I don't know how I got it in my head that this would be a quick project. Ha ha. Even if I hadn't screwed up as much as I did or had been doing things I've never done before, it still wouldn't have been particularly quick.
I had no issues with the pattern itself (Professoressa Cardigan from Textured Stitches). It was clear and easy enough to figure out what was going on. No errors that I saw, which is good because I don't think I looked for errata either. Chart took a couple of read throughs to get, but that's because the symbols were different than the last several charts I'd done, not because the chart was unclear. Also, this is I think one of the first books I've seen with full, complete schematics.
While I did make a good number of changes, the only design oriented one was taking out the bell sleeves. I almost left them there, because they do add some interest and I don't dislike them, but decided it would be easier to have it straight-sleeved so it would be plain enough to work with my whole work wardrobe (you see, when it comes to jacket-like items, I'm boring. I'll wear the same cardigan/zip-up sweatshirt over everything. I wore my last work cardigan almost every day of the year last year...which is probably why it got a hole).
All the other changes I made were because I'm [insert body issue here], and patterns are done in standard sizing. This isn't a complaint; it's just a fact. So I change it to fit me, because if I wanted a slightly off-fitting garment, I'd go buy it off the rack.
Some tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- This is a general tip, but weave in ends as you go. You'll be attaching and re-attaching yarn, and this makes all the difference. If you're going to be re-attaching where you cut off, leave a tail of yarn long enough to pick up and knit with the working yarn to weave it in (see the second method on this page. It's what I tend to use for same color joins/random ends. Though the other methods on that page work if that's more your cup of tea).
- I can't stress how much easier doing cables like this is when you can cable without a cable needle. The cabling here isn't hard, but it is slightly intricate (and you can't always read where's its going due to the twisted stitches and wrong-side crossing). Rows 5 and 15 will throw you as well, since you're not crossing the stitches you think you would be (for example, you'll do a K-P back cross with two K stitches, but when you do that row the back one is worked as a P stitch from that point). Keep your counts straight and the chart handy, and you'll be fine.
- The cheat method of making sure you do the same number of rows on both sides of the front after splitting for the armholes? Try to do an even number of repeats of the chart. If you can't due to sizing, just note how many repeats you did and what row you ended on on the last one. Simpler number to remember.
- Also, when you start working the first front, write down what row of the chart you started on, so you know where to start on the other side.
- Post-it notes! I wrote down all my changes on post-it notes and stuck it in the book on the relevant page. There's enough picture space here to do this, and it's very helpful. This trick only works for books though, so if you made a copy to carry around, just write everything in. Also, make sure you record it somewhere a bit more permanent (like in a notebook, or on the Ravelry page, or in a text document) at some point, because you may not lose things, but I misplace paper all the time.
- If you don't want to sew in the sleeve, you can block the body, bind off the shoulders, and then do the whole short-row afterthought sleeve trick. I didn't because I wanted to learn how to sew in sleeves and it was either learn that or the short-row sleeve trick (which I've never done so I'm fuzzy on the details, but it looks cool).
- On the other hand, if you are sewing in the sleeves, this site was invaluable to me to learn how to do it well. I might have spent the day ripping it out to figure out where to put the ease (I also think I didn't quite block the cap big enough. Now I know why that's important, ha), but I would have spent more if I hadn't found that site, and I own the book she mentions for calculations (see previous statement about sleeve caps. The math didn't work so well).
- Since I also had to learn how to do short rows for the neck, well, I used this page, which got me through it (though not neatly, and I still did several things wrong). I then found this free class on Craftsy (don't ask how I ended up on that site, I just did). If you don't mind creating an account and have a couple of hours, I highly recommend it. It also teaches the short-row sleeve trick if you need to learn that as well.
- Since I'm a pear shape, and not an hourglass like this pattern, I chose to do the 34.75" size (close to my bust size) and CO'ed 12 extra stitches so I started with more width at the bottom. I figured this out by doing the calculations on how many stitches it would be to get about a 36" circumference at the hips instead (using the blocked gauge, which was pretty much on gauge for me. See yarn section for more details). I spaced these stitches out evenly so there were three extra on each front and 6 in the back.
