Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Knitting a cardigan is like having a baby

The Danish coast where it all began

You think, possibly with some confidence, that you know who you are.

And then, along comes something - quite likely something wanted and anticipated - that changes you, unexpectedly and completely. Yet it leaves you more yourself than you were before. 

A baby, a knitted cardigan - same thing.

Several months later: the "northern shores" knitted cardigan.

This is the first garment I've ever knit. It's not far off being the first proper thing I've knit at all - it's certainly the most ambitious, once I had a hat (acrylic, itchy and too big) and a fairly simple shawl out of the way. When I set myself the challenge I had no idea whether I would really manage to finish it, and I can hardly believe I actually did.  But once I'd started, I couldn't stop - there was a momentum, a journey to be seen through to the bitter end, painful narrow tubes notwithstanding. See? Sleeve knitting, childbirth - same thing*.

* OK, not exactly. On balance, labour did hurt slightly more. But knitting the sleeves went on a lot longer and was considerably more boring.

Blocking on New Year's Day

As the cardigan slowly progressed, getting bulkier to carry around as time went on, I felt myself growing along with it, learning skills and techniques and didn't know I was capable of. Now it's finished I feel a weirdly emotional but very real connection with it.  I suspect this might be inherent to knitting as a craft: where sewing is about the technicalities of architecture and construction, knitting is more like nurturing something into being, with a heavy investment of time and patience. Very much like the parallel worlds of work and full-time childcare - neither without its frustrations, but both hugely, if differently, rewarding.


The pattern is the caramel cardigan by Isabella Kraemer, a free download on Ravelry. The whole thing is knit top-down in one piece; it hangs loose and a bit slouchy, no buttons or other fastenings needed. This all appealed as it sounded manageable for a relative beginner. In addition to the other things I'd not done before - sleeves, a whole garment for actual wearing - the stripes were about as much more challenge as I could handle. In the end, it was just right; I felt stretched, but not beyond the limits of my knitting abilities. And having never seen an item of clothing come together like this before, I find the anatomy of the finished article fascinating.  This is the underarm point where the raglan 'seam' (actually just a stitch pattern) meets the side 'seam':

Apparently there's a common knitters' complaint about raglan patterns that don't have an underarm gusset, because you're very likely to end up with a small hole at this point where things join. Maybe you can see, there is indeed a hole. I don't really care, it's good enough for me, but I'm intrigued now to discover what different methods are out there.

Here you can see very clearly where I wove in the ends after changing stripe colours all down the inside front of the cardigan:

If I'm going to try stripes again, I need to figure out how to carry yarn up the side of the work so there are less ends to sew in. But it's not visible on the outside, so for me it's not a big deal. When it came to joining in a new ball of yarn in the middle of a row - well actually, this is something my knitting book says not to do, as it'll show.  But I wanted to use each ball of yarn up to the very end in order to not run out, so I wove the yarn in as I went and think it worked fine. Although it is visible, you really need to be looking. Here's an example seen from the inside, where the bumpy little stitches are:

 Here I am pointing out the same join seen from the right side. You have to know it's there!

By the way, I'm really pleased with how even my stitches are :-)  I did struggle slightly with the sleeves - not surprisingly, as this was my first time ever using double-pointed needles, and doing so with the whole body of the cardigan attached to one end didn't make it easier. I'm happy enough with the result, but as you can see there are some handmade-hallmark holes here and there, and my cuff bind off is a wavy mess.  I'm not sure why in either case, but again, I'm just so pleased to have accomplished the whole thing that it's ok. 

When I'd just finished it and those sleeves were fresh in my mind, I could imagine how one might say "never again". But not really, not for me. I was already looking forward to the next thing, and suddenly with far less fear of cables and bobbles and the rest.  It seems - miraculously but not exactly unexpectedly - that making this cardigan has turned me into a real, proper knitter.

It's myself, the same but different.

So cool. Let's do it again!

Plotting and planning, yesterday

Seriously. Just like babies*.

* Except that it's not actually possible to have too many handknit cardigans, is it?


  1. it's lovely! nice job!

  2. It's amazing! So so impressed! I need to dust off my knitting needles and try to move beyond hats and scarves! :)
    Great to meet you at the weekend! :)

  3. Nice job! I've got a scarf that is half way through for a few year now, even if I would be an elephant, I would be more then one baby ;) I love the cardigan! Very pretty! I'm attending a knitting workshop on friday, I'll be learning how to knit cables *yay*

  4. What a great job! It's lovely and I think it's great for your first time! Makes me want to finish my hat and find my next sweater to knit!

  5. You too! I hope your next knitting efforts are encouraging after what happened to the last ones...

  6. ooh, cables are exciting! I'm thinking of finding a next project with some in. Good luck with it!

  7. Thank you! To be honest I'm totally astonished it turned out this well, I feel like a bit of a fraud! Yes yes to hat finishing & sweater starting :-)

  8. Nice one! I'm impressed with the fit too. I've recently finished a similar style jumper knit top down too - I had terrible pit holes but I read that if you pick up extra stitches when you switch to the sleeves for the first row, and then immediately decrease to the required number over the next few rows it can help. It seemed to work for one of my pits! The other - not so good but I was able to close it up weaving in the ends of a stripe. It's a hot mess on the inside but like you - don't care!

  9. Thanks - yeah I think the fit was a total fluke! I got very lucky on my first go, I probably shouldn't get too confident for my next go! Interesting about picking up the underarm stitches, I'm glad at least one of yours worked well like that! I didn't look much into solutions for that on this one, but will have a good google for techniques if/when I do it again. And congratulations on finishing your jumper!!

  10. Fabulous job! I pretty much knit with circular needles, but like knitting needles. This way your project sits in your lap and not at the end of the needles, weighing your arms down.

    There are also ways of travelling your yarn up and ways joining up yarn without knots. You should be able to google or you tube them.

    Onwards and upwards.

  11. Great cardigan! Your seam is super invisible! Did you slip the first stitch? Was a lot of fun meeting you saturday!

  12. This is just great! I love the style and colours. Just make more! I found knitting very relaxing. I came back to knitting after a lot of years and I am not sorry.
    Looking forward to see new 'baby' ;-)

  13. You too! And thanks! I'm not sure how to describe the seaming - I carried the new yarn along the back of the last 12-15 stitches of the previous ball, then just started knitting with the new one, and carried the tail of the finished ball of yarn along the back of the first 15 or so stitches with the new one. Does that make sense??? Sorry, I was able to do it but my skills aren't up to explaining it yet!

  14. It is really relaxing isn't it. I find it such a nice antidote to sewing, which I can get all wound up about when I'll trying to meet a deadline, or in the middle of a big/difficult project.

    Sorry you couldn't make it on Saturday - but I think there will be more meet ups (Gent maybe), so hopefully see you again next time!

  15. huisje boompje boefjesJanuary 23, 2014 12:00 pm

    I love it!! I want a cardigan like that! You're almost convincing me to buy some knitting needles :) Looking forward to your next babies ;)

  16. Ahh yes that does make sense! Thanks!


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