Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ready for the Weather

I now declare myself ready for the colder weather that's just around the corner. Why? Because my hand-spun Stormwatch sweater is here! It's a big woolly bear of a sweater. A cozy rag rug of a sweater. When I spun this yarn, I pictured a big slouchy cardigan, and by gum, that's what I got!

I was seriously worried about whether there was enough yarn to finish the Stormwatch sweater. I'd bought some inexpensive roving at a festival, described rather generically as "medium wool," that turned out to be, well, not a lovely high-quality fiber to work with. It was lumpy and full of neps, and maybe the less said about that the better. I labored mightily to turn this homely stuff into some sort of usable yarn, blending three colors together, and making a virtue of necessity by tolerating the lumps and aiming for a coarse, rustic yarn. So when this was gone, it would be gone.

About halfway through the Stormwatch sweater, I was really starting to fret. But then thank goodness for Bess, the sweet voice of reason, who suggested in the comments that if I ran short I might be able to do something nice with stripes in the sleeves, to make up any shortage with another harmonious yarn.

As it turned out, I had enough yarn and a bit more. (I'm glad I didn't design the sweater to be a single inch longer, though.) But I can't tell you how freeing it was to realize that if I didn't have enough, I could just call it a design feature and still wind up with a sweater. After that, I clicked light-heartedly away. Thanks, Bess!

Whenever I design my own sweater, though, I have worries to spare. Stormwatch is a saddle-shouldered design, which I haven't tried before. I wanted a scoop neck, but I wasn't sure how big to make it. I measured and eye-balled against some of the other sweaters in my closet, but didn't have a good feel for how the saddle shoulder design would affect it. It's a big wide-open neck, that's for sure. I thought I'd blown it. But when I got the buttons on today, it started looking a lot better. When I realized I could layer any kind of collar under it, even a big cowlneck, it looked a little better even yet. When my mom-in-law, who happened to be here for a visit, singled out the big open neckline for compliments, it started looking so much better I could almost convince myself if was intentional. :)

The Stormwatch yarn did indeed turn out to be bulky. (Portly, I think may be the word I was looking for.) The sweater is knit on US size 11 needles, at a gauge of 11 stitches/4 inches. Because of its bulk, when I seamed it up, I tried out a tip I'd seen but hadn't done before, which is to use a different, lighter-weight yarn to sew the seams.

I happened to have a partial ball of Dale Baby Ull lying around from a past baby bootie project, in a medium gray that blended perfectly with the complex blue-gray of Stormwatch. (A good omen for the project, maybe? And all the buttons being on sale when I went to the local fabric store in search of something suitable. Clearly the planets were aligning for this sweater.) It's a fingering weight 100% superwash wool yarn, and it was very lovely to work with in the booties project, I might add.

So the Baby Ull is what I used. It worked out swimmingly. I just might have to use that trick again, when working on a bulky project. It added practically no bulk at the seams. It was an interesting contrast, as well, between the nubby, grabby handspun and the smooth commercial superwash yarn. I can now understand why people refer to superwash wool as slippery. It certainly slipped through easily when I pulled up a thread to tighten a seam, that's for sure. Because of that, I was very careful to anchor the ends securely, weaving in a longer length and changing directions a few times.

All in all, I'm very pleased. I made a mistake buying a penny-wise pound-foolish bargain, but persevered and made something I'm happy with instead of giving it up for lost. I'm stubborn that way, I'm afraid. But I may have learned my lesson. I'm not that stubborn. I'll evaluate more carefully instead of just getting carried away by a sale. And, spinning novice that I still am, I learned a lot about what makes a fiber good to work with and what kinds of effects you get when it's not ideal. So all that was lost is some aggravation, and some imaginary smooth svelte sweater that it might have been if it were other wool.

And it's ended well, I must say. This is the kind of sweater that is so comfortable that, once I had it seamed up and tried it on, I was reluctant to take it off even to sew on the buttons. Something tells me I'll be living in this one, pulling it on by default whenever it's chilly and I need a little comfort. I didn't really know where I was going with my bargain roving, but I'm glad I wound up here. Welcome, Stormwatch!


Bess said...

You're welcome and WEEE Haaaa on the completed sweater. It looks like a big blue hug. I agree - the wide neckline makes it so much more versatile.

Funny thing about neppy yarn - a little is fun - a lot is a pain. We do learn to buy clean fiber, to buy only that which we love, to take our spindles with us to be sure we are going to love it. I actually threw away some nasty fibers that didn't make me happy - once I learned that there are challenging fibers and some that are really just hoodlums.

Happy autumn in your great sweater.

Anonymous said...

It's most encouraging to read about your spinning and success with Stormwatch. I have done almost no real spinning to date and am trying to spin some fleece from my friend's sheep. This is an inherently neppy fleece type but I do not feel hard done by having bought a poor fleece or anything like that (it was a gift!) - it is just something to deal with since I am only a beginner and the wool has other good qualities. I had my eye on a Rowan pattern to use my first clumsy spinning attempts and am pushing determinedly ahead - but - after my first spinnings I am making much thinner fibre than I expected and it is hard to exercise any control to make a "chunky" end product.
It was great to see and hear about Stormwatch - the wide neck and colour are (I think) exceedingly fashionable currently - and when they cease to be, you will still have a great sweater!

jessie said...

Congratulations on your sweater. I don't know if you are a reader of my blog, but I just went through the same thing with my first handspun sweater. Very bulky, short on yardage. I squeaked by with some cheating, but the fear of not having enough yarn was enough to make me put the whole thing on the shelf for a good six months!

Lovely sweater.