02 Sep 2009

Knitting Blind

I hate my knitting.

I realize this attitude will not get me anywhere, and is unreasonable, and will eventually pass. Nevertheless. At this moment. I. Hate. My. Knitting.


Reason, the first: The Adult Surprise jacket is done and, true to its name, it’s a huge surprise. It looks like crap on me. Having suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous numbers of garter stitch rows, its finally done and I hate the way it looks. I am, quite rightly I believe, gutted. I think the problem is with the sleeves, and it might be fixable, but I don’t know yet, as I can barely stand the sight of it.


Reason B: The Tilted Jacket (Norah Gaughan, IK Winter 2004) which had been languishing, but into whose armscyes I flew on the rebound from Adult Surprise, has also let me down, in a big way. I still love it, and think it could quite probably look fantastic on me, if it were in anyway close to the size it’s supposed to be, instead of approximately two sizes too small.

So that’s it. Two big reasons why I hate my knitting, in two big projects that have come close to fruition this week, but fallen far short of the mark. Two sweaters. If one of them had been a scarf, I think I could probably deal, but two sweaters? I am not handling it well.

What these two patterns have in common, other than the fact that I somehow screwed the pooch on both of them, is that they feature “non-traditional” shaping. Which is to say that parts of them are knit sideways, backwards, upside down and/or on the diagonal, and yet somehow this process results in a sweater-shaped garment. Those are the fronts of the Tilted Jacket you’re looking at there. Doesn’t look like two fronts, I know, but there we are.

Owing to their non-traditional construction, neither of this week’s sweater patterns are ones that can be easily tried on as you go along. You have to take them on faith, and just cast on and hope that it all works out. Which is great, when that works out for you, but which really bites when it doesn’t.

In the case of the Adult Surprise, I knew I would have to knit blind at the beginning of our relationship, and I accepted that. I looked at lots of these sweaters on Ravelry before I began. The one I liked the best was knit from hand spun (which was also my plan) using the instructions that make the body a little narrower, and the sleeves a little wider than the original. I liked the way it fit the knitter in the picture, and she looked not dissimilar to me in size and shape, so decided to use the same instructions.

At this point I’m not sure how I went wrong, all I know is that the sleeves ended up much, much wider than I intended. Note: I have tried several times to get a decent shot of me wearing the garment, but there’s no one home, and it’s a gray day, so not enough light for the mirror trick, and it’s just not happening. You’ll just have to take my word for it. The body of the jacket fits well, but when I raise my arms the upper part of the sleeve dangles like I’m about to call, “Bingo!” Really not the look I was going for. I knit the fronts wider than the pattern called for, to create a sort of lapel on the jacket, but I really don’t like the reverse side of the fabric when it’s folded back. That is easy enough to fix, I’ll rip back to make those fronts meet in the center, instead of overlap. But the sleeves present a much trickier proposition, as their width is determined by the placement of the mitered decreases that are worked from row one of the pattern. ROW ONE.

There’s just no way I’m ripping this out, and starting over. Even if the hand spun Polworth could take it, ripping seems a step too far. And yet, I know for a fact that I will NEVER WEAR THIS SWEATER in the state in which it now exists. The loss of the Polwarth yarn, which is so wonderful, and so dear to me, raises this knitting fail to epic proportions. This is why I am now pretending that the Polwarth still exists in my stash, untouched, and that I have never heard of an Adult Surprise jacket, much less knit one. Denial is my only way forward.

