Still Life from Quimper

Still Life from Quimper
A shot of an almost-completed still life needlepoint

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Brambleberry Sweater is DONE!

After 3 visits to The Mountain (2009, 2010, and 2011), endless hours at home, three swatches that I blocked (thank you, Brooke), the encouragement of a deadline of the October AKG meeting, and 2 viewings of the last episode of "Lost" before I, too, changed my subscription to Netflix, I can finally say that I have a finished sweater!! It is lovely, it is blocked, it fits, and I have worn it out to the North Georgia mountains where it kept me warm, warm, warm. And best of all (besides the fact that it fits!), it is the perfect orangey-red color that perfectly fits with this time of the year. The yarn is kind of red, but that red that is kind of orange, and there are flecks of yellow in the reddish yarn. So, without further ado, here is my beautiful new sweater in all of its orangey-red cabled glory:

It's almost a work of art, no?

Here's another view, same sweater, from the front, too:

I really can't believe it's done. And I made this!

And really, I must take this opportunity to apologize for the long length of time between posts, from Sept. 11 to now. One of the weekends I spent out of town at my college reunion (25 years!); another visiting an alpaca farm where yes, I did come away with more than just 'paca poo; one Saturday at the Decatur Beer Fest and the next day recovering (no more absinthe. Ever.); and one weekend spent with friends in North Georgia. All these are worthy causes and reasons, and then there's my new day job (part-time, but then my web orders have started to go through the roof which means after-work is spent filling them), so my blogging time has been compromised. Not my project, time, mind you - several pictures will make their ways to this blog very, very soon with accompanying posts. Not this time, though; this time is my long awaited "My Brambleberry Sweater is Done!" post.

So yes, this is the first sweater where I've actually followed all of the experts' advice and BLOCKED my swatch before I selected my needles. Which was an earlier post and has resulted in a class that I'll be teaching in November about gauge. It was a case of using not just the correct needle size (that didn't seem to matter), but using the correct type of needle: the plastic needle made the entire cable just totally collapse and loose its structure, but the wooden needle helped bolster up the cable and keep its "body." Really amazing, that.

And this was the first sweater pattern I've ever come across that has the even-numbered rows as the right rows (knit right to left) as opposed to odd rows being the right rows (wrong side vs. right side of a garment). That called for some interesting verbage from me when I started to knit the sleeves one late-ish night this year at The Mountain and I realized my mistake and had to rip out those eight rows and start again. I mean, it wasn't as though I didn't have notes and arrows to that end! The designer also added selvedge stitches to her pattern, so you cast on 2 extra stitches but the pattern and directions exclude those stitches when telling you what to do. And it's good to have those selvedge stitches because they're needed for the seaming. But more on seaming later.

This pattern was a fairly easy cable sweater to knit: the design remains the same (cable on the 2nd row) for the first 10 or so pattern repeats. A few rows before you begin to decrease for the armholes, you then "walk" the cable over, so that the K4 P2 rib becomes the new cable twist, and continues in this way for 3 or 4 rows until it "walks" back to the original cable pattern. This contributes greatly to the movement and attractiveness of this sweater; some would say rhythm.

Here is the detail from where the cables "walk" and then return to their original journey.
This is a slightly lighter shade than the actual yarn,
but there really are that many colors in this yarn. Amazing.

I did adjust the length of the sweater, as I am a short person and even though I knit the size M (44"), I still needed to shorten the length so that it would not resemble a small dress. This of course caused me some consternation when I began the armhole decreases, but I took copious notes about the adjustments I did to the back that proved handy when I did the front. I also finished knitting the front while listening to the audio version of Watership Down earlier this year in order to keep familiarity with this pattern and also so that I would not be making those crucial armhole-decreases-while-keeping-cable-pattern decisions with adult beverages clouding my judgment.

And as I've posted before, I'm really really really glad that I knit the sleeves at the same time. The slight aggravation of remembering which row I was on and which ball of yarn was minimal compared to the huge aggravation I would have had if I had had to remember which row increase I did when. Oh, and I did not do the cable pattern on the sleeve edges - I learned from my former teacher, Christina, that a cable sweater does not necessarily have to continue its cable pattern under the arm. So I just continued knitting the K4 P2 rib pattern as I increased the sleeves and it made a lot of difference with time, aggravation, and ease of wearing.

