So, I knit a sweater.
Did I knit it particularly well? No. But did I knit it *quickly*?
I cast on in early November 2020, mindful that we might be going into another lockdown (we didn’t, but I tucked away a couple hobby-acorns for quarantine winter just in case) and I finished it last month, late November 2021. Most of the sweater took me that first year (extremely non-continuously); the sleeves took me the last two weeks. By then, I was VERY ready to be done. I spent 54 weeks as an auto-hostage, but now I am freeee and I’ve learned a lot! These were my starting assets:
Your brains I could knit and purl (in the simplest sense) Fezzik’s strength YouTube, baby My steel Access to skilled knitters
Particularly Eloise Narrigan – will it surprise you to hear that in addition to being the toppest-notch illustrator and a brilliant friend, she’s also a meticulous and amazing knitter? I picked the No Frills Sweater pattern for my first project after running it by her. She mentioned that the short rows on the back neck were a promising sign that the pattern would be solid, and I immediately formed a religion around that casual comment and now judge all sweaters by whether or not there’s short rows, and nothing else. Actually, the part of the directions that challenged me the most were those about shaping the short rows, but she did some invaluable translating from knitting pattern to plain English and it turns out it was a simple idea expressed in a way I found confusing (basically, make each row longer than the one before).
I was frightened of reading the knitting pattern, but it was okay. The hardest part was working out which yarn to buy. After lots of back-and-forth math between grams and yards I decided that instead of using two strands of madly expensive yarn, I could use one strand of nice in-budget DK yarn, and I bought 8 skeins of Cloudborn Highland DK (100% wool) in Ocean from Webs. I knit a size M and I have a full skein leftover.
I very nearly bought cute stitch markers, too, but I stifled the urge. In the meantime I used jewelry jump rings. My first, shockingly basic piece of learning: the marker goes on the knitting needle, not the stitch. So that’s roughly the level of ability I started at.
I want to talk quickly about the two kinds of skills I used during this process, ‘learned’ skills and ‘loaned’ skills. The skills I actually, thoroughly learned while working on this sweater include: the magic loop method. How to join yarn. The inscrutable K2tog tbl. How to weave in ends. How to block a sweater. How to get your boyfriend to help you wind yarn into a ball by telling him it’s what a courtly gentleman would do.
My loaned skills, skills I could perform after (or while) watching a YouTube video, but not on a permanent basis, were a cabled cast-on, joining in the round, left- and right-leaning raglan stitches, German short rows, a backwards loop cast-on (I honestly don’t remember what this one was for), a tubular bind-off, and what ‘pick up and knit’ meant. All those linked videos are novice-recommended – clear, performed slowly, not too chatty.
My missing skills, which are still missing, not available in video format, and pretty fundamental, are: reading knitting. As in, looking at a loop on the needle and understanding whether it’s a knit or a purl stitch, and any other information contained there. And possibly more importantly, ripping out mistakes without going all the way back to the beginning. I can just about pick up a dropped stitch, but that’s it. Often I found my mistakes by knitting past them, then looking at the formed fabric and realizing “that’s a funny spot”, at which point it was already too late for my butterfingers to fumble back. This is why I have one lumpy learner’s sleeve and one pretty good sleeve.
It took me ages to realize I was getting yarn caught on the needle while magic-looping and then knitting the decoy stitches as though they were real ones. Definitely a rookie mistake. On the other hand, knitting anything was going to be a challenge, and I’d rather sail out of a challenge with a lumpy sweater than a lumpy scarf.
Here is my not-so-good armpit! Here’s my better one! Capital ‘I’ for Improving, Lia!
Maybe some wiser eyes can help solve some lingering knitting mysteries. For example: why do the short rows have this feathery texture, and the body of the sweater doesn’t? Knitting is knitting, surely?
Also, how did I manage to switch the ‘right’ side and ‘wrong’ side of the collar halfway through, and how is that a k1/p1 rib HAS a right side and a wrong side? Shouldn’t they be the same? Yet I have tight braids on one side and open braids on the other. I prefer the look of the ‘wrong’ side, unfortunately. Actually I find this k1/p1 rib to be a bit thready and wimpy looking but I’m definitely not at the stage where I can change a pattern. HAHA no no no.
Mysteries or not, it’s done! Finishing was a rush (and also about damn time). I thought weaving in ends was going to be a pain, but I realized triumphantly ‘this is just sewing!’ and it felt quick to me. This sweater had no seams to sew, so once I was done, I was done – except for the 48 hours of cold wet sweater taking up my table, but you’re s’posed to, so I did.
So, like, do I knit now? Um…this is comfy, this is warm, this took me a year and much woe and it made my brain and my fingers creak and it’s a ridiculous way to form a garment and it takes far too long and I’m free now and oh yes I bought more yarn. So, I guess, sort of.
Look for another in about a year!
Pattern: No Frills Sweater pattern
Pattern cost: $6.61
Supplies: 8 skeins of Cloudborn Highland DK in Ocean, $35.71; needles (US 3 16″ + 40” circular, US 6 16″ + 40” circular), $27.52, WEBS
Total time: 11/12/2020 – 11/27/2021 (no way I recorded hours)
Total cost: $69.84