Saturday, April 20, 2013

Crochet-edged Swing Jacket

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I had a huge cone of teeny yarn, manufactured (I think) for machine knitting.  It was a beautiful color, kind of a taupe, beige-ish gray.  Warm gray.  It seemed a little scratchy, but there was a lot of it, and I knew it would be just right for something, eventually.  It sat in my cupboard for, I’m not even kidding, around fifteen years, waiting for the perfect project to come along so it could become that thing.  We were patient together, me and the yarn.

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It finally wanted to be a sweater, so I cast on for this with the idea that it would have large crocheted lace panels at the fronts and big lacy cuffs.  I wanted it to be somewhat long, with a swingy hem.  I wanted to work on it forever, too, or at least I must have wanted that, because I decided to knit it on US size 2 needle; a virtual guarantee that the knitting of it would last a thousand years. 

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I cast on at the neck edge and began working from the top-down.  A top-down sweater kind of measures itself as you go, so there’s not much to do, you know?   Once you know how many stitches to cast on, and the routine of where to increase, you just keep doing that until the raglan seam is the right length for your actual self and the rest will probably fit.  You get a little burst of interest when you divide the body from the sleeves, and then a lot of plain knitting again, relieved only by the occasional consideration about body shaping and upcoming decisions about the hem.  So, knitting this got boring pretty quickly.  It lasted a thousand years.  Well, a couple months anyway.  I began to hate the yarn. 

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It was splitty, and kind of rough.  It looked terrible, too, in its pre-blocked state.  It looked like wet cardboard.  It looked like old mulch.  More than once, I almost threw it in the trash. 

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But there’s something about having most of a sweater all done that makes a person keep going, even when a dozen doubts overshadow her confidence, even when the knitting is a miserable slog.  The sleeves, knit in the round with no shaping on sock needles, went fairly fast, and then I settled on this edging for the fronts and cuffs, called Mermaid Scales, from this book.  That took awhile, and I really, really hated the yarn at that point.  The hook snagged in it continuously. I took more than the usual number of sanity breaks (granny squares, anyone?) and when I put the sweater on, to see how it was working for fit, it squeezed my upper arms like a blood pressure cuff.  I debated, again, throwing it away in a fit of rage.  It would have felt pretty good to do that.  I dug deep, though, and believed in the power of blocking to rescue me in the end.  I guess I don’t have to tell you that it did.  Blocking saved this sweater. 

Here it is in progress.  I had lightly steam-blocked the body, just to quiet my mind about the mess it was, and give myself the will to move on.  It was so tiny and wrinkly and scratchy and miserable until I did that, and I did not want to keep knitting it.  You can see where I had begun work on the right sleeve.  That’s what it looked like unblocked.  Stiff and bumpy and ugly. Yuck. 

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When it was finished, I soaked it in the sink and then spread it out flat on the rug to dry.  A measure of the circumference of my upper arm revealed I was going to have to get fancy here, if I wanted it to fit me comfortably, and using pins to block it hard, the way I would for lace, would have left a ton of little scallops around the edge—no good.  I wanted to give it a hard block, though, to really straighten out the stockinette stitch, soften the wool, and give it some drape, so I cut some pieces of cardboard to the correct measurements and stuck them down into the damp sleeves.

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Yes!  That’s it, the perfect shape and size.  It worked beautifully.

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So, you know, not to keep going on about blocking and everything, but…yeah.  Blocking is the only reason this is in my closet and not in the trash.  Worth it. 

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I was sewing on the buttons and trying to remember which side is the “girl’s side” which I can never remember—I decided, finally, to just alternate them, which might help it stay buttoned, we’ll see.  Those holes are pretty big. 

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This poor yarn is Jaggerspun Maine Line, 2/8 fingering weight, in the colorway “Arrowhead”.  It is probably perfect for machine knitting.  I like to believe it would be perfect for that.  Hoo!  Time to make something else.