Friday, February 23, 2007

Sew, *Unsew, and Sew, Repeat from *

I consider myself an apprentice knitter. I try to pick a variety of patterns in a variety of yarns and needle sizes, to get a wide range of experience. So, when I saw the "Soft and Warm Baby Hoodie" in Lion Brand Microspun, I decided to make one for my pregnant hair stylist's baby. The pattern is graded "easy" and since I had taken an "advanced beginner" knitting class where we made a baby sweater, I thought this should not be too difficult.

True to expectations, knitting the pieces was not difficult, as the hoodie is all garter stitch. The yarn produced a soft, smooth, shiny fabric, but I found Microspun to be splitty and snaggy to work with. I started on circular needles, but switched to straight needles when I reached the armhole shaping. Were I to make this hoodie again, I would leave the body on the circulars and knit the armhole shaping all at once, as the weight of the fabric pulled on the armholes. And I would knit the sleeves at the same time, to save counting rows and obsessively comparing one against the other. But still, none of this was particularly challenging.

I hate doing the finishing work on projects. My coffeetable is usually littered with almost-done projects: a scarf awaiting monogramming, legwarmers with ends to weave in, and now hoodie pieces waiting to be pieced. There they sat, until about a week ago, when I realized my next haircut would be my last with Monica until she returned from maternity leave. Maybe I better finish up that bugger.

The baby sweater we made in class was stockingnet, and sewing the seams seemed relatively easy. Well, I discovered seaming garter stitch is another matter altogether. Baffled, I consulted knitting reference book after knitting reference book for instructions and clues. Initially, I tried weaving the seams to minimize bulk, but the seams seemed too weak, so I unwove that effort and switched to invisible seams.

Sometimes knitting directions seem rather vague, and the finishing directions are no less so. The pattern said, "Sew sleeve seams." So I sewed the sleeve seams, then tried to set the sleeves into the armholes. The armholes were too big. After a brief struggle, I unsewed the sleeve seams, set the sleeves into the armholes, then stitched the sleeve seams from wrist to armpit, including a little side seam to reduce the armhole size. Then I stitched up the back seam of the hood.

Hmmm. Those little side seams made little dents in the line of the hoodie. They had to go. Fortunately, I had already practiced weaving seams, so I unsewed the little seams and wove them up. There. That's better.

By now it was the night before my hair appointment, but I was in the homestretch. I decided to apply the sleeve strategy to the hood, so I unsewed that seam, stitched the hood to the neck, then stitched a new seam in the hood. After weaving in the ends and attaching the buttons, I was done!

As I drifted off to sleep that night, I realized with a start that the hood was wrong: because of my hood-attaching strategy, instead of going up the back of the hood, the seam ran from the crown to the front. Groan! I decided instead of walking the dog in the morning, I would unsew the hood.

Now, invisible seams are neat, both in appearance and concept. But in the process of sewing and unsewing the seams on this hoodie, I discovered they are a bitch to unsew, especially once the ends are woven in. Fortunately, the unsewing and resewing of the hood went so well Thursday morning that, except for a few loose ends, the sweater was complete by the time I had to leave for work. That evening I wove in the last of the stray yarn, wrapped the sweater in tissue paper, and tucked it into a bag from my LYS. Whew!

One lesson I have learned in my apprenticeship is to use inexpensive yarns, so if a project turns into a big, fat failure, the lessons learned cost me time but not a lot of money. The only problem with this philosophy is that sometimes cheap yarns look, well, cheap. Since Monica chose not to learn the gender of her baby, I picked lime green for the hoodie. Now that it was finished, I couldn't decide if that shiny lime green looked cute or gaudy.

Oh, well. Monica acted pleased with the gift, but in the back of my mind I was wishing I had chosen another yarn or another color, or had done a better job. I guess our almost-successes are what keep us coming back again and again to the needles.


Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

I don't think it looks gaudy at all. I especially like the yellow buttons on the green. You did a beautiful job on the finishing, just beautiful. That hoodie will see a lot of use!

Libi said...

It looks fantastic! You did a great job. I love the color (but then, I'm partial to green) and the yellow buttons are great.

Good job!