Monday, September 24, 2007

Meet the WIPS: The Sweater

This is a photo of my big project. It's a sweater. What you see here is most of a sleeve, a skein of yarn, and a wound ball of yarn.

It's been years since I've knit a sweater for myself. I've knit sweaters for others, but not myself. All my old hand-knit sweaters have gone to that great cedar chest in the sky. Even my store-bought sweaters are kind of ratty these days.

For the past year or two, I kept resolving to make myself a sweater. I kept getting distracted by doilies, shawls, and other non-sweater items.

But finally, about a month ago, I started.

Since it's been so long since I've done anything like this for myself, I'm keeping it simple. The sweater is going to be a plain Elizabeth Zimmermann percentage sweater. I had initially wanted to knit it top-down. However, I am paranoid about running out of yarn and decided that bottom-up would keep my options open if necessary.

(Hey, run out of yarn just once and you're paranoid for life.)

The yarn is handspun. It's actually the first batch of yarn I ever spun on a wheel. Before that, I only spun on a drop spindle. The roving was a fairly compacted, not very high quality Romney wool that I picked up somewhere or other. The wheel belonged to a friend who kindly loaned it to me over the winter so I could see if I wanted to buy myself a spinning wheel. So, all that long winter, I slowly spun up the big batch of roving on the borrowed wheel.

The yarn is inconsistent, fuzzy, inexpertly plied, and I love it anyway. It's a 2-ply, semi-longdraw kind of yarn, running approximately 100 yards per ounce, give or take a bit. I've known for a long time that it was going to be a sweater, and hopefully for me.

I've knit most of one sleeve and the body, and am more than halfway done with the second sleeve. I'll need to figure out exactly how long I want everything before I unite sleeves and body. And then I'll have to make a decision about what kind of yoke I want. Do I want a round yoke? Raglan? Saddle shoulder or hybrid? Crew neck or V-neck? Do I want to add color or stitch patterns to the yoke? (I keep reminding myself to Keep It Simple! Make a decision already!)

I call this the Ugly Gray Sweater because I simply want to get the freaking thing done. It's been so long since I've done a sweater for myself. I am so indecisive and easily distracted. I hope that it's more likely to get finished if I don't have very high expectations. If it fits and is warm, I will be happy with it.

I don't really think it's ugly, though it is rather plain. The cuffs and borders are seed stitch. The rest is plain old stockinette (so far). I am glad to see that my spinning was consistent from skein to skein. The transitions between skeins of yarn are imperceptible. Within each skein, there are variations in thickness. The fuzziness of the yarn hides a lot of imperfections.

The bottom of the sweater body is flipping up. Booger. It's my own damn fault. I knew that it could be an issue because I didn't change needle size or the number of stitches. I am hoping that blocking will take care of the problem. It has done so in the past for similar problems. If not, then I'll have to re-do the bottom. No big deal.

The knitting process is very enjoyable. I always love knitting with my handspun. I like the way the sweater fabric looks and feels. It makes good travel knitting when I'm not in the middle of shaping maneuvers. I'm pretty sure I'll have enough yarn to finish the sweater without having to improvise. My goal is to get it done before the cold weather really hits. It would help if I'd make a decision about what to do for the yoke. I'm stalling on that second sleeve as I dither.

After this gets done, I'll try to start another sweater for myself. I think I need more than one sweater in my wardrobe. The next one will probably be top-down. Unless my yarn paranoia overtakes me yet again.

Oh, and I did buy myself a wheel after the borrowed wheel went back home. I still use drop spindles, but it's nice to have a wheel for the big batches of roving and for the times when I want to sit and meditate while turning fluff into string.

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