knitting · sweater

Part I: Sweater Reflections

I’ve been knitting a lot of sweaters lately. IMG_20180520_105136

Over the past couple of years, I haven’t spent much time sweater knitting. Instead, I’ve worked on shawls, cowls and socks. I’ve made a couple of poncho-style sweaters but for the most part, I’ve shied away from sweaters – particularly fitted sweaters. A few years ago, I went through all my hand knit sweaters and donated most of them. My body shape, after having kids, had changed enough that most of them didn’t fit well. As well, I noticed that I wasn’t wearing the heavy wool sweaters because my body temperature since having children and breastfeeding has increased substantially. More often than not now, I am in a t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt while everyone else is in jackets or sweaters. I’m that warm all the time. While I don’t mind particularly, the sweaters were taking up much residence in my closet and it was space that I couldn’t really accommodate.

As well, my style has changed. I don’t wear my clothes as tight as I used to – I tend to wear my stuff much more loosely around my torso. As well, since I have chosen to be much more active over the past year and have made exercise a regular part of my week, I have noticed my body has continued to change. This means that I have intentionally chosen patterns that weren’t too close fitting in case, after all that work, the sweater didn’t fit as my body continued to change. This is part of life, isn’t it? That our bodies change and ebb and flow. I have noticed changes in my husband’s body as he has become more and more active. Everyone is aware that lifting weight will change your body but to actually experience it is quite something! Noticing it in your partner is interesting as well – there’s a certain amount of competition between us as well to see how committed we can be to health and living well. It’s a healthy competition that has added a lot to our marriage!

I haven’t blogged any of the sweaters I’ve made over the past couple of years, so thought I would work through a 3 or 4 part blog series to chat about some of the sweaters I’ve made in the past year or so. As well, I thought I would chat about two that are on my needles at the moment –especially about the ones I’ve made recently. The last few sweaters have been focused on utilizing yarn from my stash or knitting with handspun. I’ve not bought yarn for a sweater in a very very long time. I really prefer knitting with my handspun so I’ve been intentionally knitting from my stash and steadily paring down my stashed commercial yarn.

Recently, I finished a sweater that I had a heck of a time washing and blocking. I talked at length about it on a recent podcast episode but basically, the yarn wouldn’t dry. I finally had to thrown it in the dryer with a prayer and hope things worked out. I was still on egg shells as it finished drying in the hot summer sun over the course of the last few days. I said a little prayer and tried it on earlier today and Lo! It worked out. *insert huge sigh of relief here*

R and C (1 of 1)-3

The reason I really wanted this sweater to ‘work out’ is because I absolutely love this silhouette. It creates an interesting line and is incredibly flattering on many body types. I tend towards a pear shape and I have a long torso. I’ve mentioned this before but I’m 5 inches longer than the average from underarm to waist at 9 inches. Not the end of the world but something I have to keep in mind when knitting. First, I need to add length to this part of the sweater and, second, I need more yarn usually. This sweater worked perfectly for those needs because it is a top-down construction, meaning I could put it on my dress form throughout the process to assess general fit. There’s no way to assess EXACT fit when knitting a body of a sweater due to held stitches on cables or scrap yarn but you can get a general idea.

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The number one reason this sweater caught my fancy was because of the designer. I have been a long-time Instagram follower of Samantha Lamb and I love her style. While I am not the same shape as her, and never will be, I can wear much of the clothing she wears and I love it! When she published this pattern, I was so excited to knit it! And then it languished. I was nervous about getting the fit right and didn’t have the mental capacity to tackle it. I had several projects for the book to complete first and they took priority. One evening through, I decided to really focus on the neckline and get it started. I decided to take a leap of faith and knit the 33” bust size, knowing I had gauge. I have recently lost about 12# and knew that the sweater had a little positive ease in it based on Sam’s modelled photos. Fingers crossed, I decided to continue knitting. I was elated when the yoke fit my dress form perfectly, which I haven’t adjusted since losing some weight. So I kept knitting, excited about the fit and style of the sweater.

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One tip that I often follow that I picked up from Amy Herzog is to chose my sweater size from a pattern based on my upper bust measurement. For example, my bust measurement with a bra on (very important!) is 36 inches but my upper bust (around my underarms and back) is 34 inches. If I’d chosen the 37 inch bust to knit, it would have come out with around 4-5 inches of additional ease in the yoke – that’s too big and the sweater would have looked baggy. Instead, the yoke fits perfectly but not tight with the sweater slightly tighter across the bust creating the illusion of slimness. Magic right? The ease through the waist adds to the illusion as well as the slightly more fitted hips. Originally, I had an addition increase in the hips but when I ripped back to add length, I removed this increase. It cinched the sweater in nicely. Otherwise, it would have been flared, which would make my hips appear larger than I’d prefer.

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Pattern: South Bay Sweater by Samantha Lamb

Yarn: West Yorkshire Spinners (WYS) Aire Valley Aran in 870 Purple

Needles: 4.00mm for garter, 5.00mm for stockinet and body

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Previously, I never chose to knit pullovers because I found them too frumpy but my thoughts about them have completely changed. They can really make an outfit come together and eliminate the need for accessories like scarves, shawls and jewellery. More often than not these days, I’m running in and out to school and the gym, lacking time and energy to ‘get ready’ and ‘styled’. Mostly, I want items that I can choose that make me looks put together. The key here is simplicity! This definitely fits the bill!

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Next time, I will reflect upon some of the poncho-style sweaters I’ve made recently and what has worked … and really really not worked. I hope you stay tuned!

4 thoughts on “Part I: Sweater Reflections

  1. Beautiful work, Rachel! And a lovely reflection on fit and style and bodies . . . I think this sweater is so perfect on you–maybe it’s the purple (my favorite) or maybe it’s the killer neckline, or maybe it’s how happy and comfortable you look in it :) Really beautiful and interesting project. I think I missed it in the recent casts–is this knit out of your handspun, per usual? Lovely!! ~Melissa

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