Harvest-a-Long: Lessons Learned

There’s a concept used in my industry, probably from a business book no one can remember the name of anymore, known as Lessons Learned. When you finish up a project, the team gets together and thinks about how things could go better the next time. Sure, some whining happens, but the focus is on how you can do things differently to make it all go better next time. 

Lessons learned apply to crafts, too. 

I learn something with every project. Sometimes it’s something little, like that a particular yarn likes to split so the lesson learned is to use a needle with rounded, rather than sharp, tips. Sometimes it’s something you can’t believe you never thought to do differently. 

My Harvest sweater left me some major lessons learned.  Lessons I thought I had learned before. 

*sigh*

Thing is, my sweater doesn’t fit me. I chose the wrong size to make. Got gauge, followed the directions. Doesn’t fit. 

Yep, I wrote a whole post about measuring yourself and choosing a size. Yet, I made the wrong one for me. 

I chose the size exactly the same as my chest measurement, measuring around my widest point in my chest. This means that there was zero ease. 

Lesson One: Cotton does not stretch

Next time I work with this yarn or another cotton, I should add at least and extra inch to account for the fact cotton does not stretch. (And maybe add a bit more if I intend to throw it in the dryer when I’m too impatient to let it dry flat.)

Lesson Two: Remember your body type

Unlike the standard person sweaters are designed for, I have broad shoulders and, well, a small chest. In the future, I need to account for this. 

Amy Herzog has an amazing blog series called Fit to Flatter which is also available in book form. In the post on choosing your sweater size, she describes how to take a better measurement than the tradition chest one. I won’t rehash what she says, but the lesson from Amy for me is that I often need to knit a size or two larger than the pattern calls for. 

The Sweater

I tried on the sweater and even wore it a few times before blocking it. From the start, it felt tight across my shoulders and I couldn’t quite close it. After blocking it via washer and dryer, it is not at all flattering. And, worse, it’s just not comfortable. Here’s a photo I took of me trying it on, about the only photo I have of me wearing it. Notice how it won’t close, yet bunches at my armpits. Signs of a poor fit. 


Don’t worry, though, the sweater will not be relegated to the back of my closet. I’m lucky to have a friend for whom the sweater is a perfect fit. It’s actually winging its way across town (so more like fighting I-66 traffic) to my friend KO to keep her warm on chilly days at work. 

I will knit myself another sweater one of these days. And I will remember my lessons learned.  (Either way, I’ll blog about it, you can be sure.)

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Harvest-a-Long: Lessons Learned

Harvest-a-long: Finale!

Congrats, you’ve made it to the end of your cardigan! You’ve finished knitting it! Oh, blocking, you say? Yeah…that.

I have to admit, I’m rather bad at blocking things which are lace or socks. Lace is straight-forward – you use wires or pins and stretch it out until the straight lines all line up and your lace has “opened up” as much as you’d like. Socks, you just wet, throw them onto a blocking mat, and wait forever for them to dry.

This sweater, well, it’s a bit harder. If you’re yarn is not machine washable and dryable – like mine – you’ll want to block it by laying it flat on a level surface. I won’t go into the details though Tin Cat Knits offers advice on the pattern and you can Google it. Just know that blocking your sweater is important and, like ironing in sewing, gives you the best final product. Take your time. Don’t pull it up until it’s TOTALLY dry, no matter how tempted you may be to wear it ever-so-slightly damp.

Next time, I hope to share photos of my finished sweater and, in a few weeks, those of my friends and coworkers I somehow convinced to do this with me. For now, you can laugh at the photo I took just after I wore the ends in my sweater, on a train full of commuters from York to London.

Harvest-a-long: Finale!

Harvest-a-log: Sleeve Island

Knitters like to refer to the sleeves of a sweater as Sleeve Island, an analogy I’ve never understood. Is it because they take so long it feels like you’re at sea and will never see land/an island? I have no idea.

Anyway..the sleeves on this sweater are pretty standard. You pick up the held stitches then pick up some stitches on the underarm. I do this as follows.

I slide my needle into the held stitches, keeping the waste yarn – mine is bright pink – until I’m totally certain I picked up every stitch properly. That translucent blue plastic is the cord from my circular.

And, from a bit farther away. Ignore the odd photos. We were in the car, stopped on the side of the road so Matt could take a photo of the countryside.

I will warn you now, even once you start knitting the entire sleeve, you’re likely to leave little holes on either side of the underarm. No problem! Just use a bit of yarn from your cast on to close that hole when you’re weaving in ends.

Okay, now’s the really boring part. Just knit and knit and knit on that sleeve, being sure you start the decreases where it says. Then, before you know it, it’s time to start the second sleeve.

Harvest-a-log: Sleeve Island

Harvest-a-long: Body Builder

This week, we’ll focus on the body of the sweater. The body of this particular sweater is both good and bad, in terms of the knitting. The Good – once you’re done with the increases, it’s smooth sailing to the bottom edge. The Bad – it’s all. the. same. thing. for INCHES after the increases.