The Sweater That Shall Not Be Named was the impetus for the flurry of Tilted Jacket sleeve cap knitting over the weekend. I really needed a success, badly, and I was so close to finishing this one. The body of this raglan cardigan was knit sideways, and I’d already finished the back and both fronts, and blocked them to size. The unusual construction of this sweater meant that it was impossible to see how, or if it would fit, until it was finished. I completed the sleeves over the weekend, and blocked them, and began sewing it all up. First the raglan seams, then the back of the neck, and finally, the sleeve and and side seams. Let me state, again, that these pieces were blocked to the size called for in the schematic. Imagine my shock in discovering that the raglan shaping was not really deep enough, and the sleeves were fully 6 inches too short. I knit the size to fit a 40″ bust, because I happen to possess a 40″ bust, and while the bust fits just fine, the sleeves are way too short and tight. It’s like they belong to a different sweater.

tilted The thing about the sleeves is that I had a sneaking hunch while I was knitting them that the pattern could possibly be not quite right, but I never did check for errata. (I have since; there are no corrections for this pattern.) The total length of the sleeve underarm seam, before the raglan decreases, was supposed to be 17 inches, including the cuff. However, the cuff itself is supposed to be 6.5 inches which, when turned back, would result in an underarm seam length of… 11.5 inches. Can that be right?

Let’s look again at the picture. The left sleeve of this sweater is clearly rolled back, and the sweater is hanging off her left shoulder. If those sleeves are 11.5 inches long, then the model is under three feet tall, and she is sitting on doll house furniture. Do those sleeves seem 11.5 inches long to you? No, they didn’t to me either. And yet, I knit blindly on.

The thing about knitting blindly is that eventually you have to open your eyes. There will come a day when I will have to deal. I will have to unpick these sweaters, in more ways than one, and try to figure out how to right what went wrong. And I will. Eventually.

After several days of back-to-back sweater fail, all I can say is thank goodness for babies. Thank goodness they are small and easy to knit for, and thank goodness that Zach and Laura’s friends, Eve and Jimmy, have just had one. When you don’t have your own grandchildren to knit for, knitting for the babies of your children’s friends is the next best thing. And thank goodness there’s a new baby to knit for, because I needed a sweater success like nobody’s business.


Ribbed Baby Jacket by Debbie Bliss, in Briar Rose “Wistful”.

Posted on September 2, in Blog


  1. Josie wrote:

    Am sorry you are having sweater troubles. The baby one is adorable though. I do think the ASJ is a lovely design, I do hope you work out your issues with it.

    I’m suffering the same thing with socks at the moment, and have 3 currently in time outs while I try and work out what’s happening with them.

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  2. Ellen wrote:

    Hi! I just started listening to your podcasts & want to say Thanks! I enjoy them tremendously.Your baby sweater is definitely in the success column – beautiful yarn, lots of interest in the knitting, and a practical fit for baby. You will have a brainstorm soon for the sweaters that must not be named, I’m sure!

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  3. Annette wrote:

    This too shall pass (patting your hand). Come over and have some tea. I made cookies today.

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  4. Heidi wrote:

    oh amen to the baby sweaters!
    I love this one, even though there is some anguish going on with your knitting….we have all been there

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  5. jen wrote:

    Just started listening to your podcasts, completely hooked! I love the Make Do and Mend series. Can’t wait for your next one. Sorry about the sweaters, I am just branching out into them myself and can imagine how frustrating that would be if they didn’t work out.

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  6. Renee wrote:

    Ouch. Two sweaters gone wrong. And with handspun involved. I really feel for you. Thank goodness for babies, indeed.

    I have to admit that I purposely stay away from these kinds of designs. The Adult Surprise Jacket has never struck me as something that would look good on the average woman with curves. (I’m short, which adds to the problem. Tilted Duster? I love the romantic idea of the sweater, but so many of them have cause so much knitterly anguish on Ravelry that I’ve decided to just stay away. Clearly you are braver than I am, and I’m sure that you will figure out what to do to make them work, or find a good home for them.

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  7. My heart absolutely breaks for you.

    If it’s any consolation, working from the premise that Misery Loves Company, I had to give my February Lady Sweater to my mother when it shrank in the wash.

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  8. My sweetie was reading this over my shoulder, and said “Could she steek the sleeves?”… and I said No. And then I thought. And then I said, Well, Yes.

