PunkconformityLife, history, and the pursuit of knitting.

Monday, January 7, 2013

1955 Petal Sweater

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Picture (c) Bex.
From Coats & Clark's Sweaters are Fashion News.  Originally knit in Red Heart Super Fingering.

The minute I saw this pattern, I knew I HAD to make it for my grandmother, who has always been a classic, late '50s/early '60s style person.  Plus, she looks fabulous in red.  And I was able to find the booklet easily, at Vintage Knits.  So it had to happen.

Just one problem.  My grandmother lives in Texas, and is very hot natured, so a 100% wool yarn was not going to cut it for this project.  Enter Knitpicks Comfy fingering, which is 75% Cotton/25% Acrylic.  No ability to grab or hold its shape (this will be important later), but fabulously cool and comfy.  I love this yarn.  Does Knitpicks make a bad yarn?  The color is much richer and bluer than the called-for Red Heart, but I was able to get gauge on the first try (that NEVER happens to me), so it seemed like a great substitute (and would have been if I had been more thoughtful from the beginning).

The construction is different than anything I’ve knitted before.  You knit the yoke from the top down, and then knit each subsequent piece flat, and then the side and underarm seams are worked in one go.  It’s actually fairly brilliant, as it reduces the likelihood of that funky bunched seam at the base of the armscye.

However, it is clear that the author wrote and worked up only one or two of the sizes listed, and just did the math out for the rest of the sizes without considering the implications of some of the instructions at the largest size.  For example, if the yoke increases for the largest size were followed as written, the separation for the arms would wind up somewhere around a normal human's mid-waist.  So I doubled up on them, and wound up with something close enough to correct to be serviceable.  Similarly for the arms, if you kept knitting until you reached the appropriate number of decreases, the arms would hit your knees.

As an aside, one thing this sweater has taught me is to appreciate my tininess.  While not overall a petite person, I have a petite top half, which comes in handy for not having to knit for ages just to make a sweater.  Since this sweater is intended for my not-so-petite Grandmother, I made the largest size.  Epic amounts of stockinette, ya’ll.  Epic.

And now for the bad news.  After knitting the whole thing, I came to the realization that a) I had twelve buttonholes, and b) cotton/acrylic does not create the sturdiest of fabrics.  Once washed and blocked, my button placket resembled a particularly viscious roller-coaster ride, full of ripples and wobbles.  No amount of wiggling, tugging, or pinning was going to get that placket study enough to support twelve buttons.

I've already folded the placket under in this shot,
but you can see the wobbles towards the bottom of the sweater.

The only solution I could come up with was to tack down the placket on the inside of the sweater (it unfortunately can't be removed because it's knit as a part of the body), and then pick up and knit a new, denser placket on smaller needles.  Rather than going down just one size for the cuff ribbing and the button bands, I went down two.  After some trial and error, I picked up 138 sts along the inner edge of the original button band and knit 8 rows garter stitch with the yarn held double.  This gave me a much more attractive and sturdy band.  I also reduced the buttonholes to 7, so as to weigh the front down significantly less.  

I also found that the cuffs of the sleeves were too droopy, so I pulled them back out, decreased down to  61 stitches, and then knit them back on the smaller needles as well.

I still need to go back and sew down the original button-bands more neatly, and attach the seven buttons, and then this sucker will finally be finished.  As beautiful as it will be when it's done, I can't wait to have it out of my house.