Teaching Moments

Forty hours. That's what I quote as the average amount of time it takes me to knit a sweater. It doesn't seem like a lot, down on paper: in fact, many of us work forty hours or more for our jobs every week. Knitting time doesn't come in solid chunks, but in tiny, gem-like moments that shine at the end of an evening, the quiet solace of a morning, a late night or long train ride. This is time that we spend only on ourselves, on our project, on the relationship between our hands, our minds, and beautiful yarn we have chosen. So when those hours yield a resulting project that is less than ideal, it can be a huge disappointment. I've had two such disappointments in the past four months, and I'm here to share. My name is Hannah, and I have two sweaters that must be unraveled. 

What happens when your knitted sweater is a failure?

When I set out to knit these garments, I chose beautiful yarns to start with--yarns that I was passionate about using. Every moment spent with these yarns was pure joy, so I can't look back on our time together with too much regret. The pattern and yarn pairing wasn't a bad match either: I got gauge, the textures were just right, the hand of the finished fabric on both garments is lovely. Unfortunately, the fit just wasn't right on either of these sweaters. Upon trying them on, even wearing one of them for multiple months, I simply cannot fall in love with them as they are. Sometimes, we knit thing that disappoint us. It is not the pattern designer's fault, or the fault of the yarn, or even our own faults, really. It's hard to know from a few photos in a magazine or a couple projects completed on an online site how something will really fit you, the individual. Even so, it's hard to come to terms with the nearly 100 hours I've probably spent working on these two projects.

Bloch Ness

I finished my Bloch Ness back in November, but I haven't taken any photos of it yet, because, frankly, I wasn't sure it was going to stay a sweater. I adore the yarn--Bare Naked Wools' Kent DK is my absolute favorite base from the BNW line. It has a wonderful twist, two very bouncy plies, and the most delightful hand in the world. It feels woolly, but not itchy, and it's warm. I know it's warm because after completing this cardigan, I've worn it almost every single cold day. It's the sweater my friend Amelia reaches for when she's co-working in my cottage and gets chilly. It's the cardigan I pull on to grab the mail, take out the trash, run errands or go on a walk--and yet, it's not quite what I wanted. There are little things that make it a less than satisfactory finished object for me: the sleeves are too long, and the armholes much too big. The body fits fine, but the buttons and bands are heavy. The collar doesn't sit quite right on my neck. All of these are no fault of the designer--in honesty, it looks exactly like the photo on Ravelry. I just don't like it on me. What I've learned, most importantly from this garment is that I need a coat-like sweater that is long enough to cover my butt, and comfortable enough to wear over other layers around the house, so I'll be on a hunt for a new pattern to turn this yarn into. 

Hope Cardigan

Then, there's my Hope Cardigan. Recently cast off, I could not have been more thrilled to slip this beauty on and see it in a mirror. The yarn, which is an ultra-soft Merino DK weight, hand-dyed by my dear friend Annie from Annie Yarn, is absolutely beautiful. It's a range of soft, blue-grays and slight purple tones that seems like it will go with so many things. I purposefully knit this cardigan in an ultra-soft yarn so that I could wear it next to skin in transitional weather. I wear a lot of silk tops, and this was a missing piece in my wardrobe puzzle. Unfortunately, when I tried it on, my heart sank. The neckline is far too wide. The body sits awkwardly because my shoulders aren't strong enough to hold it up. The body sags, then scoops upward at the 1x1 ribbing edge. The beautiful, elegant details that are throughout the piece are just totally lost in how poorly it fits me. Next time? Something with more fit, more shaping, and a narrower neckline. 

What if a sweater doesn't work out?

In times like these, I am grateful that I spent the time that I did choosing yarns I love to work with. I cannot imagine unraveling yarn that I'm not madly in love with; with both of these yarns, I cannot imagine leaving them as-is, never to be worn in their current form. It is with this loving resignation that both of these sweaters will be taken apart, gingerly re-wound into balls that can be knit into something that fits a little better. The irony is not lost at me that on the tail of a Vogue Knitting Live teaching event, where I gave a talk titled Sweater Knitting Success, I myself have two sweater 'failures' of a sort: it just goes to show that even with every precaution and effort taken, this craft still throws us surprises. While unraveling, I'll think about the time I spent making these sweaters. Long chats with friends, sunny mornings and coffee, and a Christmas holiday are wound into every stitch: I can only hope that these good feelings come back to me while I take apart and start something new.