit a swatch. I played around with needle size until I was close to gauge. I was a little off, but I felt confident it would work itself out nicely when the sweater was blocked. I confess, I didn’t wash and block my swatch, but I felt I knew the yarn and how it would behave once washed – it would relax a little, to give me almost perfect gauge – and knew that I wouldn’t really be blocking the finished item, just laying it flat to dry.
I don’t fully understand ease, and though I’ve taken all my measurements, I also don’t have a good understanding in this area either. Patterns come in a range of sizes, but they don’t cover every possible size so you have to make a choice. The pictures in the pattern showed a sweater that looked quite form-fitting, and since I’m a tight knitter I thought it best to go up from a 35″ to the next size, a 38.5″. I’m a 36″ bust.
I had done some research beforehand and found that when knitting with hand-dyed yarn it is recommended you alternate skeins as you work. There are a few websites with information on this, but nothing as detailed as I found I needed. When I started I had every intention of carrying the yarn down as I worked, but I chickened out and decided to go with just one skein. It would be fine, I told myself, and I’d transition the next skein in before the first skein ran out.
The Woven Stitch neck trim worked up beautifully, and I was on my way with the yoke when I started having doubts. The yoke shaping increases seemed a little sloppy – there were these little holes in the stockinette sides of the increases that I couldn’t seem to work out, and the fabric was looking quite open. When the first skein was starting to get low, I introduced the second skein and began alternating the two. This seemed to work well, but into this second skein I could see a band of colour developing just below the bustline. I transferred the stitches to some waste yarn and tried the sweater on.
The sweater was too big and the colour pooling was definitely an issue, but my gauge was good. So I frogged back to the neck band on March 3rd.
Sweater 2.0 – everything went really well with the frogging. I was able to go back, pick up the stitches (a little challenging as they almost all popped under the stitch below and had to almost literally be dug out), place my markers in the right spots and start the second attempt. Instead of knitting the 38.5″, I was now going to knit the 35″.
I had no idea where to position the carried yarn. It seemed to me, with the difficulties I was having with the yoke increases, that doing it near there would just cause problems, but I knew it was best to have it close to that spot, especially once I was working under the arms as it would be less visible. So, I introduced the new yarn three stitches after the marker. Well, as you probably know, this would change with the increases down to the split for the sleeves. I decided to try to keep the yarn in the same actual stitch rather than adjust for the increases. I honestly don’t know what is best, so if you have any experience/thoughts, I’d love to hear it.
I struggled with the process of introducing a new skein. How to avoid a hole, how to not add more bulk by knitting with the tail, and how to carry the yarn. I read that you want to pick up the second strand from underneath the strand you’re working with and what I ended up doing was to lay the current yarn to the left on the inside of the piece and pick up the other strand from underneath. This seemed to work, but no matter how much I tried to keep it loose, it was very obvious from the other side. I wondered how much would be fixed by the magic of blocking… it was niggling at my brain as I continued to work. I had now knit about halfway down the body when I tried it on.
The sweater fit much better but was still too big and the carried yarn was something I just couldn’t live with. I asked DH for his opinion, and of course he said I should just leave it and finish it. In my mind, the sweater wasn’t fitting right, so I could frog back, go down another size and hopefully work out the carried yarn issue as well. So…
I frogged again. This time it didn’t go so well, and I had to frog right back to the beginning. There was some yarn ball tangles and lots of rewinding, but finally I was ready to start again on sweater 3.0.
On March 10th I cast on for a size 32″ and pretty much knit straight through. This time, I decided to leave some extra yarn for the neck trim, but I really had no idea how much would be needed – 2 full arms lengths was what I left.
Soon I was dividing for the sleeves, then I was part way down the body. I was still concerned about the carried yarn – it was looking better but was still visible. I knew that blocking would take care of some of it. Although I did think about frogging again, at this point I was nearing the end of my rope. I needed to finish. If I hadn’t had to frog so much, I probably would have finished the sweater in two or three weeks (just when I was starting the third attempt).
