So In Love
May 12, 2014
September 26, 2014

So In Love

Project info
Alecia Beth by Justyna Lorkowska
Needles & yarn
US 4 - 3.5 mm
US 5 - 3.75 mm
Cascade Yarns ® Heritage Silk
48 yards in stash
2.61 skeins = 1140.6 yards (1042.9 meters), 261 grams
Yarn Tree Studio
February 6, 2014

From the name of this sweater, you might imagine that I was enamored from the moment I picked up yarn and needles, that each stitch was an act of devotion that culminated in an overwhelming swell of bliss as the last button was sewn on, the last tail woven in, and the final garment wrapped about my chilly shoulders.

You would be terribly mistaken.

The name has nothing to do with the knitting at all. I chose it because the yarn was the exact same shade as a tube of lotion whose scent I was rather fond of. The lotion was a customer gift from a clothing retailer, and I’ve long used it up. I thought I’d commemorate the fragrance with the sweater name. I had such high hopes then.

Before I mislead you into thinking that I hate the sweater--that I kept the name ironically or something--I should stress that I love the finished sweater, and I’m very glad I knit it. I have no complaints about the pattern, neither for the aesthetic choices nor for the instructions. I’m reasonably certain I’ll knit at least one more Justyna Lorkowska pattern.

But sweet fancy Moses! Was it ever a trial to reach the finish on this one. If you can believe it, I purchased the yarn and pattern with the intent of knitting it for the Ravellenic Games. As it turned out, I ended up working a lot of overtime during those two to three weeks, so I never had a chance to start. I procrastinated a bit after that, then finally swatched.

And everything went sideways from there.

I knit my swatch larger than 4 inches x 4 inches, and I washed and blocked it as I intended to do with the finished garment. Despite having seen proof on past projects that I’m a tight knitter, I honestly believed that this time I’d achieved the correct gauge. I knit all the way to the point where you join for the underarms before I had to admit to myself that it was far too small, and no amount of hopeful pulling and prodding would make it fit. So I frogged everything.

That first attempt wasn’t even logged in Ravelry, I was so discouraged. That start date up there? That was attempt number two.

I went up a needle size and swatched again. I knit to the point where you join for the armholes. I started to grow concerned that it, too, would be too small. I didn’t frog, but I started a third gauge swatch in a needle two sizes up from the recommendation. It looked awful, so I stuck to using one needle size up and trusted that it only looked too small across the shoulders. Fortunately for me, looks were deceiving and the shoulders turned out fine.

Unfortunately for me, the next section also proved problematic. I’d made it through the nearly the entire vanishing cable portion before I realized I’d made an error: the cables didn’t disappear at a constant rate as intended, but had a weird jag where I’d vanished too quickly or forgotten to vanish or something. I’m not even sure any more.

I couldn’t bear to frog again, so I painstakingly dropped several columns of stitches at a time to latch everything back up correctly. It took hours upon hours of eye-crossing focus, but in the end it was fixed.

I needn’t have bothered. Apparently, despite checking the schematic repeatedly, I grossly misjudged the length of the middle portion. I’m petite at only 5’2.“ There was no way I could get away with decreasing and increasing at the recommended rate, unless I wanted a tunic or possibly a sweater dress. I did not. I frogged to armpits.

I re-calculated the rates of decrease and increase. I knit through body portion with numb determination. I relaxed a bit when I finally got to the ribbing. I let my guard down.

My perfectionism snuck in to sabotage me. See, I was convinced that it would look best if I could find a way to bind off in pattern--not just for the ribbing, but for the mock cable section to. After much research, I gathered that the only way to do this would be with a sewn bind off. Nevermind the length of the edge, or the fact that the yarn is merino and silk. I steeled myself. I cut the yarn. I started sewing.

No matter what I tried the sewn approach looked terrible. I couldn’t make it work. I don’t think it can be made to work. I finally gave up and decided that any stretchy bind off would probably be fine. After a bit of trial and error, I chose the elastic bind off. I went up three needle sizes to be safe.

I ran out of yarn two inches from the end. I went down a needle size, and ran out again. I went down again, and then again, so that I was back at my original size, but still just didn’t have enough yarn to finish the bind off.

