Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Shiny Green Monster, or The Sweater Project

Earlier this year I began feeling confident enough in my knitting skills that I wanted to make my first sweater. I decided that this sweater would be a mother's day gift for my Mom. This was my first mistake. Many knitters have written about how your first sweater should be a project for you; for one you will be more motivated to work through it so you have a finished garment, and two you will be able to live with its imperfections as a testament to your "learning curve". I ignored good knitterly advice. Something one will always regret later.

For my mom I choose a pattern called the Spring Staple Sweater from Knitting Today magazine. The woman in the picture looked so happy; I was totally swayed by her happiness.

The Spring Staple Sweater from Knitting Today Magazine,  April/May 2011. Pattern by Jill Draper. 
Once I had the pattern in hand I headed to one of my LYS's (local yarn shops) to buy the yarn. It just so happened that they had the recommended yarn on sale in selected colours. Now, just in case any one is under any illusions that making a sweater or any knitted garment is less expensive than buying one from the store, let me put that delusion to rest. Yarn is expensive, plus labour, this finished garment is worth a small fortune. Even on sale the raw materials for the sweater cost about $80. A friend and I perused the colours that they had on sale and we decided on a green shade called Scuba, since green is my mom's favourite colour. Now this yarn is mercerized cotton. I'd never worked with, or even heard of this before so I didn't think too much about it. At this point, I still didn't know a lot about fiber, so I just figured that $80 was a lot of money, therefore the yarn must be great. This was my second mistake. I left the store with a bag full of yarn and a smile on my face, ready to get started and conquer this sweater. I had a little over a month until Mother's Day. Lot's of time for an accomplished and confident knitter such as myself.

When I got home, I wound the first skein eager to get going. I cast on the first sleeve and started knitting. About an inch in I was no longer excited. This yarn is shiny. The colour is not attractive. The yarn is slick. Later I would learn that the mercerization of the cotton is what makes it so "lustrous". Oh boy. So now I was in quite the pickle. I hated the yarn, I was about an inch in. The yarn was not returnable since it was on sale and I had a lot of it. I kept knitting. Another inch. I felt ill. The shininess of the yarn was nauseating. Determined, I knit another inch. When the first sleeve was completed a day or so later, I convinced myself that I deserved a break. The migraines were really getting to me, and there was a hat pattern I was dying to knit. Just one hat and then I would get right back to the sweater. I shoved the materials in a bag to to try and contain their reflective sheen.

Fast forward two months. Mother's day is but a distant memory. I think I gave my mom a pair of socks. I am cleaning our spare bedroom when I come across "it". Still in it's bag, one sleeve completed. I pull it out and start knitting the other sleeve. "This isn't so bad", I think to myself. When I get to the shaping rows, I wander to my stash to find the magazine with the pattern and come away with needles and some sock yarn. I'm easily distracted.

Three more months pass. I am at the knitting store and the gal that works there asks me, "So how did your sweater turn out?". I mumble something indiscriminate and hastily pay for my purchases, lest I be judged. When I get home I search for "it". I pull it out of its bag. The sun glints off the shiny surface. I twitch and say "I will conquer you". I pull out the swift and wind three more balls. Instead of finishing the sleeve, I cast on for the body. I think that the lace pattern will keep me interested, it will after all leave some gaps in the shine. This time I have a good run at it. I knit about 4 inches of the body over the next weeks. I leave the project out in the living room so I have no choice but to guiltily pick it up.

My mom sees it in progress and get's excited. I ask, "Don't you think it's a bit shiny?" The truth is I want her to turn away from it in disgust. To gag a little and tell me that she would never wear this so I can be put out of my misery and just call "it" a loss.  But what does she say (gotta love her)? "If you are making it for me, I will love it. Besides its not that shiny". Not that shiny? I swallow my real opinion, which is if she was to wear this monstrosity she would looks like a mermaid. A mermaid in a bad colour.

I knew it was too good to last, and the sweater got moved back into it's bag before long. Just for a "short" break. I've told my mom that with all the Christmas knitting I have to do I will pick it back up in the New Year. Next year for her birthday, or mother's day maybe. I told her sweater's just really aren't my thing. They take so long, I like quick knits. I'm just not a sweater knitter.

But I have a secret. I bought some yarn and I have a pattern for another sweater. I've swatched for it in secret and am ready to start knitting. A sweater out of merino wool. Not shiny. Not green. A sweater for me. And I can't wait to cast on.


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