Wedge Pullover: completed

Why yes, it has been a while since I last wrote about the Wedge Pullover. 2013 to be exact.

Wedge Pullover.
And now it’s chilly enough to model it.

Quick summary of the lost years: I didn’t finish this sweater in time for the 2013 state fair, but I hadn’t expected to. But without a deadline to work to, I lost interest in it. I decided not to enter anything in the 2014 state fair, so there was no pressure to finish it that year. I worked on it every now and then, and eventually I got it done up to finishing the sleeves. I stalled out two rows from the end and the sweater sat like that for months. Then I realized that the 2015 state fair was coming up and that I wanted to enter something. Of the things I could enter, the Wedge Pullover stood the best chance of placing—plus, I was tired of seeing it lying around 95% done. Naturally, despite having almost two years to finish it, I did so at the last minute. In the final few days before entries were due, I knitted those two rows plus a few more just to make sure the sleeves were long enough, sewed the pieces together, and blocked it. I took a few quick photos for people who wanted to look for it at the fair, but it was mid-August and I couldn’t bear to wear it long enough to take good photos.

I entered the sweater in Hand Knitted Articles: Adult sweater, plain pullover (no intarsia or Fair Isle colorwork, no texture stitches or lace or cables allowed) and it won a blue ribbon, my first ever in knitting at the Minnesota State Fair. Oh yeah, I’m thrilled! 😀 And the sweater fits too: yay! It got a bit longer when I blocked it. Okay, hanging on a dummy for two weeks probably didn’t help either. But it’s still an acceptable length on me, so I’ll live. So it’s done, I have something new in my wardrobe this winter, and there’s one UFO fewer haunting me.

Wedge Pullover in state fair display case.
On display at the state fair.

Oh, and the Elnora Cowl won a pink ribbon (4th place) in Crocheted Articles: Clothing Accessories. Whee!

Elnora Cowl in a display case at the state fair.
And if anyone knows what that little blue thing hanging in the lower right corner is…


Wedge Pullover
Pattern: Wedge Pullover
Yarn: Reynolds Odyssey
Color: Bright Blue Mix (409)
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm), 8 (5.0 mm)

My summer of short rows

Okay, fine (she muttered grudgingly), the Wedge Pullover won’t be finished in time for the state fair. Too many froggings and reknittings of the back, too much distraction by other projects—heck, probably too much blogging. Yes, yes, the whole point of this was a sweater that fits and that I’d actually wear, a sweater which uses this lovely blue merino yarn that’s been in my stash for almost a decade, but still…drat.

The original pattern called for wrap-and-turn short rows. I glanced down after doing one run of them, and winced: every single wrap-and-turn was a little pucker. Rip. For my next attempt, I tried Japanese short rows, as I’d heard they were practically invisible. Indeed, the first wedge, with knit-side short rows, was lovely. Wedge two,  with purl-side short rows, was another wince-producer. The instructions I’d found had been less than clear, and every stitch I’d picked up to close the gaps was twisted. I was able to untwist them, but they’d sucked up too much yarn and looked sloppy. Rip back to first wedge. On the third attempt, I had better instructions, and the second wedge came out wonderfully. Then at some point in the third wedge, I realized I’d dropped a stitch. Attempting to fix it, normally not that big a deal, failed utterly. I still have no idea how I managed to wreck the first and second wedges in the process. Rip back to ribbing.

The front has a challenge of its own: the crew neck. The neck shaping starts by binding off the center 16 stitches. But this is in the middle of a wedge and the rows are diagonal, so I’m going to have to stagger the bind offs to keep the bottom edge sort of level. Which is why this project is now staying home, to be knit in hermitic solitude lest I screw it up. So no, this sweater isn’t going to the state fair this year.

Lintilla and its short rows.
Lintilla and its short rows.

In other knitting news, Lintilla is coming along splendidly. (Guess what’s been distracting me from the Wedge Pullover.) It’s garter stitch with short rows. Yes, I’ve postponed a Color Affection Shawl indefinitely because I was sick of short rows, thanks to Wingspan and the Wedge Pullover, but I’d forgotten that Lintilla had them too until I started it. The short rows the designer calls for were leaving little holes. I couldn’t tell if her original shawlette had those little holes or if I was doing them wrong somehow, but it wasn’t a design feature I was interested in, so I abandoned her version. For this pattern, the classic wrap-and-turn technique has been working just fine.

And that’s how I’ve been spending my summer.

Wedge Pullover: unstable gauge swatch and the redesign

[Don’t worry, I’m not turning into a post-a-day wonder. I’m a bit backlogged in posts and am trying to get caught up before they get too stale.]

First, there was the gauge swatch. With it in hand, I meant to sit down right away and rework the pattern. Instead, life and other knitting got in the way. The gauge swatch sat on my coffee table for another two weeks, during which time it continued to shrink (!). When I measured it again, it came in at 19 stitches and 25½ rows over 4 inches. So instead of tackling a pattern rewrite that afternoon, I gave in and knitted another swatch on size 8 needles. The new swatch had the right stitch gauge, but not the row gauge, which should be no end of interesting when I’m knitting the sweater because its design is meant to be worked over a precise number of rows. Luckily, I can put off thinking about this for a while, until I’ve knit up that far on the back and know what I’m actually working with. (I was right: the fabric is too drapey. I did consider rewriting the pattern for the tighter gauge, but the sweater would need more yarn and I don’t think I have enough to pull it off. So, looser gauge it is.)

