Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Revision Quest, or Tale of My Sweater

Last fall I decided to knit myself a sweater. It had been many years since I knitted a sweater, and the one I'd knit way back in 1992 was completed only by the good graces of the tiny, octagenerian who owned the yarn store I frequented, a lovely New Zealander named Alice. Alice walked me through the final stages, step by step, stitch by stitch. She did a good bit of the finishing herself, if I recall correctly, which is why my first sweater ever was a triumph. I knitted it for my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and the sweater is still with us, high up on a closet shelf. The neck, it has to be said, is a little tight, and we're a big-headed family, so it doesn't actually get worn. But it still looks great.

I knitted Fine Young Son No. 2 a baby sweater, a sweet little cardigan with buttons but no button holes, and aside from the cruddy job attaching the sleeves to the body, it turned out well. I knitted my goddaughter, Megan, a sweater, and did the same cruddy sleeve job, but it still turned out pretty dang cute.

So I thought I was ready for a sweater of my own. I saw a pattern in Vogue Knitting last fall, in an ad, went on line, bought the pattern, bought the yarn (from Jimmy Beans, my favorite online yarn store) at quite a pretty penny, and got to knitting. It was an incredibly easy pattern, and I had the front, back and sleeves done in no time. I was not pleased with the neck, which had an unfinished look to it, but I thought maybe once I pieced everything together, I could mess around with the neck and get it to look the way I wanted it to.

(Note: I am actually not a good enough knitter to mess around and make things right. I was deluding myself).

I had learned a lot about piecing things together from working on my goddaughter's sweater, and I felt I was up to the job of my sweater. I pieced the front and back together. Lovely. I attached the sleeves. I took the sleeves off. Attached them. Took them off. Finally got one on right. The second sleeve, however, was too big. I tried everything I could think of to make it fit in nicely. It wouldn't. I decided to live with it.

Only when I put the sweater on, it didn't look good. One big problem: it was a drop sleeve sweater. I hadn't given this much thought when I bought the pattern, but now I realized this was a look I couldn't pull off. I'm a broadchested kinda gal, and drop sleeves only serve to emphasize this. Add to this that the neck was too wide and allowed a fair viewing of my bra straps.

By the time I pieced the sweater together, it was spring, so it wasn't like I was going to get a lot of wear out of it anyway. I put it away. Maybe it would look better in the fall.

Now here we are at the end of August. I was going through my study closet this morning (deciding yet again it was just too messy to organize) when I happened upon my sweater. Maybe things had changed over the summer. Maybe I'd been imagining all those problems. I took it into my bedroom and tried it on.

I'm sad to say it is still a problematic sweater. It made me look frumpy and lumpy. I stared at it in the mirror and thought about all the time and money I'd invested in it. Would I just have to chalk it up to an object lesson, eat the loss?

And then I had a realization. When I started knitting the sweater, I weighed about thirty-five pounds more than I do now (Weight Watcher's, baby: I highly recommend it). In fact, the sweater is huge. I took it off and laid it across my bed. The sweater looked even huger. I put it back on and went to the mirror. If I grabbed a big hunk of sweater in the back and pulled the sweater tight, it actually looked pretty good. One of the sleeves was still set in sort of funky, but that's to be expected of anything knitted by my left-handed self: there's going to be a funk factor.

So maybe I'll frog the entire thing and start again--this time in a smaller size. I am, it should be said, an excellent reviser. I never get things right the first time. Rarely on the second time, either. But the third time? Honey, it's the charm.

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