The Increases

I’ll admit that I wrote out these rows because, well, I’m not so good at paying attention to something that happens every four rows (those increases). For my size, I had to make 8 total increase rows, so 32 total rows of knitting before I could turn my brain off.

 

The Body

Okay, so making the body is really, really boring, because it’s just garter – stockinette – garter for row after row. But, just think! You now have the perfect project for a long car ride (when you’re not driving, obvs), binging on Netflix, waiting for that friend who’s always late for a dinner reservation…just enjoy the ride and the easy knitting.

Bottom Edge

Before you start the bottom edge, I recommend trying on your sweater and making sure it really is the specified length shorter than your total desired length. Best to have a friend help you with this, as you may be like me and nearly knock a good ten stitches off of your needle. Not a good thing.

When you’re ready to start the bottom edge, switch to your smaller needle (which should be in the bag with the yarn you haven’t used because you listened to my advice to gather all of your materials, right?). Then just knit, knit, knit until you’re done and bind off. You’ll want to use a somewhat stretchy bind-off so the stitches don’t flair.

An Aside: Things to Watch or Listen To

…or, what Angela listened to or watched while knitting the body of her sweater or something else equally, well, boring.

  • If you have a kid with you: Sarah and Duck, Stinky and Dirty Show, Bubble Guppies
  • If you’re feeling nostalgic: Cheers, Golden Girls
  • If you want to laugh: Glow, listen to anything by David Sedaris
  • If you’re also into celebrity memoirs (listing author because I cannot remember the book names): Anna Kendrick, Rainn Wilson, Rob Lowe
  • If you haven’t already listened: any of the Harry Potter books, as produced by Pottermore

Next Time: Sleeve Island

Harvest-a-long: Body Builder

Harvest-a-long: Let’s get started

Hello, all, and welcome to the official start of the Harvest-a-long!

It’s currently noon (or will be, when this post actually shows up) here on the East Coast, so time to pick up your larger size needles and waste yarn (with your project yarn close at hand) and cast on.

(First, a bit of a confession. I started my sweater last Saturday in order to show you guys what each step will look like as you get to it. Those are the photos you’ll see here. In the spirit of the KAL, though, I will be starting on a mini version for Lizzie when ya’ll start at noon.)

The Collar

This pattern starts by doing a provisional cast-on then knitting a long and skinny garter-stitch piece to make the collar. While the pattern calls for a crochet provisional cast-on, I’ll be honest that I’ve never figured it out so I went with a basic knitted cast on. I was too excited to actually start cranking out the collar to show you a picture of that, of course.

At the end of the collar, you’ll place a marker in a designated spot, rotate 90 degrees, then pick up along that long side edge – the one with the two knit stitches next to each other.


Placing the marker near the edge

When you’re picking up your edge stitches, be sure to pay attention to the pick-up rate for your size. (In my case, this meant picking up three for every four stitches.) If you’re never knit a collar like this, don’t worry, it’s supposed to look sort of funny. Because you’re on a circular needle and have gone around a hard edge like that, you’re knitting will sort of curve.

After getting all of those edge stitches, you’ll unzip – but go slow! – your provisional cast-on and pick up those last loops. It’ll look something like this.


Lovely, bendy collar after all stitches are picked-up

Cranking Through the Increases

The last step before you start the increases it to, not surprisingly, put in four markers. These markers will let you cruise along without having to constantly count. Just remember, you’ll always knit to your first and after the last marker and increases are placed one stitch away from each increase marker. Also, I will not judge you if you have to write out the rows at this point, with wondering if you’re on the row where you have an extra increase along the button band edge.


Exciting action shot! Okay, not really, but it’s a photo I had.

Separating the Sleeves

You’ll need your waste yarn again, cut into a good foot-long length, just to be safe. When the pattern tells you to do so – you’ll also have a marker on either side of those stitches – you’ll carefully move the stitches from your needle onto that waste yarn.

I tend to move stitches over in pairs, so it’s pretty low risk if a stitch decides to jump off your knitting needle or the needle with the waste yarn.

My first sleeve, on the waste yarn (and before I tied the ends of the waste yarn together – really important!

Next, you’re going to cast on a given number of under-arm stitches. Trust me, no ones under-arm stitches look quite right for a few rows. I’ve tried just about every sort of cast-on and they always wind up sort of wonky.

Next time…increases for the front and the body!

(Want to share your project with me and other KAL participants? Mark your post with #harvestalong and #oneliferecorded. I’m hoping to share some of YOUR photos in a future post!)

Harvest-a-long: Let’s get started

Harvest-a-long: Final Preparations

Everyone figured out their size, bought their yarn, and figured out what needles you’ll use (after swatching!)? Let’s finish our prep, so we can start this thing next Saturday.

Getting it All Together

After years of doing otherwise, I’m now fully on-board with the idea of gathering all of my materials for a given project in one place. I’d recommend you do the same. Print your pattern then put it together with stitch markers, some waste yarn (more on that in a second), needles (remember, you need two sizes!), a pen or pencil (to mark progress), and, well, the yarn you’re using to make the sweater. If you’re using a yarn that has to be wound, wind all of what you think you’ll use now. If you’re on the cusp of needing a new hank, hold off on winding that last one but stick in your bag.

