Monday, January 17, 2011

Will I Use Bulky Merino Again? My finished Merino Sweater Project

The Sweater Is done

I finished my bulky handspun sweater project finally.  Although it was pretty easy,  it took me a long time.

Lots has gone on this year in my life including a major move to a new house and the loss of my father.
My projects got scattered, and I was lacking in energy to look for them for a few months after my Dad died in April.

I was also limited to my little dell notebook over the summer and it is so painfully slow, I ended up neglecting my web site too, my Etsy store, and just let it all go.  I moved into my new house the end of October, and am now starting to get my life back.

It feels good to be back!

The Project
The sweater project was to knit a free style no pattern sweater from hand spun yarns I created and dyed. I used mostly Hand Spun Bulky thick and thin merino. It is, or perhaps I should say -was beautiful yarn. On the down side,  the yarn ended up pilling very badly. I have worn the sweater almost daily at home for a month and it already looks like a four year old garment. I had been told previously that  Merino pills, but I have never experienced it with the yarns  I use. The merino in my sock yarn, and the others I dye and use for socks do not seem to have this problem. I  think it is because this yarn was so lightly spun as I constructed it to be bulky and soft.

I still do love the sweater and plan to make it agian in another fiber, Blue Face Leicester perhaps. The colors are gorgeous.  As I knit, I ended running out of the merino and substituted some other hand spun yarns in multiple strands to keep the guage as close as possible as I went along. This was one of those unplanned things that made the sweater turn out even nicer in the end.

The How Of Making This Cardigan Sweater
Using size US 13 needles,  I measured around my hips, did a guage sample, and figured out how many stitches would fit loosely around my body.  After casting on the stitches that would go all the ways around me, I ribbed a few inches with 11 needle.  I then switched to 13 needles and  knitted up to my underarms in all one piece. I used  98 stitches to fit my size.

As I knitted, I kept checking and when the length measured from nine inches below my waist  at the bottom and  my arm pit  at the top, I divided the piece onto three needles.  I put the first 1/3 of the stitches on a circular needle, the second third on a larger 13 circular, and the final third on another. I continued to knit up each of these 3 pieces separately until I reached 2 inches below my shoulder line.  I chose to knit all three at once so I could make sure I would not run out of a particular color and would remember the color changes as I went a long.  I did this by attaching a ball to each piece of the color I was using and then attaching a new color on each at the same place on each section.

At the two inch before the top of the shoulder mark, I started decreasing a few stiches on each of the  two narrower front sections every other row where they would join at the neck.  Because I was using such big needles,  I only had about 8 rows to do this in so I decreased 4 times of 3 stitches each decrease.
On the bigger back piece, I just knitted up these 8 rows. Next I bound off, leaving one piece of knitting.

At this point, I sewed the shoulder seams together on each side. Then,  I knitted on the two arms at the shoulders on  13 circular needles. I measured my stitch's per inch and used that to figure out how many stitches to cast on to the arm.  It came out to about 60 for my sweater. I knitted the sleeves around so there is no seam.  I did both arms at once with two circular needles.  I knitted the arm for 5 inches, and then started decreasing.   As I went along, I gradually decreased the number of stitches by knitting two together in about every third row.  I joined my colors on each sleeve so they would match on both sides.

At the bottom of the sleeves, I switched to 11 needles and ribbed, casting off at about 3 inches of rib.  I measured as I went along on my own arm to make sure the length would be just right for me.

The final step of this sweater was to complete the collar and front bands.  I  knitted on enough stitches to the neck to fit comfortably around my neck. I  rib knitted K1, P1,  around the top of the neck with the 11 needles. 

After I did this, I planned out the front bands.  I used my guage to figure out the number of stitches I would need, and then knitted on the left band and ribbed for the desired width. I casted that side off.  I used the 11 US needles and K1, P1 rib.
I then knew how many stitches would go on the other side where the buttons holes would go. I laid my buttons out on the completed side to see how they would space out.

I decided on 7 buttons and figured out how many stitches I needed between button holes. The stitches did not come out exactly even so I had to plan and extra stitch in between two of them. I planned to use two stitches for each button hole and figured this into my math.   I drew it out first so I would  be clear about what I was doing before I started knitting and how many stitches I would leave between each of the button holes as I worked theses.

To start the second band, I knitted on the required number of stitches I used on the other side.  I knitted two rows of rib  and then started the button holes continuing the rib pattern. I planned to cast off two stitches and then add it back in on the following row. This is a really simple way and there are more finished ways to do button holes.  I wanted this to be a really simple fun knit so I did just simple easy techniques throughout. After I finished the button hole side and casted off.

The Finish
I found some old leather buttons that added a funky touch to the sweater that I really liked. They were all different and some were a bit bigger. It worked. I made sure they fit through the button holes, of course before I sewed them on my sweater.  After attaching the buttons, I  wove in any loose ends in the yarns from the back of the sweater,  and  then came the best part.  I  adored myself in my new garment. 

I love wearing the sweater. It is soft, and comfortable. It is a shorter more flattering length than the longer cardigans. It is very warm and I have used it as a light jacket. The first time I wore it, I went shopping in Camden, Maine and one of the shopkeepers suggested I should make and sell them. 

Even though I have no interest in doing this, I was pleased to have the notice of how beautifully it had turned out.

The Next Sweater Project
I am going to try it again,  in another fiber. I will stick to the bulky fast knit up yarn and dye colors that harmonize.
I will try to keep closer track of the steps next time,  so I can give you a more detailed pattern this time around.
So, if you see me running around Maine in my funky pilly sweater, stop and say Hi.