Tears before dawn (almost)

Not wishing to sound overdramatic, but something awful happened to me not long ago. Something knitting related. I feel a bit of context is required before I dive, headlong into the drama.

I was recently gifted some beautiful 100% Alpaca yarn (thank you Kirstie) in a subtle dusky pink that is just my colour. There was a whopping 11 balls of the stuff, enough to make a proper garment.

Now I have been knitting for roughly 10 years, and mostly I stick to 1-or-2-ball projects. I have a short attention span, and the thought of casting on too many stitches sends me drifting off to a different project. But I have made two garments in my knitting life. One is a perfectly presentable super chunky cardigan – it’s basically just a few rectangles sewn together with a sparkly button on the front. The other, however, a sleeveless vest, makes me look like a giant walking boob. Literally. Since then I haven’t knitted another garment for fear it just wouldn’t suit me.

So for me, deciding to turn this scrumptious Alpaca into a cardigan was quite a big deal. I found a pattern on Ravelry (of course) and downloaded it from the wonderful Eat.Sleep.Knit (who were very patient with my thicko questions). It’s Emily Johnson’s Vine Bolero. Get ready to drool, it’s lush!

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See? When that lace is blocked it’s going to look stellar!

I had more yarn than I needed so I could make it longer in both the body and the sleeves – great start. My good luck continued, zipping along through the pattern and using an entire day off (ahem, from 8am to 5pm) knitting on the sofa. It’s a top down pattern with contiguous sleeves and less than a week after casting on I had my armhole stitches on waste yarn and I was a full 10cms into the body – I’d even started the waist shaping. I took it into work to show off (as you do, when you work on a knitting magazine) and even had my photo snapped for a competition we are running.

That was when I saw it. A sneaky, pesky, evil little twist in my armhole.

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My stomach fell out of my body through my feet into the centre of the earth where it melted, and I whimpered like a kitten. Somehow, when I had cast on extra stitches for my armhole, I had twisted the work and made it Moebius. Armholes are not meant to be Moebius. Armholes are meant to look like this…

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My work in progress took a tour around the office, desperately seeking a different answer but everyone I showed it to said the same thing.

“You’re going to have to rip it back.”

10cms. On more than 300 stitches, with 6 lace pattern repeats. An entire day’s work. It made me feel sick to even consider ripping it all back and doing it all again. So, desperately, I mentioned the “s” word to one of my colleagues.

“You’d have to reinforce it, and do plenty of research, and it might look rubbish when you’re done. I’d just rip it back, if it were me.”

I did the research, I practiced on my tension square (thank god I did a tension square), I forced my work friends to debate it, at length and by the end of lunch time it was decided. I was going to cut my first steek. I was going to cut up my knitting so that I could untwist that pesky little armhole.

Normally, steeking is a design feature, not an emergency measure. Traditional Fair Isle garments are often steeked because it is easier to work complex colour patterns in the round, where you only work knit stitches. You can then cut your tube of gorgeous knitting to make way for armholes or front openings of cardigans.

All I can say is thank god for Kate Davies and her extensive tutorial, and thank god for gin. The two of them got me through a hairy hour where my knitting went from a twisted mess to this…

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and then to this…

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And breathe!

I’m actually really proud of this little cardigan so far. It helped me learn a new technique, and also taught me to be very careful when creating armholes in top down contiguous sleeve patterns. And I think you will agree that you can barely see the seam. When you consider that it’s under my arm as well, no one will ever know it’s there! Except for the fact that I’ve told you all it’s there.

The cardigan body is now done, and I am working on the first sleeve. With another day off on the horizon, I might just have this beauty finished soon…watch this space 😉