January One -- Acer
February 05, 2012
There is so much knitting to talk about I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed as to where to start. So I'll start here: I LOVE THIS SWEATER!
I love everything about it! It's the best fitting sweater I've ever knit. The yarn is fantastic. The pattern was a dream. And I so successfully challenged myself in the knitting of this sweater that I'm feeling just a wee bit invincible when it comes to future projects. (More on that in a future blog post!)
As I mentioned in my last post, Ravelry has become indispensable to me. It's my go to late night browsing and somehow I came across this sweater, Acer by Amy Christoffers. (If it was your version that first came to my attention I apologize that I can't remember!) Once I had settled on the pattern and the yarn, I started scouring the helpful notes that kind ravelers write and planned my attack. Basically, I decided to knit the sweater as written EXCEPT I wanted to try my hand at top down set-in sleeves. A few people had done it successfully and since the sleeves are stockinette it seemed like a good sweater to try it out on.
First I swatched. I've become a regular Clara Parkes! I knit three different swatches in this fabulous yarn on three different needle sizes. Kind of nice because I feel like I never have to swatch it again! Didn't I mention the yarn? Oh my god - Madelinetosh Vintage. Best.Sweater.Yarn.Ever! (In fact, I've already knit another sweater in this yarn and it was just as fabulous. I have a still have a sweater's worth in the stash and may have to go for another really soon!)
After all the swatching, I decided on size 6s, which gave me a gauge of 21 sts / 32 rows to the 4". The pattern calls for 20 sts / 28 rows so after doing some calculations, I settled on the size 38 to give me a 36.5", which gave me just the right amount of positive ease the pattern called for! YAY! Time to knit!
Super enjoyable knit. The fronts and the back are all knit in one piece to the armholes and it went extremely quickly. The cable/lace pattern is easy to memorize and just the right amount of complex that you don't get bored, but aren't mucking things up all the time. Things got really interesting after I split for the armholes. I opted to put the underarm stitches on holders instead of binding off and I made sure to pay really close attention to the number of rows I knit so I could duplicate it on both fronts and back. Usually I knit the sleeves at the same time and the fronts at the same time, so I was a bit paranoid about keeping things the same. It was a good thing I did because I had exact numbers at the ready when it came time to start doing the top down math for the sleeves.
Ah, the sleeves. The beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent sleeves! They almost killed me and my kids. I swear I did the first sleeve three times before I finally got it gloriously right! The idea of top down set in sleeves, loosely put, is that you pick up around the armhole and divide the stitches into three sections. The top third is the sleeve cap and you knit across that back and forth while implementing short rows on each stitch, one by one, after that section until you've knit short rows all the way around the armhole. Then you start knitting in the round and continue on until the sleeve is done. If you search top down set-in sleeves you will get a million hits on how to do this. I also HIGHLY recommend Barbara Walker's Knitting From The Top. So my first noticeable problem was my short row technique. I must have searched on a thousand different ways to short row and watched countless youtube videos and still they looked awful - especially on the purl side. Blech. And then I hit upon Socktopus' INGENIOUS short row technique: THE SHADOW WRAP! This is by far the best short row technique I've ever found. Really. You have to see it to believe it. And it's so damn easy too. Run. Go. I'll wait.
Fantastic right? Unbelievable! Okay - now that I had the short rows conquered and they looked beautiful I set about knitting the sleeve cap. The only thing was that I kind of winged the how many stitches do you pick up part. Without really paying much attention I thought okay - I usually pick up 3 out of 4 rows when doing a buttonband that should work no? NO. WRONG. DUH. I knit the whole damn cap picking up three times as many stitches as I needed (that's A LOT of short rows people!) and the cap came out a puffy puckery mess. (See this crappy cell phone picture here.) I hit the books.
After a gazillion more web sites and a dozen youtube videos I went back to the source - Barbara Walker. To quote:
Count the rows on the side armhole edge up the back or front, from underarm to shoulder.... Half of the remaining sleeve stitches (after subtraction of the underarm) must be picked up evenly from this number of rows, on each side, front and back. It may come out to 2 stitches picked up from every 3 rows, or 1 stitch every other row, or 4 stitches from every 5 rows, or some other proportion. Get this calculation right, and comfort yourself with the thought that it is the only calculation you will have to make.
Guess what? She is so smart! I counted my rows and came up with 32 stitches on each side that needed to be picked up. That ended up to be every other stitch - not the 3 out 4 I originally started with. BIG difference. I knit with confidence because Barbara said I should and voila! I knit the most beautiful sleeve cap EVER!
Gorgeous, no?!? Once I did the first the second was a snap and before I knew it I was laying out the sweater to dry after a nice soak. I'll be honest and tell you that I was nervous - nervous it was going to be too small, but I crossed my fingers and hoped that my swatch didn't lie and I was rewarded nicely!
Slightly saggy boobs aside (I swear I'm wearing the good bra!), trust me when I say this sweater fits like a dream! The swatch didn't lie and with the help of some knit geniuses, I have one of my most successful knits to date! THANK YOU Amy, Barbara, Soctopus, Madelinetosh and all those intrepid ravelers who took the time to share their notes. THANK YOU THANK YOU!
And thank YOU for reading! I really appreciate it!
PS - Next up: another finished sweater (I'm on a roll!), more crazy swatching and a (fingers-crossed) finished double-knit cowl! WHOA!
PPS - GO GIANTS!!!!!