Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fantasy vs. Reality

There's nothing like a string of warm days to make me really crave a warm merino jacket.


Pattern: 96-3 Short jacket knitted from side to side in Alpaca, another free pattern from DROPS Design
Yarn: Karabella Aurora 8, Anthracite colorway, 9 balls, US 6 needle
Mods: I made some ill-considered mods to the sleeve that while not disastrous, I would not recommend other knitters do. I'll add detailed discussion in my Rav notes for future knitters of this pattern.

I'm trying to decide if I'm disappointed with this garment, or if I am just being too hard on myself. It's not as if I've knit a total failure of a sweater; it's a striking design, and I've already gotten lots of compliments on it. It resembles a commercially-made sweater, in a good way, in that it is sophisticated and simple. It was a simple knit as well. It got a little big and unwieldy at the end, like all knit-in-one-piece garments, but the pattern isn't challenging to make at all.

It's just not how I envisioned it. I imagined something a little swingier, a little drapier.

Do you all suffer from this, when your actual sweater doesn't live up to the fantasy sweater?

While I really enjoyed knitting with the Karabella, it wasn't the best choice of yarn for this project. Knitting with the yarn is like buttah, so smooth and silky. It makes a beautiful fabric with incredible spring and body. Combine this with a 2x2 rib pattern and we have the perfect storm of fiber memory here. I have to vigorously steam block it every time I wear it because no matter how many times I wet-block this thing, it shrinks! The length shortens a bit, it becomes a little snug in the arms and the sleeve shrink up a little.

The solutions were many. I could have used a larger needle, of course, but I was concerned about wear in a 100% merino sweater. I am hopeful that as I wear the sweater it will droop a bit more; some comments on Ravelry have suggested that the yarn will lose some of its vaunted springiness.

But I'm left feeling frustrated that I struggle with pairing yarns with projects. I have difficulty extrapolating the behavior of a yarn from a swatch, and often don't anticipate what I really want from the fabric of a garment before I select a yarn. Once again, I have a nicely knit, wearable sweater in a beautiful yarn, just not the right beautiful yarn.

22 comments:

Sally said...

It is a gorgeous sweater that looks great on you. But I feel your pain. I just made a shawl that looks like an afghan.

I don't bother to swatch (gasp!) because 1. I'm lazy and 2. my project never behaves like my swatch anyways. I'm sure that there are fans of yours who will read this post and be able to offer you something besides commiseration. ;o)

Margene said...

The sweater looks fabulous and is an interesting design. When you knit in pieces it's fairly easy to make the changes needed and not knit and reknit to whole thing. This design would be difficult to know what to do until you're finished...but it does look great and I hope you can/will wear it regardless.

Annie said...

I think your sweater looks fantastic. I hear you on the disappointment note - Blouson has a slew of people *hearting* it, but it's actually so bad I can't even wear it. Blech.

Kristy said...

It really does look great! I think it also looks comparable to the picture on the pattern. I hope you'll be able to eventually accept it :)

anne marie said...

I think you look gorgeous, as always. you are much too hard on yourself, girlfriend.

buttah...streisand...gorgeous...do I hear "funny girl" music strains?

nova said...

I always get so disenchanted with the sweaters I knit for myself. That is probably why there are three of them sitting on needles.

I thinkg the sweater looks great, Liz! It's definitely NOT a loser.

LaurieM said...

Every mistake is just one more lesson that will lead you to that perfect pairing.

In the meantime, that's a lovely sweater.

Marnie said...

i think it looks gorgeous on you, but I know that of which you speak, oh so well. I was just talking to my sister (who says hi, by the way) about how everything I knit for myself either fits wrong, is the wrong yarn, or some other how just ends up being not what I wanted. Other people love the things I make for them, so maybe it's as you say - our expectations of knitting ourselves the perfect something.

anyway. i love your jacket. even if you don't.

Octopus Knits said...

I think it looks great! Obviously it's always difficult when the reality doesn't match what you had in mind...

tiennie said...

