Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Finished knitting: The Lichen sweater

Increasingly, I feel like I enjoy the process of knitting much more than I like the things I knit. I absolutely loved the making of this sweater. I am more or less meh on the sweater itself.

The Lichen sweater, in blue linen/viscose yarn
This was an ambitious knitting project for me. My only previous experience of knitting a pattern with a lace component was the partial lace patterned scarf I made a couple of years ago, and the actual lace sections in that went very wonky indeed. Also, my last sweater did not turn out well enough that I was filled with enormous knitting confidence. I jokingly said, when I mentioned this sweater in my Spring planning post, that I suspected I would deeply regret this project, but in fact, it all went remarkably well! In fact, it went so well, and I enjoyed the knitting part so much, that I finished it in under a month and completely screwed up my knitting plan for the spring/summer!

Lichen, image from Ravelry
The pattern I used was the Lichen sweater, by Yumiko Alexander (Ravelry link), a DK weight short-sleeved lace patterned sweater. You also get a second version of the pattern in the instructions, "Smoke", which is essentially the same sweater but in 3-ply and without sleeves.

As far as the pattern itself is concerned, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The actual text of the pattern is lamentable. The author's first language is not English and the pattern doesn't seem to have been edited by a native English speaker. The instructions are all over the place. The way the lace pattern is described is not what you might call crystal clear, and although it wasn't hard to figure out what the author meant I ended up writing out the pattern again myself just so I had it available to me laid out in a way that was clear and easy to follow.

It was probably an advantage that I am a pretty novice knitter, because I just do what I'm told in the pattern. It is obvious from some of the comments about the pattern I read on Ravelry that more experienced knitters considered parts of the pattern to be very unorthodox and found themselves overthinking what they were doing. The flip side of this is that at times the text assumes you pretty much know what you are doing with statements like "for the neckline decrease 3 stitches every other row for 8 rows". This is really not enough information for me with my level of experience and I had to ask a more experienced knitter friend to walk me through which decrease stitches to use and where to put them in the lace pattern and then write it all out.

In spite of all of these pitfalls, I think this sweater has the least errors in it of anything I've made so far. It's not error-free, but the one place it went really wonky was in the uppermost corner of one edge of a sleeve, meaning that you would literally have to be staring at my armpit to see it.

 I have said a couple of times I really enjoyed knitting this already, but I really did! For me personally, because I'm not very experienced at knitting, I couldn't do my usual read & knit thing, or watch TV and knit. Pretty much every time I made a mistake it was because I took my attention off what I was doing. I also counted my stitches about four bazillion times in the process of making this, which was how I was able to do the two biggest pieces -- front and back -- without any significant errors. A couple of times I was in danger of going completely wrong but because I counted my work back so often I caught my mistakes before they became big mistakes. So, this was really hard work for me, as knitting goes, but I had a great sense of accomplishment as the lace pattern took shape on my needles.
The lace pattern, post blocking
This pattern -- and my purpose, a summer sweater -- is really suited to a linen blend. Linen yarn turns out to be harder to source than I expected -- it seems to be either cheap and have very mixed reviews, or very expensive. I also think this sweater would look gorgeous in a silk yarn with a shine to it, but, not at all unexpectedly, there was nothing of that type in my price range.

I ended up buying a bundle of the discontinued yarn Rowan Lenpur Linen from someone de-stashing. It is a linen/viscose blend DK weight, in a sort of inky blue colour called Creek. (I am sure that is a very poetic name but it's totally misleading. Every creek I've ever seen has been a murky brown/green.) It's a little fuzzier in texture than I expected for a linen yarn-- presumably because of the high viscose content -- but it was very nice to knit, and only went splitty if I really poked at it.

With the arm held out to the side to show the (immense) amounts of ease this sweater has

So why am I a bit indifferent to this sweater overall? Mainly, because it ended up much too long. I chose to make the longer version of the sweater but it ended up MUCH longer than advertised even though my gauge swatch was dead on for length after blocking. Actually, I was worried it would be too short! I think either my yarn "grew" or the swatch just wasn't reliable. On the width, I knew I was out by a certain fraction from gauge and simple math told me how big it would end up being -- and it ended up exactly that bit. I am fine with the width. It is an intentionally draped/over-sized sweater and honestly with so much ease built in the odd inch over barely registers. The length, I don't know, it's just not quite a good length on me.

Don't be deceived by the apparent shape of the side seams, it really is just a rectangle.
About halfway through making this I was absolutely certain I was going to make another straight away and was eagerly looking for a yarn fibre content/colour combination that I liked. Now I'm not so sure. I've moved on to a temporary, quick project while I think about whether I really want another sweater like this (although I would definitely make the next one shorter, and also possibly narrower.

In conclusion: a great knitting experience, but not the greatest actual garment from it. I am feeling a bit disillusioned with knitting as a whole, and for now I've decided not to buy anything at all and just whittle down my (already very small) stash and work on my WIPs for a little while.

1 comment:

  1. This looks lovely and I am impressed by your success with following the lace pattern! I think the disappointment you describe happens for me with both knitting and sewing projects, but the knitting ones often take so much more time to produce that it's more difficult to get over this hurdle. In sewing, if something doesn't come out as I had hoped I have several strategies to cope: wear it a few times to be sure, put it in the magic closet for a while, try wearing it for a different use than I had planned (though not everything is destined to work as pajamas), or maybe take it apart to refashion or reuse the fabric or notions. Somehow there don't seem to be as many options for knitwear, it's sort of all or nothing--especially with a yarn that doesn't hold up well to being frogged and knit again, even if you can stand doing it. I once picked out and reknit the entire front band of a cardigan sweater, but it was much more daunting than doing the same thing with something I had sewn. So I do knit and I do enjoy it, but in some ways I am much more cautious about the types of projects I'll take on, because the projects that fail seem to fail harder, if that makes any sense.