So I finished two sweaters, both raglan pullovers, both knitted from the top down, both destined to afghans For Afghans' current youth drive. The need for pullovers has been stressed and I find this type of simple knitting very relaxing.
I mentioned the lilac pullover in my last post. I bought this as a kit during one of my very first visits to Stitches West, back when the event was held in Oakland, a quick and easy drive from my home. Back then (1997? 1998?) I actually thought that a baggy, sweatshirt shape would look attractive on me. The woman helping me at the Cabin Fever booth thought that either a Small or a Medium would work for me.
Confession time: since this was a kit (I know, very faulty logic at work here) and I wasn't planning to tweak the pattern, I skipped the gauge swatch and decided to follow the directions for the Small Adult size. After hours of pleasant, automatic-pilot knitting, and as the bodice kept getting wider and wider, my thought-process finally kicked in and I stopped increasing a few rounds before what the instructions told me to.
The end result is still a really large sweater. The pattern is "Take it from the top", designed by Deb Gemmell for Cabin Fever, and the yarn (now discontinued) is Naturally Landscape. The fact that it is wonderfully soft and warm, and that this shade is truly a very pretty lilac, almost makes up for the tug-of-war experience of knitting with bouclé.
The pattern calls for the collar to be knitted first at a tighter gauge. The rest of the sweater grows from that point, with short rows knitted back and forth on the back for about 1". The directions are very clear and well-designed for a knitter who is new to knitting in the round, which was my situation when I bought the kit.
To counteract the very slouch-y appearance of the sweater, I eliminated the rolled stockinette finish and replaced it with 1/1 ribbing on the body and the sleeves. One can barely see the ribbing under that textured yarn, but at least the sleeves should stay put and fit more neatly this way.
I am happier about sweater #2, which I call my dark chocolate raglan. I knitted it in early January, very quickly, leaving only the underarms to be grafted after my trip to Paris. Here too, I was able to dig into my stash and to unearth a tweedy, fingering weight alpaca bought a very long time ago, again at Stitches West. It has literally taken me over ten years to figure out how to use it. Every year, I would spot the same huge skeins on the Yarn Barn tables at the Market and feel guilty about ignoring my two skeins. Well, not any more.
One strand of the alpaca, combined with Webs' own Valley Yarns Northampton, a worsted weight wool in a rich, dark brown, made a very soft and toasty-warm fabric that is so much more than the sum of its parts. This time I did make a swatch and used Sweater Wizard to generate a pattern for a pullover suitable for an 8 to 10 year-old child.
The edging of the body and the collar were knitted in garter stitch. I had seen Jeny's Surprisingly Stretch Bind-off mentioned a few times on Ravelry, and this time I decided to try it. It was a piece of cake to execute and I ended up with the stretchy collar I was aiming for. I am going to go on a limb here and state that to my eyes, this is more attractive than Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind-off. There. Glad that's off my chest.
What I have learned from this latest bout of top-down, simple pullover knitting: gauge matters. Following a pattern blindly does not work for me, even when I am knitting for someone else or for another size than mine.
Stay away from the bouclé.
If a yarn stays single too long, try marrying it to another. Have a mixer. Have a stash-party. Do something.
When a soft yarn is added to a more sturdy one, the softness is unbelievably contagious. The best qualities of both yarns win.
Last lesson: knitting two top-down raglan pullovers in a row is my limit. I need to move on to a different kind of project for now.Like a cardigan, knit in pieces, with texture and a good fit. In a dark, heathery purple. Just for me.