I’ve been knitting a sweater for my daughter, C. for awhile and have been wanting to finish it so that she can wear it now that the cool weather of the Fall is upon us. Knitting is a good pastime for me because it keeps me busy while watching the Red Sox play or Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu on the show, “Elementary” trying to catch criminals on TV.
The desire to finish it, however, felt to me like the myth of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, every day toiling to weave her tapestry and each night, that day’s work mysteriously unravelling. In her case, it served a good purpose because the completion of her weaving would have meant punishment meted out to the populace. So taking out what she had done during the day was a good thing and served a worthy moral purpose while ensuring the piece would not be finished until Odysseus showed up to rescue her and save his kingdom.
In my case, I’ve taken apart and started the cuffs a number of times, finally getting the gauge right by using much smaller needles, settling on a zigzag pattern for the cuffs that I’ve always imagined making for myself. I thought I was in the home stretch when I sewed up the sleeves and eased them into the armholes. As I sewed two rows of stitching to make sure they would not pull loose anywhere, I remember thinking to myself, “Boy, I hope I won’t have to take this apart,” (an oddly prescient thought in hindsight!) Sure enough, when I tried the sweater on myself, I noticed that the shoulder line of the back and fronts fell below my shoulder so that the sleeves were too long and the whole thing looked even bigger than I had feared it might be. Instead of stitching it together, I should have basted the sleeve into the armhole first. Although technically “finished,” I was not at all happy with the end result.
I decided to put it aside and drove to the grocery store to buy some fresh fish for dinner. Along the way, I briefly contemplated soaking the whole sweater in hot water to shrink it, but even I shrank from this crazy idea that might have ruined it forever. By the time I got home, I resolved to remove the sleeves, hem the shoulder edge to narrow the shoulders, then re-attach slightly shorter sleeves. Along with the prescient foreshadowing that I might have to take apart the double-stitching, a perfectly curved tiny snipping shears appeared out of nowhere while I was looking for some thread which made the undoing task feasible.
Although this sounds like a serious intervention, it was just the ticket to reshape the sweater!
When C. was here visiting last weekend, we took a look at some mother-of-pearl buttons I had in my stash. The flower-shaped buttons were too starkly, shiny white on the right side, but turning the button over to the raw underside–the side you weren’t supposed to look at– the mottled textured surface looked just like steamer shells incarnate. In fact, the buttons looked so much like the flecked, heathered yarn that they’re hard to see. A match made in heaven, if I do say so myself!
So, that seems to be it! After taking apart the fronts and re-knitting them because the neckline was too low for the collar (which turned out great!), redoing the cuffs numerous times to make them fit properly, and now taking apart the shoulder/armhole sewing; then radicalizing the shoulder line by hemming it in before re-inserting the re-knitted sleeves, you’d think I could have knitted the sweater twice! (which I did contemplate doing on smaller needles, two/thirds of the way through when I feared the sweater would be too roomy.) But all’s well that ends well, I think, and the shoulder/sleeve surgery was just what this piece needed in order to fall into place. I guess you can tell I knit from scratch without a pattern, and perhaps that’s why there is so much trial and error. Huge sigh of relief! I can’t tell why I’ve had to re-knit so much these days (maybe knitting on faith rather than measuring; or mis-estimating needle gauge to yarn?) But, it seems to be a part of my process, and like Penelope, keeps me busy, day and night. I feel good about solving vexing problems in fact. . . as long as I eventually reach a solution that I’m happy with in the end.
A knitting postscript: While I was sorting through my yarns to put them away in the closet with mothballs, I came across a thick deep red flecked yarn with an orange-red sister yarn which looks like just enough yarn to make companion vests for my granddaughter, Josie who is three and her friend, Annika who is closer to five. I’m thinking of making red fronts with orange backs, open armholes and empire length–sort of like a kid’s vest-let. It will go over their heads, and keep them warm without much weight and also last for awhile while they are growing so fast. I thought I’d knit a little heart in a contrasting color to sew on each one too. Since Annika is slightly older and bigger, her mother has been generously providing Annika’s outgrown clothes and toys for Josie since she was born–and what beautiful clothes they have been! It will be so much fun to knit these little pieces for them to wear as big and little sister. Let’s just hope I won’t have to re-do them too many times to get it right. I was thinking of a little seed stitch piece to hold them together on either side. Like a Japanese vest that I made for C. before.