Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rockefeller Sweater

Disclaimer

Well, I've been working away at my destash or die project, plus trying to knit all those patterns I've saved for years.  Thus, the Rockefeller Cardigan is complete and awaiting buttons.  That's really all you need to know.  (And you really don't need to know that.)  But, if you are actually interested in the lowdown on this Twinkle pattern and are one of the few who haven't shaken your fist at this book, read on... the rest of you can quickly exit and pity those poor compulsive knitters who don't know when to quit.

Why...

Twinkle's Big City Knits was a big book.  It made knitting more mainstream and was even carried in regular bookstores in small Podunkville towns.  It was slick, well photographed, and enticed lots of people to break out of scarf mode and try making sweaters.  

I had to buy it and once I had it, I dog eared many of the pages to mark which ones I was going to make...right away.  This was the era of bulky knits and these patterns had potential to knit up so fast in all of that thick yarn that you could truly start a sweater on a lazy Friday afternoon and wear it Monday morning.   The diagrams looked ingenious to me.   Plus, I, found that cheaper yarn (like all of the Lion Brand Thick and Quick in my garage) could be substituted for the Twinkle and since it would knit up so quick, I thought I could always make another later in a high quality yarn.  That's all good, right?

Why Not...

But there was a big downside.  This book is full of errors.  Some suggest it just wasn't proofed by a knitter.  Even the errata seems to have errata.  This is my fourth sweater to try from the author and, like the other two that I actually finished, it turned out okay.   However, it took way more work to unknit, correct, and modify than it should have.    

With all of these modifications, I really could knit up another version of this now and be done in a weekend.  But I'm not sure how many gigantic sweaters my closet can hold.

Another Warning

Everything from this point on is knit-speak.  This may be your last chance to escape without frying your brain. 

Modifications

Here's how I modified this monster: I liked how Lilalu omitted the eyelets and substituted the Nantucket Cardigan cable pattern for the cables in this pattern.  Hers turned out so cute that I borrowed the idea. The eyelets seemed sloppy to me anyway.   I only used a portion of the Nantucket cable pattern for the front sides.  (Nantucket is another knit by the same designer) and just fiddled with the cabling as the front sides got narrower and narrower.  

I left off the pockets because they seemed too busy and I trusted all other knitters who say that they hang loose and bulky... right at the hips. 

Instead of knitting each sleeve flat, then seaming it together, then seaming it into the armhole, I followed another Raveler (Corynne's) advice and first sewed my armhole together, then picked up stitches for knitting the sleeves in the round from the shoulder down.  She recommended using the "Afterthought Sleeve" section of Custom Knits as a guide for shaping the shoulders and it worked beautifully.   This way, I could see wether or not the armpits fit right away.

To avoid the tight armholes and sleeves that so many seem to have encountered with this pattern, I bound off loosely for the armpits and picked up 18 stitches around the armhole, knitting loosely to keep the right gauge.   I also only decreased the sleeves once, after about 16 rows.  Something about knitting with this yarn in the round made it want to tighten up as I went, so I was extra vigilant to keep things loose. 

Lessons Learned

This is only my second time to change a pattern significantly, so I'm really pleased with the results and even the opportunity to learn more about construction as I worked.
I also learned how to use two long circular needles to work in the round instead of double points.  This is great for the lazy knitter who doesn't want to dig around for all those little pointed needles and for the cheapo in me that doesn't want to buy them. 

 Another new technique I learned that fits in the catagories of both lazy and cheap is Spit Splicing.  This requires fraying your yarn a bit, wetting it, then rubbing it together so the friction creates enough heat to felt the fibers together.  I could have used this to felt the loose yarn ends into the underside of the sweater, rather than weaving in all those bulky ends.  But I 'll have to save all of that spit for another day, not that I didn't want to spit many times through this project, but my yarn had too low a percentage of wool to felt together like that.  

   Final Analysis

Here's what I liked about it:  The short rows that shaped the shawl collar - cutie!  
I like reverse stockinette.  I can't help it.  Winter needs big fluffy sweaters and this is that.

And after all that griping about Twinkle, I do have to say that were it not for the errors, these patterns can be so fast and inexpensive as to make knitting something striking accessible to the masses.  By masses I mean people like me who don't want to spend a hundred dollars on yarn for one sweater. 

(More photos on my Flickr and more obsessive knitter stuff on my Ravelry)

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