Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Goldilocks Sweater

I finally finished my green Bartlett sweater a few weeks ago. It's perfect. Before I talk more about it, I have a confession to make. I have been putting off this post because I wanted to get some pictures of ME... wearing the sweater. And I hate taking pictures of myself, even for the purposes of showing off something awesome that I made and love wearing. Maybe I am vain and hate seeing pictures of myself-- maybe I just hate trying to be a model-- maybe I'm just shy. It's probably a bit of all three and who knows what else. I have always hated having my picture taken! I know I'm not alone in this. I should try to get over it. But I couldn't wait to talk about this sweater long enough for me to get over it!

So here it is:

I started knitting this in September 2016! It took me so long but it is perfect-- exactly what I wanted without knowing exactly how I was going to get there. From analyzing my sweater failures I knew I wanted a basic raglan pullover with long sleeves and a crew neck. Also I knew what I wanted in the finishes and details: a fold-over k1p1 ribbed collar, wide borders, tubular edges. I wanted to use the same style of increases I used on my improvised orange raglan sweater of long ago:

And I wanted it to fit perfectly: comfortable but not sloppy, with a silhouette somewhere between boyish and boyfriend-ish. But I didn't know what this meant in terms of measurements!

Fit is a tricky thing-- I spent a couple of years answering email questions for a knitting designer, and the most frequent question was "Which size should I make?" I always told knitters to measure a sweater they already owned-- and loved-- to help them decide. The trouble for me is that I don't own a lot of clothes that I really like! I didn't have a model to follow!

So from the beginning I decided to think of this sweater as an experiment and that was tremendously freeing. I wasn't knitting a sweater-- I was knitting a prototype! I gave myself permission to start over as many times as I wanted to and to figure out what I liked-- and I gave myself no deadlines. Surely I would have blown them all.

I started my experiment with the back-neck and yoke depth measurements of a factory-knit raglan I owned, guessing that those would work pretty well for the sweater I wanted-- I decided what bust and upper arm circumference I was going to aim for, how many stitches I needed to end up with, and then reverse calculated how many stitches I needed to cast on. And of course how to space the increases. Whew!

Since I had enough yarn and no deadline, I ended up starting a new version when my first try seemed like it might fit closer than I wanted. Then I started a third version when I realized the second version's neckline was smaller than the first. I found all this knitting quite enjoyable and (mostly) didn't get impatient with myself to make a decision between the closer and the roomier version. I just waited-- and I reknit the collar about a hundred times trying to perfect my k1p1 ribbing.  Eventually the qualities of the yarn helped decide it. Bartlett is thick, sheepy, and rustic and I felt that the thickness of the fabric demanded a bit more ease in the fit. I ended up going with version 3, which has about two inches of positive ease at my full bust. The fit is slouchy-- I love how the extra material drapes in the back-- but not oversized. It fits neatly at my neck and shoulders and around my arms. I can layer under it and over it without any uncomfortable bunching. It has the perfect amount of detail and texture-- not too little, not too much. Just right, as Goldilocks would say.

I love it. It's still pretty damn cold here in Maine-- funny I was saying the same thing just about a year ago-- and I have worn it about a dozen times so far. I may actually wear it out before I stop loving it, and then I will mend it! Sweater success at last.