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March 16, 2007

My First Sweater

Today I am wearing my very first hand-knit sweater -- I finished it around ten last night! Although I have been knitting on and off since the age of eight and nonstop for just over a year now, I have so far avoided knitting sweaters for several reasons. First, I was sure that it would take too long. A sweater seemed like a project I would start one winter and finish the next winter...or the winter after that. Second, I couldn't imagining knitting a sweater that would actually fit me. All the other hand-knit sweaters I had ever worn were always tight in the neck and armpits and they were always rather scratchy, but that was, of course, because they hadn't been knit to fit me. Third, sweaters can be very expensive projects because they just use so much yarn. I didn't imagine I could knit one for less than $100 and, really, what is the point when I could buy at least four sweaters for the same price and probably have them look better? And, fourth, sweaters require all of the knitting techniques that intimidate me, along with the ones that I just find tedious, such as swatching and weaving in ends.

I think it was the knitting podcasts that inspired me. I would hear all these other people talk about sweaters they had knitted and think that if they could do it, maybe I could too. I also simply wanted to make something from one of the many knitting books on my shelf. I have some books from which I have made nearly every pattern, such as Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, and other books I have owned for years without making anything from them, such as The Yarn Girls' Guide to Simple Knits. Inspired by the blog 101 Cookbooks, I decided to finally use the patterns in the books I already own rather than continuing to amass new books.

So I chose the Yarn Girls' "Bare that Belly" v-neck sweater. In the book it is shown in orange, but I made it in hot-pink Sierra from Knit Picks. It was on sale for $3 a skein and I bought eight but only used six, so the sweater cost me $18 to make (shipping was free). One sweater problem solved. I solved the problem of a sweater being a big, long project by using a bulky yarn that knit 3.5 stitches to the inch on size 10 needles. Actually, all of the Yarn Girls' patterns are written for bulky yarns, so they are designed to knit quickly. I solved the fit problem by measuring a sweater I own that fits me and knitting to the same measurements. I didn't get it quite right -- the sleeves came out about two inches short -- but too-short sleeves are a novel problem for me, given that I usually find sweater sleeves to be too long.

With three of my four sweater-knitting obstacles out of the way, I decided to tackle the fourth (intimidating knitting techniques) head-on by just doing the techniques I was intimidated by. Granted, I could have avoided most of these by knitting a seamless sweater in the round (and that is probably what I will do for the next sweater), but I really wanted to use one of the Yarn Girls' patterns, all of which involve seaming, blocking, set-in sleeves, and picking up stitches. In the end, I found most of these techniques far less difficult than I feared. Knitting the four pieces (front, back, and two sleeves) was, as I expected, the easiest part. Blocking was also easy, now that I know how to do it. Seaming the sweater together actually turned out to be pretty interesting once I realized that it is more a process of weaving stitches together than it is sewing. Setting in the sleeves was definitely the hardest part, and they don't look perfect, but it got done. In the end, I avoided picking up stitches around the V-neck by deciding that it looked fine as it was. I was also nervous about making the neck opening any smaller than it already was. I may go back and do it later, but for now, the sweater is done.

And did I mention that the whole project took me less than a week? I think I have finally become a Knitter. Now, if only I had a digital camera so I could post photos of it...

Posted by eklanche at March 16, 2007 07:35 AM


Yay! Wear it in good health.

Posted by: esik at March 16, 2007 10:08 AM

Hey Emily. Want to use my camera? But you should really buy yourself one. Or maybe David should take the hint and start looking for good deals before May.

Posted by: sbfirst at March 16, 2007 12:15 PM

Mazel Tov! Enjoy your sweater. We want a picture!!

Posted by: khilfman@earthlink.net at March 18, 2007 09:37 AM

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