The Perfect Handknit Sweater
What with the long weekend, combining playoff football with Hockey Day in Canada on Center Ice free preview (13 hours of hockey coverage!), I finished knitting my Perfect Handknit Sweater, designed by popular vote of readers of Mason-Dixon Knitting. The pattern arrived at is for a moderately fitted pullover, with choices of edging and neckline. When I downloaded the pattern, I was tempted to modify it to my taste, but I decided that perhaps I ought to branch out and try something new. So I bought my 7 skeins of Cascade 220 yarn in a light purple colorway. (The yarn choice was the result of the voting; the color was my own choice, and fairly predictable to people who know me.)
By Sunday afternoon, the sweater was ready to block:
This is a fairly true representation of the color, and shows the design choices I made: I used a hemmed edging at the waist, wrists, and neckline, and I opted for a V-neck instead of a jewel neck.
The pattern called for size 6 needles, but I had to use size 7 to get the appropriate gauge. Even so, as I was knitting, the fabric seemed too tight, and spot-checking revealed that I was getting closer to 5.25 than 5 stitches per inch. (That might not seem like much, but on 200 stitches, it would decrease the circumference of the sweater by approximately 2 inches.) Fortunately, the fabric loosened up when I blocked the sweater, and it fits as intended.
Unfortunately, though, while this may be the perfect sweater, I don't have the perfect body! The next picture shows, as best I can holding a camera out in front of me, what I mean.
Up to my waist it fits fine, but it's really too wide in the shoulders. If I knit this pattern again, I wouldn't increase as many stitches after the waist, and, instead, I'd do some short rows for bust shaping. That would make the shoulders fit properly. On the next picture, line A indicates my shoulder, and line B indicates the shoulder of the sweater. I'd really like them to be closer together, and, since I can't modify my shoulders, that means that the sweater has to be modified.
Now for some construction details. I'm really glad I decided to try the V-neck, with a hemmed edging. That means that the neck complements the other edges. But while I was doing the neckline, I wasn't sure how it was going to work out. The edging seemed too narrow (it's narrower than the other edgings), and seemed to be fighting the line formed by the decreases for the neck opening. However, by the miracle of blocking, it all worked out, as the decrease line (pointed to by the lower arrow on the next picture) and the edging (pointed to be the upper arrow) now approximately match the width of the other edgings.
Since I dislike picking up stitches (and sometimes think I'm not very good at it!), instead of binding off for the back of the neck and then picking up a matching number of stitches, as called for in the pattern, I just kept those stitches live and kept on knitting. This might have been a mistake, as I had a bit of difficulty tacking down the stitches on the inside of the hem; that maneuver would have been easier if I'd followed the pattern. While I was knitting, it seemed as if the back of the neck was going to floop down on me, but blocking stabilized that. In that regard, I don't think I'm any worse off than I would have been if I'd followed the pattern.
One thing I wish I'd done differently, though, is to pick up two additional stitches at the tip of the V-neck. It may not have showed in the other pictures, but there's a noticeable gap at the tip of the V. It's not just that more of a twist was required for the center stitch (though that's clearly the case). There's also too much space between that stitch and the stitches on either side of it, as is clearly evident from the next picture.
But that's all on me. My shape isn't perfect, and neither is my knitting. So, let's call this am imperfect implementation of a wonderfully written pattern for a Platonically perfect sweater.
But, the yarn. I have to close with a comment on the yarn. The Mason-Dixon readers chose Cascade 220 as the perfect yarn for the perfect handknit sweater. It's an affordable workhorse yarn of supposedly good quality. Indeed, in the past, I've used it for a number of projects (a vest for my father, felted mittens and berets for myself and for a friend) and had absolutely no complaints. But for this sweater? Not so much. I used five full skeins of the yarn, and a little bit of a sixth. Out of these six skeins, four of them had knots (and the jury's still out on the sixth!). When I came to the first one, near the end of the first skein, I foolishly kept on knitting, and was horrified when I came back to my knitting the next day to find a big hole a few rounds below my stopping point. At first, I thought that this was due to an inadequate spit-splice, but when I frogged back, spliced, and reknit, the location of the original spit-splice was obvious. No, the knot I'd noticed in the yarn had come undone. So, these flaws in the yarn required four additional splices.
I have other Cascade 220 in my stash, and I'll use it. But I'm going to have to think long and hard before I spend more money on this yarn for other projects, especially if it's not on sale!