Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In Which I Finally Call It Finished

Well, this has certainly been what one may refer to as a "long-term" project, but it is finally done.

Pattern:  Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: Roughly 7 skeins of Cascade 220, in "Brown"
Needles: US 7, circulars and DPNs (I used knit picks Harmonies)
Time to knit: Forever

Ravelry tells me that I began this sweater on June 20, which sounds about right.  I spent my summer knitting on this sweater.  I knit on it during my lunch hour when I was working with the physical plant on campus, I knit it on the plane when flying to San Diego (although it never made it to the beach), I knit it while taking the Greyhound to Minneapolis.  I knit on this sweater while carpooling to Chicago and, most importantly, I knit on it to keep me company while living on a quite desolate campus over the summer.

By the middle of August I was done with most of the knitting.  I had knit the body of the sweater, I had knit the sleeves, I had done the saddles.  All that was left to do was cut the front steek and knit on a button band and collar.  And so, being the fearful knitter that I am, I stuck the sweater into a drawer rather than cutting it open and nearly forgot about it.  It wasn't until the end of February (a full six months later!) that I was finally able to suck it up and cut the sucker open.  I steeked it while on retreat with other knitters, and therefore was able to lean on them for support (thanks guys!) and you know what?  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

I reinforced the steek using the crochet method, and then promptly ripped it out and did it again (whether I was being cautious or simply wasting time, we may never know).  I then laid the sweater on the floor and began cutting.  Strangely enough, although I was able to control my nervousness, my camera (I'm convinced) went into hysterics and gave itself a heart attack.  I, therefore, was not able to document the actual cutting (of course my camera regained consciousness after the steeking was over), but the fact that the sweater is finished proves that I did indeed do it.

Once the steek was cut (I had picked up all my stitches for the button band before I cut the steek because I had been entertaining the idea of knitting a false button band onto a "pullover" in order to both fool the viewer into thinking that I had indeed cut the steek and also to avoid the painful act of cutting one's knitting), it took me about the length of the season of "1940s House" to knit the button band.  I then promptly ripped it out when I got back home from the retreat (what is it with me promptly ripping things?) and knit it again, much more to my liking.  The first button band/collar had some strange short rows that I had added for no reason other than I thought I should and there weren't enough decreases in the collar, making it look a bit wonky.  I like the new button band much better, although the back of the collar still leaves much to be desired.

I learned so much about knitting through this sweater.  Elizabeth Zimmermann is not one to hold the knitter's hand whilst they work one of her patterns, and so I really had to be confident in my own abilities and decisions.  Before I even began knitting, I had to choose my cables, do all my swatching and cable placement for the body and arms.  I had to make sure my saddles were going to line up with the patterning (of my own choosing) and then I of course had to chart out each cable.  Being the masochist that I am, I didn't bother choosing cables with the same number of rows per repeat (I had cables with 5, 6, 8, 12, and 14 row repeats) and ended up writing out which cables would need to be crossed in every single row.  I also knit the entire sweater without a cable needle (a technique which I now think should be required of every knitter).

I often forget that this is only my second sweater, yet when I do remember, it really helps me to overlook the few odd choices I've made and I'm sure that I will learn from what I've done and be able to apply it to everything that I will do in the future.

You may notice that my buttons don't match.  (In fact, one of them isn't even a button at all, but part of an American Eagle necklace that I happily took apart).  To that I say, "pshaw!  Of course my buttons match, they're just not all the same!"


  1. That's why I love her patterns. She expects you to figure out things for yourself. Such a refreshing change from the patterns that want to hold your hand.

    It's lovely! You did a wonderful job. Well done!

  2. It looks fantastic! Congrats on finishing such a beautiful sweater.

  3. Seriously impressive. From someone who's never steeked...I can appreciate your fear and admire your bravery in wielding the scissors!

    Nice rich color as well as lovely cabling and shaping.

  4. This sweater is outstanding! Well worth the time it took to complete it. Wear it with pride!

  5. Wow, it look fantastic!! Wonderful fit, and it looks like you got the sizing just right. The rich brown yarn looks perfect with the cables you chose. And you steeked! Very impressive, and an amazing accomplishment all round.

    And it's good to see you let loose a bit with the buttons. Of course they match. :-)

  6. Congrats on such a great cardigan!

  7. gorgeous sweater, simply gorgeous. and hey, it's only april, you can probably wear it for another 2 months! :)

    i like your photos too.

  8. Wow, great looking sweater. Way above my level, lol. Someday *sigh*.
    Btw, I just learned to cable without a cable needle after reading some posts on it on the MWK board. I agree, it's a great technique. Practicing it on an "Irish Hiking Scarf" (much more my level.)

    You really do awesome work!

  9. Yay! It's finished!!! It looks so much better than you made it sound like it would. So what's the next big project you're going to tackle?

  10. Wow! Wish I could knit like that! Looks great.


  11. That is absolutely stunning! I admire your persistence.

    As for the buttons, they match my kitchen plates. I purchased 8 different plates so nobody would get bored eating off the same old stuff.

    Thanks so much for your kind words about the Unspellable shawl!

  12. Hey!! Sorry for not posting sooner but I've been away for a bit. I just had to say that I love the way it turned out. Absolutely wonderful!!

  13. Great Sweater !!

    I've tried to send a couple of reply emails to the comments you leave on my blog, but the mailserver at your school bounces them back as spam. Do you have another email address?

    My word verification is "uncested" which sounds rude.

  14. I love everything about this!! You rock and so does the sweater. Congratulations on this, and on a great blog - you remind me of my friend Matthew because it kind of sounds like you write like you talk. So does he. Anyway, great job :)