I love this on you! It looks fantastic! I don't think you should be disappointed at all.

Lolly said...

I really think it turned out well - very nice and unique! and if you have already received several compliments from people in real life (and on the blog) that shows that it is a great garment! :)

That being said, I have had a few disappointments like that myself... I have a very specific vision of something, and it does not quite live up...

willemtje said...

You look fabulous in it. Couldn't you just use a little fabric softener so make the yarn less springy and clingy? Btw I was just looking for something new to inspire me and this might just be it. Thanks for the photos and your blog,

Willemtje, a Dutch knitter

TheYarnLounge said...

I love this sweater! It's been in my Ravelry queue for ages, I'm just waiting for the right yarn to come along. I rarely make the sweaters I knit, too. But in this case, wear it loud-wear it proud. It's GORGEOUS! (if you need to find someone to wear it, ship it on down to Richmond, I'm happy to offer my shoulders)
-Stewart

SJ said...

Now see, if you had posted only photos and basic stats without any other remarks, I would have thought you were thrilled with this sweater! It does have that commercially-made look (i.e., it looks professional and well sewn up) and it fits you beautifully. But I certainly appreciate how frustrating it must be to not get the result you were hoping for. I think the shrinking caused by the horizontal ribbing would drive me crazy -- could you possible add on to the bottom hem to make it a little heavier and pull it down? I'm not thinking anything drastic here, maybe an applied icord or something.

diana said...

Interestingly, I am always impressed at how well the sweaters you make fit you and how great they look on you. Like sj, I was surprised to hear you didn't love it. Fwiw, I think it's really great-looking.

I do find that I'm always happier with my smaller projects (mittens, shawls, etc) rather than my bigger ones (sweaters...)

Teresa C said...

I know that feeling, it is sometimes difficult to judge a yarn by its swatch. It could be that over time and wearing that gravity will help with the length, although, with the rib in that yarn with such great memory, it really is only time that will tell. I've added it to my queue, it is so cute.

BTW-I really came over to tell you that I answered the message you left me on Ravelry, sorry it took a few days from the time you left it to the time I read it. Feel free to ask me anything to make it clearer.

Ann said...

Liz, it's really wonderful! I'm sorry that it will be such a b*%$& to "prepare for wearing" (ie. blocking the heck out of it). The information you've put on Ravelry will help lots of other knitters think about spring and fiber memory before knitting this.

That said, I'd love to knit this! It's really stunning.

lekkercraft said...

Aw, I think you're being hard on yourself -it looks great. I came he through Ravelry because I was looking at this sweater in my queue and seeing what people had done, and yours jumped out as one I really liked!

Laurie (Moo!) said...

I think the sweater looks great on you! Being petite it's the perfect length - though having to block it so much is a PITA.

You're not alone in your yarn/pattern trials. Wouldn't it be great to have a list of alternate yarns for every pattern, geared especially towards your stash? :-D

femiknitter said...

Well, I definitely think the sweater looks lovely--I really love the design. However, I understand what your saying about pairing the right yarn to the right pattern. The only solution I can think of is to make a smaller project (like fingerless mittens or a neckwarmer) with a yarn you're considering--it might give you a better sense of how it behaves. Plus, you will have a chance to wear your small FO to "try out" the yarn.

keri said...

The sweater looks very pretty on you but I hear your problem. I have a very hard time mixing the right yarn with pattern to get the right fit. It's almost like finding a needle in a haystack.

Anonymous said...

So, I suggest a possible fix for your sweater and sleeve-snugness. Not to suggest that you haven't considered it, but to tell you that I have done both of these successfully on projects and it made the difference between being not-so-happy and satisfied. Solution 1: knit a gusset and insert it into the seam at the underarm.
Solution 2: knit two panels in pattern (I think the cable would be ideal in this case) to be inserted into the side seams. I did this on a sweater than I wanted more room for and pretended it was an on-purspose design element.
Betty