I am currently knitting the Lush Cardigan from Tin Can Knits’ Handmade in the UK, in purple Explorer Coast DK. Those of you who know me offline may be wondering if you’re experiencing a glitch in the matrix. Yes, this is identical to a project I finished two years ago. However, I proudly sewed on the buttons, and within the space of a single wear, the blasted thing went from three inches of negative ease to more like eight inches of positive ease.
The hem was rapidly approaching my knees, and my hands had disappeared under sagging cuffs (I had decided to make the sleeves full-length, but still). In short, I had accidentally knitted a front-fastening sack with a fetching lace yoke.
Given that I’d swatched properly and checked the fit throughout, I was fairly sure that I hadn’t had a tension accident. As I was a relatively new knitter and it was my first garment, it took me a little while to work it out, but I got there in the end. Explorer Coast is a lovely yarn, but it’s 55 per cent wool, 45 per cent cotton. I hadn’t considered the way that cotton tends to stretch out under its own weight, particularly when used in larger projects.
We were in the process of moving house and city at the time, so I washed and dried it again, and when that didn’t help, put it in time out for a few months, because there was no way I was emotionally equipped to deal with it while living in a sea of half-built IKEA furniture.
But I knew what needed to be done, and once the dust had settled, I finally got my nerve up, and I frogged my first-ever completed garment. Completely. All while wishing I hadn’t woven in the ends so thoroughly. Then I re-skeined and washed all of that bastard lying yarn and returned it to the stash. Specifically, the box in the attic where I corral all of the jumper project yarn so it doesn’t taunt me on a daily basis. And there it stayed, until a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been ignoring it per se, but I’m easily distracted by things that are new and shiny.
A little while ago, as part of a drive to start using up what I semi-jokingly refer to as the Deep Stash, I pulled out the reclaimed yarn and took a long hard look at it. The temptation was to go with a new pattern, but I bought this yarn and book together, goddammit, and that is how it will be used. Also, I really like Lush and still want to wear it.
Because I’m not a total glutton for punishment (shut up, am not), I am doing a few things differently this time. I’ve checked my tension again, then gone down a few needle sizes. I’ve also chosen a smaller size in the pattern – believe me, I never thought I’d knit an adult size small again either.
Despite the amount of negative ease in Lush, I’m still faced with a challenge. I am, shall we say, full in the bust. To an extent that selecting a jumper pattern based on the “to fit bust X inches/cm” measurement always results in a garment that fits neatly over my chest but hangs pretty loose everywhere else. And what’s the point of knitting your own jumper if it doesn’t look like it was, well… made for you?
Now, I know I made some adjustments last time, and based on the fact that the wretched thing was eight inches too big all over, it clearly worked. I just can’t remember what I did, and I didn’t write it down, so I’m having to do the sodding maths all over again (is anyone sensing a theme with this project?).
Thus far, I’ve settled on a sort of Frankenstein solution, which involves grading various sizes together in the relevant places, mainly by adding extra decrease rounds on top of the waist shaping. It’s hard to tell if it’s working at this point, as the whole thing is working up far too small. This isn’t worrying me too much at this point, although I’m starting to wonder if it should, as last time, it didn’t start to sag until after it was finished. How it will stretch out that much if I can’t do it up in the first place is another matter.
It’s certainly interesting from a process knitting point of view, and not just because Lush is an entertaining and well-thought-out design (which it absolutely is). No, it’s because while there are certain things I knit over and over again, such as plain ribbed socks, this is the first time I’ve ever ripped out an entire project and used the yarn to make the same pattern again. Call it a rematch, if you will. I’m undeniably older, hopefully wiser, and I’m interested to see what a few more years of knitting experience brings to this do-over.
Now, according to most of the rules of blogging, this is where I would close with some sort of defiant statement about how “this yarn/pattern isn’t going to beat me this time!”, but I’m not going to. I know that that sort of public grandstanding is a surefire way to activate the laws of irony, but I’m also acutely aware that this yarn – and let’s face it, it’s the yarn, not the pattern – has behaved so unpredictably thus far that there’s every chance I’m going to get my arse handed to me again. The only certainty is that it will be a different kind of screw-up, and therefore should at least have the potential to be interesting and/or informative.
Just one thing: when it happens, please don’t remind me that I was so annoying smug and Zen about the prospect. Past me is really irritating when she gets like that. But here in the present, I’m four inches past the armholes and feeling cautiously optimistic. Wish me luck.