Saturday, November 21, 2009

Almost Opulent

Sleeve adjustment completed, I now have a finished sweater to smile over.

It's almost but not quite Wendy Bernard's Opulent Raglan, from the Fall 2008 issue of KnitScene. I made the sweater in Patons Classic worsted-weight wool, in a color called Cognac Heather. I made it in a size with a little negative ease. As usual, I changed a few things. The original sweater is 3/4 sleeved, a longish length, and has a hemmed bottom. It's very attractive, but it isn't quite me. So I shortened it to hip length, added a ribbed edge at the bottom, and made the sleeves full-length. And changed the cuff design. I did very much like the big scrunchy central cable flanked with textured cable twists, so I left that alone. :)

I also like the square neckline, though that was the cause of some worrying. In the magazine, the neckline is so deep that it reveals a bit of cleavage. It's an attractive look, but it does limit a sweater's versatility for my daily working life. And for most of the time while the knitting was underway, it looked like it was heading in exactly that direction. I figured I would just have to wear layers under it.

This was my first time knitting a sweater from the top down, in the round, so that it could be tried on practically from the beginning. As soon as the neckline and armholes emerged, I was poking my head and arms through them to have a look. I threaded the stitches onto a really long circular needle cable and pulled the sweater on. (I still lost a few stitches off the ends each time and retrieve them, sputtering and grumbling, but that's another story. Eventually I learned that it was worth the bit of extra time to put stoppers on the ends.) The neckline looked voluptuously deep, and I wondered if I might actually have to worry about its falling entirely off the cliff, so to speak. But I did know that adding the ribbing would firm up the edge and would probably close it up a little. If not, well, layering.

I tried that sweater on over and over as it progressed. (I found that, for me, the good thing about trying on a top-down raglan in progress is that you can. The bad thing is that you might feel you must. Again and again.) I was especially careful about trying on and measuring to gauge the length for the long sleeves I wanted, since that frontier was untrodden by the pattern instructions. I made them longer, in fact, after a first try. I fussed over the cuffs as well, since the version in the pattern designed to be worn just under the elbow was a more dramatic look than I wanted to see at my wrists.

Finally, I had everything just the way I wanted it, and I picked up stitches and knitted on the neckband. And guess what that did? It tightened up the neckline. It tightened it a lot. Suddenly it was quite a ladylike neckline. I'm not sure why it's that much higher than in the pattern photo. It's the same number of stitches, but I must have knit the ribbing significantly tighter than the designer did. But that was fine; it worked in my favor and preserved modesty.

I wove in all the ends and tried it on again. Happily declared it done. Admired it in the mirror. Wondered why those shrewdly judged sleeves were an inch too short. Sighed deeply and realized the neckline's connected to the shoulder, the shoulder's connected to the sleeve... and the tightened neck must have hiked the whole thing up. So I unpicked all the carefully buried ends, ripped out those poufy cuffs, and added an inch to both sleeves. It was aggravating, but it's done, anyway.

And now I have a finished sweater that I like very much. It dresses up or down. For work, it looks good under a jacket, which frames the cable texture nicely. Those big cuffs peek out of the jacket sleeves and feel just slightly romantic, without drawing too much attention to themselves.

My verdict on the top-down, in-the-round construction is mixed. It's interesting to try a sweater on as you go, but, ahem, there could still be one or two little hitches. I've generally had pretty good luck with the fit on traditional pieced-and-sewn sweaters when I measure at the beginning, make a plan, and hope for the best. And I quite like that "ta-da" feeling you get when you seam it up and suddenly, pouf, there's a whole new sweater to try on. One other observation is that the sweater seems to want to twist a little bit. I've had seamless commercial t-shirts that do this, too. I think perhaps if it had the structure of seams, it would stay straighter.

So I'm not quite a convert to the method. But I know more than I did before, and it's another technique to use when it makes sense. And I love the sweater. And that can't be bad.


Amy said...

I find that I constantly try on top-downs, too. With both the good and the bad results. :)

But yours looks totally fantastic! Congratulations.

Christina said...

Looks excellent - well done!

puffthemagicrabbit said...