Then there was the knitting it together. Before I did so, and starting the day before my birthday and visit to the alpaca farm, I began to weave in the yarn ends. I HATE weaving in yarn ends. It's a pain. It's kind of meticulous, kind of mindless, but you have to pay some attention to what you're doing and it just seems never-ending. *Blech* I wanted to weave in enough so that by the time I had finished sewing up the seams, I wouldn't have that many yarn ends to weave in before I blocked it. *Blech* again. The discipline of martial arts training kicked in here, and I meticulously wove in yarn ends that weren't on the seam line. Some of them, anyway.

Which brings me to seaming. Ah, seaming. There are people who hate to sew up seams. Me, not so much. I don't mind seams - remember, I use to frame needlework and THAT can be meticulous and all-encompassing. But I made the mistake I've made in the past, where I decide what a shame it is to waste all that yarn at the shoulder join, and wouldn't it be better to just knit a portion of the sleeve seam?? Well, no, no it wouldn't. And here's why: it bulks up. No matter how careful you are, no matter how much easing you're doing to the portion closest to where you began to join the sleeve with this method, you're going to wind up with one side flat and one side with 5-10 extra stitches that you need to answer for. So the solution is to take it out and re-try it. And the same thing happens. What is that definition of insanity? I knit one portion of one sleeve during the final episode of "Lost" using this method. The entire 2 hours of the final episode of "Lost." When will I learn??

You guessed it - I put it down, picked it back up, and with that strong martial arts discipline I learned oh-so-many years ago, I started from the edge, made the center of the sleeve ribbing (in between the cables) match with the shoulder seam, for both sleeves, all while re-watching the final episode of "Lost." Inset sleeves are tricky in the best of circumstances, but inset sleeves that include cable/ribbed patterns require meticulous attention to which stitches you are seaming to which. So here is the end result:

Since the seams here are obvious, even to the non-knitter,
I had to be very, very careful with making sure they matched.

And here is a close-up, showing sleeve detail of which I am especially proud:

Sleeve seaming detail

Of course, that meant that I had to weave in and cut off otherwise perfectly good, long yarn ends that all meet at the shoulder join, but I'll just have to get over it.

And another thing of which I am extremely proud are the side seams. They are almost invisible and I really, really have to say I am proud of the extra time I took to make them almost as perfect as any stockinette stitch sweater (I've never seamed on reverse stockinette, a.k.a. purl, stitches before:

Side seam detail. You almost can't see it. Go me!

Then there is the neck. Someday, I may re-knit the neck. The cover picture of this sweater shows a very, very small rolled neck. Not for me. Mine was much longer; almost too long. The neck is knit after the shoulder seams are joined (giving you a vest-like sweater), and this one called for picking up and knitting with smaller needles, starting with a K1P1 rib, then decreasing, then knitting until it reaches where you want it to reach. Which on me, after 6 rounds, was about to the top of my collarbone. Yup, I have a large-ish shoulder-to-neck measurement, and therefore need more neckline than the pattern anticipated. And it's not the pattern's fault, either - it's a by-product of not knitting enough sweaters for myself and knowing how things will finish up. So what this means is, someday I may decide to undo and re-knit the neckline, using the same size needles and continuing with the pattern for at least 2 pattern repeats (2"), then starting on the formal neckline. But not now - now is just for wearing and admiring and receiving (I hope!) complements from those who see me in it. So here's the neckline in question; knitters out there, let me know your thoughts on the necessity of re-knitting this neckline at some point in time:

Longer than I anticipated, this is the rolled-neck ending to this sweater

Oh, and the other amazing thing about this sweater, and another reason I chose to knit the size that was close to my bust size instead of L (48"): it relaxed after I blocked it. I was really beginning to worry that I had knit an M and the sizing gods would punish me by having it be too tight and with too-tight cables. Now that would be embarrassing. But no, it relaxed both out and down, so the sleeves reach a little bit below my wrists, enough for me to pull my hands in when it's cold outside (like in the N. GA mountains), and the horizontal is eased so that it fits comfortably around my 44" (pattern size M) bustline.

Hurrah! It is finished! And just because it's my blog post and I want to, here is the Brambleberry sweater in all of its finished glory (again):