It is a good omen to start the new year with a victory, isn't it? I know this little, unassuming mass of stockinette seems like nothing much, but for me, it is wearable proof of how far I have come as a knitter.
I have this commercially made sweater, a boatneck pullover knit with a fuzzy mohair-type yarn, knit at a larger gauge so that the sweater is lightweight but warm. It had seen a lot of wear for a couple of seasons, but it has gotten a bit ratty, and is ready to be retired.
Enter the Deep Breath sweater from Webs. I generally don't look too closely at their patterns, but this one caught my eye since it was for a sweater in laceweight yarn. I had never really considered using my laceweight stash to make a sweater, but I liked the idea. I could have easily purchased the pattern. It costs $1.50. Seriously. But I have, in the past, bought patterns for some top-down sweaters, and felt really suckered in the end. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. If you have Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top, you do not need a pattern to make a sweater. You need a decent sized swatch, a measuring tape, and a calculator, and that is it.
So I used the measurements of my commercial sweater as my guide, and cast on. I was pleased to find as I knit the sweater that I would not need any shaping in the body, since the fabric created by knitting this yarn at this gauge (about 5 spi) is wonderfully stretchy and sexily clingy. So while I planned for no negative ease (I didn't want the fabric to stretch or look distorted over the bust), I didn't have to decrease for the waist. The fabric did all the work for me.
But when I cast off, lightly blocked and tried the thing on, the neckline was way too wide. It drooped and made the armscyes too deep. It rendered the sweater unwearable. The body fit beautifully, so I was loath to frog the whole thing, and cutting off the yoke and grafting was also a bad option in this yarn, which is a bit sticky and shows every uneven stitch.
I tried to crochet an edge at first, but it still sagged in the shoulders. So I began to pick up stitches at the neck, and experimented with necklines that would raise the entire yoke of the sweater.
My mind eventually drifted to one of the very first sweaters I ever tried to make for myself, the Mohair Cowl Pullover from IK Winter 2004. Due to an unfortunate yarn substitution, it was also the first sweater I ever made and them immediately frogged. I referred to the instructions to make a cowl, threw in a couple of short-rows in the front to lengthen the cowl, and eventually ended up with a drapey cowl that is perfect for short-necked, graciously endowed, petite gals like me. It had the added plus of totally camouflaging the old garter-stitch neckline, and fixing the fit issues beautifully.
The cowl does change the overall effect of the sweater, which was intended to be a lightweight layer to wear over a tank. Now, it is cozier and looks great layered with a tissue-tee, although it isn't exactly appropriate for the arctic chill we've been experiencing. I regret using yarn-overs for my raglan increases, but I do think that they'll take the sweater into warmer seasons over the aforementioned tank.
It feels like a full-circle moment, this sweater. This is the sweater I was going for four years ago. Four years ago, there is no way I could take a swatch and a sweater in my closet and make something that fit and flattered. I could never had said things like "threw in a couple of short rows" or "I planned for no negative ease." I could never have problem solved my way out of a loser sweater into a winner. This is a great way to start the year!
Details: Four Year Sweater
Pattern: a combination of the Deep Breath sweater and Barbara Walker's Top-Down wisdom.
Yarn & Needles: Touch of Twist Zephyr, Dianthus colorway, purchased at MDSW for nine dollars, a little less than 900 yds. Addi Lace US 6 needles gave me a gauge of 5spi.