Friday, June 10, 2011

The Perfect Sweater

I realized a few weeks ago that I haven't knit a sweater for myself since I finished Delain at the beginning of March, 2010.  What's worse is that I have been holding onto the yarn for several sweaters for quite a bit longer than that.  Each one I've chosen has presented just one or two "complications" to a carefree, mindless sweater-knitting experience and for one reason or another, I've put it aside so that it can sort those complications out for itself.  They haven't yet, and so my needles have gone sweaterless.

For my birthday this past November my sister sent me enough Malabrigo to knit a sweater and I've been on the search for the perfect pattern ever since.  The trouble is, I'm no longer convinced that the perfect sweater pattern exists.  There are tons of great ones, many sweaters that I love and want to knit for myself, but not with this malabrigo.  I think the problem is that I went into this search with a pattern in mind and have ruled everything out because, well...  because it's not the sweater in my head and that means it's not perfect.

So I decided last week that I was just going to have to design this sweater myself.

That's how far I've gotten.  I'm not even going to tell you how long it took to draw something that even resembled the shape of a sweater (I've never pretended to be an artist.  Well, except with music.  You know what I mean.), but this is where I'm stuck.  Here's what I know about my sweater:
  • It's knit at a really dense gauge because it's going to be a coat
  • It's going to have cables
  • It's going to have twisted stitches (this then rules out it having cables, I think)
  • It's going to be knit in pieces
  • It's going to have set-in sleeves
  • It's going to have a zipper up the front
  • It's also going to have a front flap that buttons closed with toggles
  • The band around the bottom is going to be a sideways cable knit separately as a strip
  • It's going to have a collar, I just don't know what kind yet
So, alright, you'd think I'd be well on my way at this point, only I've been sitting with my stitch dictionaries for days and they're so full of post-its marking cables and twisted stitches that I don't even know what I'm doing anymore.  I've made lists, I've narrowed them down several times and the trouble is that I can never make up my mind.  One day I decide that I want all my cables to be "curvy", and then the next day I decide I don't want cables at all and go off and remove all the post-its and only choose twisted stitch patterns, only to drop those like a hot potato when I see a "pointy" cable that I like and then the other day I decided that I would just whack them all together and when I started charting out a swatch so I could check gauge, I changed my mind.  I can't put rounded cables together with sharp ones next to twisted stitches and seed stitch (the seed stitch came from left field.  I've already ruled it out.)  What was I thinking?  That's too much.  In my head that looks like a cluttered, unfocused mess and my sweater (in my head) doesn't, so clearly I'm not there yet.  (Don't even get me started on the day when I decided that each segment of my sweater would be something different.  The back could have twisted stitches, the front right the rounded cables and the front left the pointed ones, with the sleeves getting the leftovers.  I clearly wasn't thinking straight that day.)

So I'm back to where I was when I drew that picture.  A blank sweater-shaped canvas that needs to be filled with some sort of pattern and this is where I realize, for the tenth time, that I'm not a designer and may be a bit over my head.  How do they do it?


  1. The seed stitch came from the "knit at a dense gauge" criterion. I mean, that's what popped into my head when I read that.

    I love the idea of the sideways cable band at the bottom.

  2. Could you look at patterns or even the stitch books for elements that you like? Then you could play with putting them together and see what works, what doesn't and what makes you happy.

    Oh, and talk to our Joan. She knows everything.


  3. I was going to suggest what Cookie did - go to those sweaters you liked, but weren't "just right" and figure out what elements you liked from each.

  4. my head is spinning just reading your story.

  5. I think they just do it. and then do another one for those other ideas. Exactly what Cookie & pacalaga said...

    Good luck with your sweater... One thing I've learned making them for DH is that men aren't flat. Mine's built more or less like you (tall and lean), but I have to include short rows to make the back about 2-3 inches longer to account for shoulders.

    I'd say you are a hiker. You know, we don't all have to make it 2100 mile marathon event to make it count. And I'm all about finding beauty where you are, so good job.

    NY has some fabulous mountains that are day hikes, and there's always Mt. Washington if you get up to NH. It's a pretty incredible drive up there too. Actually, I shouldn't say "too", I've never hiked up it.

  6. Whew! That's exhausting. And that's just the reason I gained new respect for designers. It's so easy to look at the finished design and think, "I could have done that!" But to narrow all the ideas down into something that flows so naturally and simply is a real mystery to me! I generally take lots of polls at moments like this. I'm sure you can do it, but I'm also in awe.

  7. I can't imagine the thought process for a design like this, but I think you are on the right track. Finding examples you like "in the wild" is probably good advice. I have confidence in you, as you are an accomplished knitter!

  8. The perfect sweater is an elusive creature. If you spot it, let me know.
    I think of the perfect sweater as a basic model that you can add something to. I would pick a basic construction method, and then add one element (or at most two) that give it flair. It might be less frustrating to proceed that way.
    Good luck!

  9. Yipes! Good luck. Just keep playing, it can't be all bad.