Two sweater schematics.
Comparative schematics: old (left) and new (right). Not entirely to scale, but you get the idea.

Gauge Swatch #2 in hand, I finally got to tackle the redesign. As is usual for a drop shoulder sweater, the body of the original Wedge Pullover is a rectangle. It came in several sizes, but I was going to have to choose between having it fit at the bust or having it fit at the hips, and both of those options would have been too wide at the shoulders. Of course, a drop shoulder sweater is supposed to be wide at the shoulders. But I don’t like how that style looks on me, and some of my coats have such narrow sleeves that it’s hard to wear them over drop shoulder sweaters. So I’ve converted it to an A-line modified drop shoulder sweater that should fit (or at least fit better) at all three points. I also shortened it, since I want it to end at my hips. I’m leaning towards a crew neck at the moment, but that’s something else I don’t have to make a final decision on for a while yet. All of this means I have a first draft of the pattern, and that means I’ve been able to start knitting the sweater (yay!).

Wedge Pullover: the gauge swatch

2013 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Extra Credit (no due date)
For an extra credit, look back to the project you researched on day 2 and cast it on. Extra Kudos points for every step of the process from decision of project, to yarn, through the project in progress to finishing touches and completion that is blogged about. There is no due date, and this topic is absolutely only for those who choose to take part, but if you do it will serve as part of one of the topics next year, along with what was written about on Day Seven.

As this is one of the most ambitious projects that I’ve tried to date—not the knitting itself, but the re-designing and modification of the pattern—I figure this extra credit project will get me to take notes that I’ll appreciate later. Since I chose my project and yarn nine years ago (gah!), the story of which can be found at my Day 2 post, this is about the next step: the gauge swatch.

Wedge Pullover.
Recommended yarn: Reynolds Odyssey.
Gauge: 18 sts and 24 rows in stockinette st over 4″ (10 cm) on size 8 (5.0 mm) needles or size required to get gauge.

Thinking and decisions were needed already. First of all, if I actually managed to get both the stitch and row gauge, I’d be happy, but I wasn’t counting on it. I knit almost “squarely,” my row gauge only slightly tighter than my stitch gauge. Normally this isn’t an issue, but this project probably wants me to work those bands of short rows to a certain height, meaning the row gauge was going to have to be close to what the designer got. As that’s kind of difficult to control, I was going to need to be lucky. Secondly, Reynolds Odyssey is 100% merino wool. In my experience, merino relaxes the first time it gets wet, and the gauge loosens up. So even though I’m a tight knitter anyway, I went down a needle size and knitted the first swatch on size 7 (4.5 mm) needles.

gauge swatchSwatch gauge (before blocking): 18 sts and 24 rows to 3¾” (9.53 cm)

I used to take my measurements from dry gauge swatches and start my projects right there and then. I loved the near-instant gratification, but I had to drop this practice years ago, after a sweater that started out fitting me perfectly grew a whole size the first time I washed and dried it (it was 75% acrylic and 25% wool; the trigger was the dryer’s heat). So I soaked the swatch thoroughly, squeezed it to dampness, pinned it out to gauge, and waited for it to dry.

Swatch gauge (after blocking): 18 sts and 24 rows to 4″ (10 cm).

The next day, I unpinned the swatch, measured it, and was thrilled to see that I’d gotten both stitch and row gauge (wow!). Not that I could do anything right away, since I needed to decide on what alterations I was going to make to the pattern and start the rewrite before I could cast on. So the swatch ended up on my coffee table, where I could admire it, pet it, and just for the heck of it, pull my ruler out again and measure it.

Swatch gauge (after blocking): variable.

Okay, I get that it might have taken the swatch a few hours to relax after it had been pinned out for a day. The thing is, it didn’t shrink uniformly. Some rows are still at the desired gauge. Others have tightened up, some to 18½ stitches over 4 inches, others to 19 stitches. The row gauge is more consistent in its shrinkage, giving me a uniform 25 rows over 4 inches, but as I never really expected to get row gauge in the first place, I just can’t work up that much worry about it. Also, the weight of the sweater may pull the row gauge back to what it’s supposed to be, if not past that point (which will probably tighten the stitch gauge further, which isn’t helping after all).

I did give serious consideration to doing a second swatch on size 8 needles. After all, we’re warned repeatedly not to talk ourselves into thinking that close enough is sufficient. Horror tales abound of projects that  started off only slightly off-gauge and ended up unwearable. But for now, I’m going ahead with the 7s. This is meant to be a loose-fitting sweater, so I have a bit of ease to fudge with. Plus, this swatch is as drapey as I can tolerate. If I go up another needle size, it’s going to be downright limp.  There’s also the possibility that I’ll overshoot and have the opposite problem: a swatch that has something like 17 stitches and 23 rows over 4 inches. Since I don’t really trust my tension on gauge swatches anyway, I’m going to measure the gauge again after I’ve been knitting on the real project for a bit, and make my final decision then.