I sighed, cut the yarn at the start of the bind off edge, and joined the cake afresh. I bound off.

The button bands were, mercifully, slightly less complicated. I learned how to make one row buttonholes. Now I just need to perfect them, because they tend to pull on the adjacent stitches and leave holes on either side of the buttonhole proper.

The sleeves were more trial and error. I started out using Magic Loop, but soon discovered that despite my conviction that it’s my preferred method for small circumferences, I wasn’t enjoying the knitting or the outcome much. I bought DPNs so that I could switch and saw things improve.

The first sleeve went well to the elbow, but once I got to the cuff I realized they were too loose. (They probably would have been fine if I’d done three-quarter length sleeves, since the cuffs would have started right after the decreases ended anyway.) I frogged to the elbow and tapered the sleeve all the way to the wrist instead, then did the same for the second sleeve.

Time for the buttons. I stabilized my button and buttonhole bands using grosgrain ribbon, which I cut to the wrong size the first time, necessitating an emergency trip to the fabric store for more. The first six buttons went on well, but the next four were misplaced and had to be removed and resewn to actually line up with the buttonholes.

Finally, there were the ends. I hate weaving in ends, and I had extras because of the mishap with the bind off on the bottom edge. And yet I persevered.

Four and a half months later, I finally have a lovely, well-fitting cardigan for the fall and perhaps winter months. It’s not perfect, but I think that’s outweighed by the sheer relief of finally finishing it.

If I may wax poetic, knitting this was a lot more like an actual relationship than a fictional romance. It was a lot of work: several false starts, moments of overwhelming frustration, more than a few tears, and even stretches of unexpected tedium. But in the end I’m so proud, and so pleased. It was, actually, worth it all.

Things I Did Differently

  • Went up a needle size across the board, knitting the body and sleeves with a US 5 and (some of) the ribbing with a US 4. (I forgot to change needles on the cuffs, and I no longer remember if I changed needles for the hem band or the button and buttonhole bands.)
  • Shortened the body by changing the rate of decreases for the waist and increases for the hips.
  • Picked up stitches for the button and buttonhole bands at a rate of five stitches out of every six instead of three stitches out of every four for plusher, less stretched bands.
  • Used 13 buttons instead of 15.
  • Stabilized the button and buttonhole bands with grosgrain ribbon using this tutorial from Lauren “Lladybird” Taylor. I did not, however, interface my ribbon. If only my buttonholes lined up neatly, and didn’t have lingering tailor’s chalk and pencil marks around the edges. At least my whipstitching is small, tidy, and nearly invisible.
  • Continued the sleeve decreases as established for the full length of the sleeve.
  • Made the cuffs the same depth as the hem band.

Things I Would Do Differently

  • Don’t obsess about the cast on since it will end up inside the sweater once stitches are picked up for the neckline edging.
  • Review the schematic again before starting any new shaping sections. Be absolutely sure to understand and approve both the length and width that will be created.
  • Plan to use the elastic bind off. It’s the stretchiest bind off I’ve been able to find and works really well with ribbing and any other area that needs to stretch a lot. Don’t worry too much about going up a needle size to do it, though, since it doesn’t appear to make much of a difference.
  • Consider buttonhole placement more carefully. I centered the buttons vertically, leaving equal spaces at the bottom and top of the band, without taking into account that the neckline edging would also have a button and it would be centered vertically, leaving a larger than average gap between it and the top button on the button band. As a result, I probably could have fit in a fourteenth button. (I’m not superstitious, though, so thirteen buttons doesn’t bother me for that reason or anything.)
  • Where I joined the second skein of yarn, I had originally used the back join method from TECHKnitter (here and here). With apologies to TECHKnitter, whom I hugely respect and admire, I do not recommend this method. I ended up with an area on the sweater that looked like an appendix scar. Instead, I unwove the tails to the point where they were interlocked and then wove them back in the normal way, which looked more like the doubled stitches of the overlap method that I prefer for joining yarn. I’ll stick to that in the future.
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May 12, 2014
September 26, 2014
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About this yarn
by Cascade Yarns ®
85% Merino, 15% Silk
437 yards / 100 grams

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  • Project created: June 17, 2014
  • Finished: September 27, 2014
  • Updated: October 22, 2014
  • Progress updates: 2 updates