Thursday, March 27, 2014

More Knitting!

Because I turn my year's blogging into a book every January, I want to get these knitting project photos posted as well.  But first a note about sizing and how much it has changed in 50 years.

I'm learning that the trend here in the U.S. for "vanity sizing" has really gotten out of control.  When I was in high school, I weighed about 112-115 lb and wore a size 10 in Levi jeans.  I sewed all of my own clothes back then and used a size 10 pattern, modifying the patterns only to shorten bodices and skirts to fit my 5'2" height.  The smallest size available for women was size 8.  Tiny women for whom a size 8 was too big shopped in the Junior department.   Today I weigh about 118 lb and wear a size 6 Levi jean.  I have clothes in my closet that I wear regularly that are size 4 or 6.  All this to say that knitting a sweater today is a real crap shoot when it comes to sizing.

My first sweater project since re-discovering knitting was a cute sweater jacket that I thought would become a staple in my wardrobe during winters here in S. Texas.  I downloaded the pattern, bought some luscious charcoal grey yarn and got to work.  The thing about knitting a sweater is that, depending on its construction, it's impossible to try it on as you go.  It's not until you get it assembled or, if knit in one piece, off the needles to really gauge its size.  When I got that sweater jacket finished and assembled and tried it on, it swam on me.  I followed the instructions exactly for a size small, made sure my knitting gauge was correct, yet it engulfed me.  I'm guessing it to be about a size 14, maybe even larger.

This came out huge!  Even with adjustments to length, the sleeves
were 4 or 5 inches too long.  They're rolled up in this photo.

Since when is a jacket that would fit a size 14 woman considered a size small?  Even those weight loss commercials with testimonials where the woman says, "I used to weigh 240 lbs.  Now I weigh 145 lb and wear a size 6" make me gnash my teeth!   I weigh 118 and wear a size 6!  If I weighed 145 lb I certainly would not wear a size 6!

Hours and hours of work down the drain....I "frogged" it (unraveled it) and used the yarn to make this pretty cabled lap blanket.  I really like that sweater jacket pattern and may revisit it again some day, but not for now.  Maybe next fall or early winter.
Yarn recycled into this beautiful cabled throw

So my next sweater project was a beautiful little cardigan called February Lady.  I had already downloaded the pattern from Ravelry and was just waiting to find the right yarn.  I found that yarn at Knit Wits in Sedona! The pattern was written for a size medium, but the author gave advice on how to modify it to make it larger or smaller.  Burned by my previous experience, I got to work with pencil and paper and did the math needed to convert the sweater to an approximate size X-Small.  Because of the repeating pattern in the body and sleeves of the sweater, all adjustments for size needed to be made in multiples of seven.  And the yoke had to be adjusted appropriate to the adjustments in the body and sleeves.  Making these adjustments is not for beginners or those who are math-challenged.  It came out great and fits perfectly.

Emboldened by this recent success, I bought yarn for another project, a really cute flyaway sweater vest, also downloaded from Ravelry.  It's called Shalom.  The pattern claimed to be a size Small, but users were advised that it was designed for a tall woman and that we should remove "lots of rows" to make it shorter if we weren't tall.  Indeed the woman wearing the sweater in the photo at the pattern's webpage appeared to be slim and tall.  I knitted the pattern with no adjustments to size, only to length and again ended up with a sweater that was huge!  It has a ribbed yoke that was so big it came almost to my waist, and the armholes came down to my elbows.   It was ugly!

But I spent a lot of money on this particular yarn, and really liked the sweater design so, unlike the previous disaster, I was determined to make this one over and make the adjustments necessary to make it fit.  I "frogged" the finished sweater and then got to work with pencil and paper again, making the necessary changes to the pattern.  It needed to be smaller in circumference overall, and the ribbed yoke needed to be much smaller.  The ribbing pattern on the yoke made it easier to compute than the February Lady sweater, since it was only multiples of two, not seven.  I cast on 10 fewer stitches (about 2.5 inches smaller) and did fewer repeats in the ribbed segments of the yoke (about 3 inches shorter).  I added fewer stitches to the underarm (6 instead of 15) which made it even smaller around.  It came out lovely, don't you think?

While I was in Sedona at that great yarn shop, Knit Wits, I bought some beautiful Tencel yarn for a shawl that I saw on display.  The shop owner emailed me the pattern and I cast on the project that evening.  It's a very thin yarn, really no more than string, and hard to work with.  I could only do a few rows at a time, and as the shawl got larger with many more stitches on the needle, it got to the point where I could only do a couple of rows in any one sitting.  It sat rolled up in my knitting bag for days at a time, while I worked on all of these other projects until guilt overtook me and I would pull the project out and knit a row or two.

It has beading at the beginning of the fluted border and applying these beads along two rows was really time-consuming, but is what sold me on this project in the first place.

Beads applied on every other row at beginning of fluted border

But then I ran out of other projects - excuses really - and decided I really needed to get this finished.   So Monday evening I got serious and started in on it.  I was only a few rows from finishing this, so worked on it again Tuesday afternoon.  Imagine my relief and even joy when I reached the point where I knew I only had enough yarn to knit the cast-off row.  Finished at last!!

Mizzle Shawl - lovely!
Now I can turn my undivided attention to a second Column of Leaves scarf for a friend and no longer feel guilty for letting that Mizzle Shawl project languish in my knitting stash!  He's tall, so he wants the scarf to be extra long - 78".  I'll be busy for awhile.

Rob's Column of Leaves scarf in Yowza merino wool: "candied pecan"


  1. Wow, you get a lot of knitting done. Good for you. My mom usually has the same troubles when trying to find a pattern that fits. The last one she made ended up too small so she is shipping it this way to see if it will fit me.

    I agree that sizes are not what they used to be. I envy hubby that he can always go buy a 32 jean and that is what it is. I always have to try everything on. An 8 pants for women, is not always a size 8.

  2. I'm just about to start the shalom cardigan and found your blog post and notes really helpful as we're not far off being the same size. I'm 5"2 and almost 112lbs. Thank you for doing the math and recording it, as this will be my first knitted garment and I'm a bit anxious about it, so following your lead will help hugely. Lil x