- Due to this, I started the dart decreases around 2.5" from CO edge, and set up the darts so the extra stitches would be on the side of the dart you'd decrease from. This works out to adding the front stitches between the cable panel and the dart, and the 6 extra in between the two back darts. I also worked three extra decrease rows to get back to the pattern-specified stitch count for the waist. From there I stayed with that stitch count.
- I only worked 7 rows between the first three decrease rows, and 5 rows between the rest of them so I could fit all the decrease rows (including the extra ones) in a slightly shorter length.
- 2" straight for the waist, then I did 7 rows between the first three increase rows, and 9 rows between the rest (again, goal was to shorten it so that the darts were done before the bust line).
- In total, I subtracted an inch from the length before armholes.
- To subtract bell sleeves, I added a series of increases starting from 2" from CO of sleeve, spaced out every 7 rows. Do this until you get to the stitch count stated after the bell decrease.
- Only went up to 9" before starting upper sleeve increases, and 16" before cap shaping.
- Since it turns out that I have no slope between my back and neck (the things you learn about your body when you make clothes for yourself), I added extra 7 st short row to each wedge for the neck (guess how many frogs I had to do to figure that one out) so that the top was shorter than the pattern specified. I also went down a needle size just because. I could have gotten away with a little bigger, but I like how this pulls in the cardigan.
- Once again, need to learn to read the instructions before changing something. I didn't and missed that the stitch count was not the same below and above the bell sleeve. I figured this out when I got to the top of the sleeve cap and had way too few stitches. Yes, I had to frog the whole sleeve and start over.
- Need to make sure I block out sleeve caps to measurements. Also, most of the ease I need is near the armhole, with some at the top (though it would be better if I could have put a little in the top of the second section of the sleeve, but didn't have any left). Took me four times sewing in one of the sleeves to figure that out. At least I got really good at the seam stitches.
- The neck piece...it's both ingenious and the biggest pain in the ass. That got ripped out three times, once because I was learning short rows, once because I wore it to work and decided that I couldn't live with the neckline being too loose (for this pattern, this makes the cardigan hang wider as well), and once because the I added too many short rows when I changed it, and the bottom was too big. All from it fully being seamed in, since that was the only time I could really get a sense of how it would work. Then I had a slight issue with the bottom middle bulging out a bit. To correct that, I did a horizontal-to-horizontal mattress stitch over the bind off to pull it in a bit. I may do the rest of it, but for now I'm done. I'm thinking it has more to do with the bind-off being thicker there due to all the sewing ends. It looked like this in the end:
I used Blue Moon Fiber Arts Woobu, which is a Merino/Bamboo blend. This is seriously one of the better yarns I've worked with, and it worked perfectly for this pattern. It's warm but with just enough sheen to make it look nice and professional. It's soft but not overly so, and it can tolerate a good amount of frogging. It's better after you wash it the first time.
I managed to split it while knitting, but at a much less rate than usual. But I can split the best of yarns, so that means nothing.
However, this yarn grows after blocking. Not just a little, but so much it will change your gauge and you NEED to take it into account. Luckily, I checked out Ravelry first and saw other comments along the same lines, so I made a good sized gauge swatch and blocked it. To give you an idea, when the swatch was unblocked, I was close to gauge using a size US6 needle. After I blocked it, I was on gauge with the US5. Any changes I made involving measurements were calculated using the blocked gauge. Because I kept this in mind, it fits perfectly after blocking. If I hadn't done that, I would have been screwed.
I might seem nuts with the notes here, but that's because if this wears out, I'm seriously considering making another one and I want to know what I did. So, you know, the frogs don't take over my apartment again (my blocking boards on the other hand, they live here now). I just wish it hadn't taken two months to do.
Now onto the next sweater...a simple top-down raglan. Because I need a break.