On-the-go Knitters, a Special Note

If you’re someone who knits on the go, I’d go with at least 200 yards of yarn plus all of the notions in your knitting bag. (And you should be good with just the first page  – second page of the PDF – of the pattern for awhile.) Everything else, put in a place you can find EASILY. I tend to keep my WIP materials on the top of my yarn storage, in either a giant Zipolock or a grocery store bag.

Waste Yarn

Use a waste – which I wrote as “wasted” the first time – yarn that’s 1) worsted weight, 2) isn’t particularly splitty, and 3) is a very different color than your working yarn. If possible, find something non-variegated as it’ll be even easier to see what’s your working yarn and what’s waste yarn. I’d even go as far, in terms of prep, to say you should cut yourself four (yeah, you only need two, but who hasn’t lost a piece?) lengths of this waste yarn, about 18″ long. That way, you won’t *have* to find scissors to cut it from the ball or whatever. I’m going to use Peaches and Cream in this weird orange color.

Pattern Prep

I can be a bit…distracted when I knit. See, I tend to knit when I’m watching TV or riding in the car, so I don’t want to have to stop, put down my knitting, and try to figure out what the pattern is saying or telling me to do. Because of this, I like to mark up my patterns quite a lot. It starts with the size marking and, for this one, you really need to make sure you pay attention to which of the, what, 50, sizes is yours. Count twice for each bracketed set of instructions. I also like to make myself little tally blocks and, if I really think I’m going to be confused or one of those “At the same time…” sections comes up, I write the pattern out, row by row.

Next Time on Harvest-a-long…

We actually knit something! I’ll show you the first few steps of the collar and starting the yoke.

Harvest-a-long: Final Preparations

Announcement: Harvest-a-long

One of my friends was talking the other week about how she’s always wanted to knit an adult-sized sweater but it was too daunting. I immediately told her she should make herself a Harvest – a simple, open-worn cardigan that’s part of the Tin Can Knits Simple Collection. Another friend piped in that she has had the pattern on her to-knit list for awhile. Before we realized it, we had planned for a KAL. I figured some of you may want to join us if our Harvest-a-Long.

The Details

  • Pattern: Harvest from Tin Can Knits (free pattern*)
  • Timeline:
    • Preparations (yarn, swatching, etc) – be ready by knitting start (info on this coming up)
    • Start of knitting – 12 August, Noon Eastern
    • Weekly posts to talk progress
    • End of knitting – Eh, finish whenever. I’m guessing I’ll take 6 weeks or so to complete my sweater.
  • Sharing your progress: Use the hashtag #harvestalong (and feel free to add in #oneliferecorded)

Preparation – Sizing, Yarn, Swatching/Selecting Needles

Okay, so you guys can go all crazy, choose whatever yarn and needles you have lying around, and picking whatever size looks good. I, on the other hand, am actually going to apply some real thinking and preparation.

Selecting Your Size

Have a friend/spouse/not so odd neighbor help measure your body at the four places specified in the pattern. You’ll pick your pattern size to make based on the bust measurement, adding or subtracting a bit, depending on how you like to wear your sweaters. I chose the pattern size just larger than my measured bust as I’m making myself this sweater to wear over my work clothes when it’s chilly in my office.

I made sure to note, right on the pattern’s first page, what mods I’m going to need in terms of upper arm measurement (add 1″), sleeve length (subtract 0.5″), and hem-to-underarm (subtract 1″) then took a picture of this so it was even harder to lose.

Picking a Yarn

Your size will tell you how much Worsted weight yarn you’ll need – me, for example, I’m going to need 1400 yards (ignoring the fact I need the two lengths reduced).  The pattern calls for a 100% wool.

I’ve mentioned before that, while I can knit with most wools, I cannot wear them against my bare skin. After a search awhile ago for a good alternative in Worsted weight, I chose Berroco Remix., specifically the Eggplant colorway. And, yes, I know that the fiber content means it may not be as squishy or easy to knit with and the final product may be different, too, but it’ll work. If anything, it’ll be a bit larger once the cotton stretches out.

Swatching

Yes, you really should swatch. A sweater takes lots of knitting and you’ll want it to turn out the size you expect. Make it nice and big – like 40 stitches wide and 45 or so rows. Notice that you’ll knit the pattern using two different needles, but it’s the larger of the two you use to swatch. I swatched yesterday, then washed and dried it via machine, the same treatment the final sweater will get. By some miracle, I was right-on for the stitches per inch. That cool thing you see on my swatch is the awesome Anne Budd Gauge Guide, a really handy tool I picked up a few weeks ago. (I did use it properly when I really measured, this photo was just for show.) The row gauge, well, that was off but that’s easily corrected as I go.

Knitty has a great blog post over here about the why, what, and how of gauge swatches.

Next Time on Harvest-a-long

Getting materials together, pattern marking (will post on 5 August)

*This pattern is free, but they have great patterns and I’d recommend you buy one or more of them, as a way to say thanks for their awesome free patterns.

Announcement: Harvest-a-long