alternate title: when you hardly love what you knit for someone you love
It was a disappointment, the Sawyer sweater. Despite 2 gauge swatches, measurements of both body and well-fitting garments, blocking with care, and seaming – ugh, the seaming (shoulders abutting set-in sleeves and a two-piece placket meeting a ribbed collar), it was such a flop.
It was like the sweater embodiment of a shrug.
Not for lack of effort, on my part (did you read about the seaming? And my perseverance?), and maybe even moreso on hers. She lit up when I snipped off the final yarn tail, eagerly tried on the sweater that was promised many months before, and insisted that it was great – cozy, even.
But all I could see were the shoulders sagging off, the sleeves way too wide and long, the whole thing just looking like the wilting leaves of my favorite plant when I forget to water it, and then a flicker of that self-critical disappointment when garment and body proportions don’t quite match. So of course I wanted to bring it back to life. Just take in the shoulders a bit here, re-knit the sleeves so they stop right there, maybe block it into submission.
The thing is, I just didn’t want to. When I thought about re-knitting even one sleeve and suturing it back into the shoulder to cover up the ill-fitting armhole, I felt wilted, shrugging, unwilling.
Naturally I knit a few smaller things from my queue for myself while I thought about how to rectify the sweater situation. I want to be able to share the joy and love that I feel when making and wearing my own handmade clothes with those I love. I want my partner to love the sweater not only because I made it for her but because she loves the way it feels, the way it keeps her warm, the way it fits her body and her style. And of course, I want to love the sweater every time she wears it.
Is that such a tall order?
(yes, probably; then again, have you heard about how clothes have shape-shifting, mind-bending emotional powers? I digress.)
But possibly the most frustrating, wilt-inducing thing about sweater v. 1 is that I know I can get so much closer. I really think it could only go up from here. I think if I were sewing I could measure the muslin to determine a more precise fit, re-cut the shoulder line, take a few notes, rip out a seam, and get it into much more lovable shape.
And here’s where it hit me: the top-down sweater. These same things, in addition to a totally clean slate and creative freedom, can be achieved with a top-down raglan sleeve sweater. Karen Templer has been singing the praises of this method since I started following her blog, Fringe Association, but I still didn’t really believe it, or possibly I just didn’t comprehend the process.
When I read the Fringe & Friends KAL 2016 prompt – an invitation, really – I thought too bad everything in my stash is already earmarked for other sweaters. (once again, mostly oblivious to the promises I’ve made to make things for others. oops.) But then, while having fun drawing out some sewing projects, I was thinking about how empowering self-drafting is — so satisfying to get the fit you want, without any labels telling you where your size ranks, whether you have a full this or a sway that.
And I swear, from my yarn basket on top of the cabinet in the corner of my sewing “studio,” the half-unraveled Sawyer sweater beamed out some sort of morse code: top. down. raglan.
So here I go again, sweater of love for my love, v. 2, with all the things we want and none of what we don’t: knit from the top down, with a crew neck and henley placket, raglan sleeves with just-right armhole depth, plain stockinette fabric to let the heathered yarn shine, and sleeves and hem sized to fit.
There will be no shrugging.