    It will remove it from traditional ASJ status, but if you like the fit of the body, it certainly prevents ripping back, and can give you better sleeves! I’d go with either machine sewing or doing the single-crochet-to-secure thing on the back/pre-miter section, then pick up live stitches from the front/post-miter section, and knit down! Testing on a sample swatch would be safe, of course, before you take scissors to it…

    … and MY thoughts, before my brilliant sweetie spoke up, included some attempts at squish-shaping through blocking to remove width (if you add more length at the cuffs, this could be ripped back and then just PULL those sleeves long and narrow when they’re wet and let them dry in their new, improved state)… and the second thought was using some duplicate stitch with a small-but-firm yarn to pull in the sleeves every few rows (perhaps also attempting to run a gathering line through the purl bumps of a row from the wrong side, and gently easing it smaller). Lots of mucking around options, don’t give up hope! (or, find a friend with larger upper arms who could benefit from the extra width there) OR.. have you already tried it on over layers, as an outer-layer option? I wear mine over a hoodie in the winter, for breeze protection but with the handknitting on the outside!

    I’m hoping you can fall back in love with your ASJ.. I love your stripes! Good luck!

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  9. Felix wrote:

    I was heartbroken to learn about the sleeves on the EZ jacket not working out, especially since the long colour repeats and the stripes in the knitting look so amazing in and of themselves.

    It has occurred to me that you could… if you are interested… undo the top seam and cut the knitting back to before the sleeve stitches, then pick up the stitches and knit the sleeves maybe with a different stitch count so that you get tighter-fitting sleeves? That is, if you are happy with how the body looks… otherwise, it is just totally heartbreaking that after all those eleventy billion rows of knitting garter stitch, you have to rip it all out and I am just sending knitterly solidarity.

    And to have ANOTHER sweater also fail is just epically depressing. In these times I reach for instant gratification in the form of projects I know will take me half a day and be full of WIN… but you know this already, because hot on the heels of two depressing sweater disasters, you made an epically gorgeous baby cardigan.

    Thinking of you x

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  10. FIberenaber wrote:

    First, thanks for listing my ASJ as one of your favorites! I was wearing it today when my friend messaged me that she saw it here 🙂

    My vote is also for steeking, but maybe in a different direction. Could you steek diagonally along the bottom of the sleeve from the point where the body meets the sleeve to the cuff? Even though the armhole depth would be the same, that would get it to narrow more quickly and maybe get rid of the excess fabric you are concerned about. Or…you say it might be my size…well…you know…there’s always mailing it away 🙂 I really would like to see a picture of it on you to see the fit issue on a really body.

    All my sympathies that you don’t love the fit. It really is to freaking gorgeous to give up on, though! Maybe once you’ve had time to ponder and relax a solution will come to you.


    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  11. Angie wrote:

    You are not alone. I have languished in the barely safe lifeboat of questionable finished objects and lived to mop my tears in days beyond misery. The small project is the prescription. The achingly soft luxury yarn. How about the righteous Miss Beatons?

    Posted on 9.3.09 ·
  12. Liz T. wrote:

    Oh that sucks. If you do go with modifying the ASJ I’d suggest an underarm steek. Although you could try unpicking the top seam and ripping and reknitting the arms I think that that would lead to complications with the neckline.

    Best of luck with whatever you decide to do.

    Posted on 9.5.09 ·
  13. Nonna Sue wrote:

    Oh, I can so totally relate. Last fall, my knitting went way astray. A lace sweater for my daughter. . . not at all attractive once completed, disappointing tilted duster and an Aran I designed for my husband (too hot for him), all faced the ball winder and disappeared. Good luck, this too will pass and perhaps the yarn will speak other stories for you to hear.

    Posted on 9.8.09 ·
  14. Kim Faust wrote:

    I feel your pain. I just finished knitting a tunic, while working on other knitting projects which were a success, this one failed utterly. The finished product turned out just as the pattern projected but it looks terrible on me. I look like a grey barrel. So off to goodwill it goes. Maybe I should spend more time drawing instead of spending 6 months on a project I spent money on and was so excited to wear, to find out it crashed and burned horribly. I feel your pain!

    Posted on 12.24.09 ·

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