I worked two extra decrease repeats for the body, since I wanted it both longer and snugger around my waist. To get the stitch count back on track, I worked the second set of increases every sixth round four times rather than every eighth two times.
I thought I’d try the Farrow Rib, but it wasn’t working out, so I decided to stick with the pattern and did the 1×1 rib for 3/4″ which I thought looked too short but decided to leave it. The first attempt for the 1×1 was sloppy, so I used the smaller needle size and knit a twisted 1×1 rib. I used the Lace Bind off (aka Russian Bind Off) which I thought looked nice. That was March 22.
Now for the sleeves and a bit of magic. I used the remainder of each ball for each sleeve. There was more than enough and there was no real issue with pooling here (thank goodness!) The underarm sleeve stitches were pretty wonky, especially the Backward Loop Cast On stitches. They were stretched out and loose, which also meant that the stitches between them were quite tight. If there is one thing that I mastered on this project it is redistributing stitches. Before I put the stitches onto my DPNs, I spent some time redistributing these stitches and it worked really well. Before I knew it I had knit one sleeve and was onto the second sleeve.
There is a bit of a noticeable transition on the sleeves where one DPN met another, which is frustrating because I all but worked this out for my DPN sock knitting, but I’ll live with it.
After transferring the project to waste yarn a couple of times, I decided it was probably easier to transfer everything to another set of needles on a really long cable. SO MUCH EASIER!
On March 24th, I bound off the second sleeve and finished the neck trim. The extra length of yarn I had left when I cast on was enough to go around the trim three times unknit, but it was only enough to pick up the 146 stitches. I added more yarn, purled the next row and worked the Lace Bind Off and was finished, and it fit me almost perfectly!
Okay, I wish it was just a tad bit longer, and I’ve toyed with the idea of finding the end and frogging back to add 1-2″ and extending the ribbing, but it’s not too short by any means and I think it’s time to move on.
The pattern called for three skeins. I used less than two (!?) Only a tiny amount was used from the third skein, and I had two little 13 gram and 4 gram balls left over from the two main skeins. I’m not sure why I had so much leftover, as I checked my gauge and I was almost bang on with stitch and row count. I’m happy to have a full skein left of this gorgeous yarn and hope to make a shawl.
I spent quite a lot of time throughout the project and when it was finished redistributing stitches along the carried yarn section and in the underarm section - tightening up loose stitches and loosening tight stitches. It’s fiddly work, but it made a difference.
Blocking was a little nerve wracking. What was going to happen? Was the sweater going to grow and become some grotesque version of itself? Laying it out on the blocking mats, I was starting to get a horrible feeling that it was going to grow. It was looking so much larger… I pulled out my tape measure and gave it a quick sizing up. It sure was looking like it wasn’t going to be the same sweater. I checked gauge and things were looking spot on in that area, so I had to just leave it and see.
Next morning, I closed my bedroom door before heading off to work to keep curious kitty’s away. The first thing I did when I got home was checked in on the sweater. It was looking smaller than it had when I had first spread it out. I had to try it on… Joy of joys! It fits. It fits!!!
There is a noticeable line of wonky stitches from the carried yarn, but it’s in the back and I can’t see it when I’m wearing it. I wore it to work on Thursday and received nice compliments from my coworkers. It’s is so soft and so lovely. If they noticed anything, they didn’t say anything. It’s my first sweater. I’m super pleased with how it turned out. I learned so much, and I’m itching to cast on another sweater. Maybe something solid this time though. A cardigan?
If you have any suggestions for my next project, or any information on alternating skeins (particularly on where to position it – and tutorials would be great), I’d be most pleased to hear from you.
I have to say that this yarn was really awesome to work with. Considering what I put it through, frogging three times and winding multiple times, the yarn really didn’t show any wear and tear. I think pilling will be an issue, however, as I noticed some small, fuzzy balls in the underarm sections after I wore it to work that day. This just gives me an excuse to use my pill remover. I’m not too worried but it was noticeable so I thought I’d mention it.
As always, thanks for reading my little blog. Happy Easter!