There was some foreshadowing, I kind of knew this sweater wouldn't be a total success, from the very beginning actually. Just so I don't make a career out of loser knits, I thought I would document my steps to making this really unflattering, and ultimately, loser knit of a sweater. If I know (and you know) what the steps are, we can avoid them and all parties can be happy in the future.
1. Find a pattern. Pick the pattern based on the color the sample is knit in. Don't bother giving any thought to whether the sweater design is "you" or not (rustic? sure, why not). And while some styles of sweater construction look better on some people than others, totally disregard that. If you like the color the sample is knit in, then hey, how bad could it be?
2. When you finally decide to knit the pattern, do a Google search to see what other people have said about the sweater and its design. If they have anything negative to say, just disregard these statements of animosity towards the knit. Keep thinking that "in your world, things are different."
3. Drape, what's that? Cables and lace? Why bother with the details. The fabric will still drape, the cables and lace will still be there, no matter what yarn you use, right? Instead of buying yarn specifically for your project, decide that you are going to "stash bust." Stash busting is great and all, but there are those who would suggest there is some strategy involved. You should develop no plan of attack whatsoever, forget drape, don't worry about stitch definition of cables, and lace can totally be knit out of anything...totally. Go back to step #1, just pick the color you like (I guess it does help if you have enough yardage, so do that, check the yardage...if you really want a loser, disregard yardage...but let's be practical). Don't give any thought about yarn weight, as long as you "get gauge" (see next step), right ? I mean so what if "a little heavier than worsted" translates to "chunky" for your purposes. It's all good.
4. Don't do a gauge swatch/tension square. Seriously, why bother, right? That back is pretty much a square, knit some of it up and just measure that. If you are not "getting gauge" decide what you want to do then...if you have already knit a good amount, you will probably keep going, and some people would say that is crazy, some not (I won't judge you). (And yes, I actually did get gauge with the yarn...and the needles that I used. Not that it mattered).
5. Work on the project while maintaining relationships with many other knits to really draw out the experience. Every time you pick up the sweater, it will be like Christmas (or Hanukkah, or your birthday, etc...substitute accordingly). Oh, and don't bother taking notes on where you left off. It makes everything more fun that way...like an adventure.
6. When you have knit all the pieces, seam them all together, especially if the pattern tells you to do so. Even if you made a mental note to soak (and effectively wash) the pieces to get rid of that mill-y oily smell, (which is great while you are knitting, but let's face it, smelling like machinery isn't everyone's bag). That's right, seam that sweater with no blocking, like the directions might say, you can totally steam it later.
7. Don't bother finding an alternate seaming yarn. Just use what you knit with, even if it is a) bulky, and especially if it b) breaks like nobody's business. You will really enjoy weaving in all those ends, thus lengthening your experience with the sweater. It'll be great.
8. Try on the sweater. If it fits perfectly (which this sweater did, actually), pat yourself on the back, good job. If it doesnt fit, start the process all over again (I am not an advocate of rippage, I leave that to your discretion...it's got to fit someone, right?) with the same or different pattern, though I would do the opposite of these steps if it is success you are trying to achieve. But if it fits... sniff it, smell that oily goodness? Now would be the perfect time to give it a good soak and block it.
9. When blocking the sweater, block aggressively (even if the sweater already fit perfectly). Really get those stitches smooth and even.
10. Put the sweater on again...realize that you over-blocked and just accept it.
11. If you are an archivist, librarian, or anyone who works in a temperature controlled environment where it is cold, take the sweater to work. If it was knit with bulky yarn, it will come come in handy when its 40 degrees (F) inside (and 55 outside), and most people will be so impressed that you knit the sweater yourself, they won't even notice the tent-like effect of the finished knit on your person.
Pattern: by Ann E. Smith, Interweave Knits, fall 2006
Needles: US 8/ 5.0 mm Circulars
Notions: 5 awesome Coconut buttons from Jo-Ann's (I know!) and 5 plastic-y buttons from the button box, origins unknown
Modifications: Yarn substiution, and to the sleeves by throwing in some ribbing on the end (or at the beginning) because the sweater seemed out of balance otherwise. I count the sleeves as a success.
I like the finished look of the sleeves, actually. So does Little Sir.
So that was my road to making this loser knit. Maybe it is not completely a loser, but it isn't a complete winner either. And though I don't LOVE it. I kind of like it. It's warm, it's functional, and hey, the color is pretty. It screams fall to me.
I will tell you what I do love. I love this yarn. Love it. When I bought the yarn, I bought it just because I liked the color. It is so deliciously orange. Beaverslide makes excellent yarn (and customer service is excellent), but the McTaggart Tweed line is very different from their other stuff. It is tweed, it is gorgeous, it is kind of bulky... and it breaks. Jen knows of what I speak. Even though I was aware of the breaky-breaky nature of the yarn, I used it to seam anyway. Sometimes, I am stupid. I should have found something else, but I didn't feel like going through the process of color matching and I was just being lazy. I think Jared has the right idea about this yarn. Knit something EZ inspired and save yourself the heartache.
The yarn doesn't really highlight the cute little cable and lace combo so much...but it is a tweedy bulky yarn, to have expected that it would, well again...stupid. I like the buttons though, so does Little Sir.
I am not sure why I blocked the sweater so aggressively, but I did. Pre-blocking, it actually looked passably decent. Now there is a weird, slightly off-putting, "front butt" effect (phrase taken from Pam, again she is a smart one) that isn't so flattering on a woman who still weighs what she did the day she walked out of the hospital after her kid was born. So the fit, it's not the most flattering. And, this sweater has done what I thought was kind of impossible, it makes me appear borderline flat-chested, not that I am looking to highlight any sort of assets or anything. There is something to be said for drape, I guess.
Having said all that I have (which is a lot, some would say too much), I am glad that I made the sweater and I am glad I went through this process, because I did learn that I am worth the trouble that I go through for other people when knitting for myself. When I knit Special K's sweater, I did all sorts of measurements, research on yarn, test swatching. The end result was desired and pretty great (if I do say so myself). Why mess with Texas?
And as much of a loser as I think this sweater is (which admittedly, it's not that bad....just a little loser-ish), I am going to get a lot of wear out of it (I am trying to combat my innate defeatism and be silver lining-ish, at least today). I might wear it to Rhinebeck this Saturday. Huh, I knit a Rhinebeck sweater without any intention of doing so... Well, go, me. So yes, if you are there at Rhinebeck, that woman wearing the the sweater knit with that awesome orange-red yarn, that's me.
* I kept humming this when I worked on this sweater. I encourage the humming of this song while working on any knit you think will be less than successful, but that you are determined to finish anyway. Embrace it.