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PROGRESS - my crochet project log

Oatmeal Cables Zippered Cardigan

Mar 2006knitmerino wool< $15longishyes

I'm calling this one "done" for now, because I have a little trip coming up next weekend that I very much want to wear it during, but I think I will eventually change out the zipper to something that matches the color more closely. Right now, however, I need some time to forget the couple of hours I spent putting this one in this afternoon! Not to mention the 22 other days I put into the whole project!

And now, for the backstory. I fell in love with Paton's classic merino in general and this color ("natural mix", or what I'm calling oatmeal, because that's what it reminds me of) in particular when making my husband's Irish Hiking Scarf. Also, out of the blue, Michael's flyers with their 40% off coupons started appearing in my mailbox (they've since stopped, sadly!) so I started stocking up on skeins, one at a time. Looked like a silly risk to take for a bit of a cheap thrill for a while there when Michael's ran out of stock for a couple-three weeks, and my project looked doomed, but in the end they came through, and I got the last two I thought I needed for a total of 5 (I think I have about a skein's worth left, split up into two balls.)

Meanwhile, I was eyeing knitty's Mariah. I really liked the general look and feel, but the more closely I looked at the pattern, the less sure I was about actually using it. For one thing, the smallest size was three inches too big, and from the picture, 3 inches of ease seemed too big to me. Then I had trouble getting the gauge and when I finally did (with size #3s!) and tried to do the complicated cable pattern on the sleeve, I found that it was coming out very stiff. Plus it just wasn't fun, I was spending too much time looking back and forth between the pattern and what I was doing. I assume that if I'd stuck with it I'd eventually have it memorized and be able to enjoy myself more, but that along with the other issues, including a desire to do the whole thing in the round with a steek front, oh, and did I mention I didn't want a hood, I wanted a wide-ish collar? and so finally, I decided to go out on my own. What else is new?

I had just bought Handy Book of Sweater Patterns so I decided to use the raglan pattern (child's sizes) as my basis. I really liked the tight little accent cables in Mariah, so I decided to use that, but I switched the chart around a bit so that the cables were separated by 2p-1k-2p segments. I wanted to do the band with smaller needles than the body, since that seems to be the standard way to do things, but all I had smaller than my size 7 circs were size 3 dpns. So I decided to risk my sanity and use two sets to do the entire band. And lived to tell the tale! First I cast on 134 stitches plus 6 for the steek and worked about 3 inches, doing the cable cross-over every third row. On the left half, I made the cables cross over left to right, and on the right half, right to left. Then I put a row of purls, a row of knits, and a row of purls before segueing into the main body, but maintained the inner two cables since I wanted them to flank the zipper when I was done.

I finished up the body to armpit level on the 8th day or so (having decreased down to 100ish for the waist rather quickly and then gradually back up to 124 for the bust), and then set to work on the sleeves, casting on 36 with the dpns again to start at the cuff. Making the two sleeves took me about a week, and then on the 16th day, I was ready to join. Which I did with relatively few problems, though on the first few rows I had to use an extra size 7 dpn to ease my way around the edges of the shoulders where it was a bit tight for the circ. And my circs being only 29s, I had to be very careful that all the stitches didn't just sproing off the needles anytime I set the work down. I took to rubberbanding the tips together to avoid that little annoyance. I was using one of the suggestions in the sweater pattern book on how to do the raglan decrease (ssk, k, k2tg) and attempting to follow the recommendations for which rows to decrease on, but by the time I got to the shoulder, I was dissatisfied, both with the look of the decrease (see picture inset) and with the extra fabric poofing out because the decreases hadn't started soon enough or been numerous enough. I guess that's what comes of trying to follow directions for a pattern that assumes you want a little ease, whereas I wanted very little if any.

So after a couple of days of knitting, I ripped back to the armpits and tried again, this time decreasing every row and using ssk,ssk for my double-decreases. I'm still not 100% happy with the results, but it's oodles better than my first try, so I'm willing to let that one lie.

When I had about 20 stitches left on the shoulder segments, I bound off a flat area across the front, and then started going back and forth, decreasing a few stitches on either side of the opening for a while until I ran into the front raglan lines. I still needed some height in the back at that point, so I kept going, decreasing as usual on the back two raglan lines, but decreasing only 1 stitch on the very end of each row at the front edges. I actually rather like the neckline this produced, and if I hadn't had my heart set on a fleece-jacket style collar, I would have quite happily left it at this point with a little light finishing.

Then I picked up stitches with my size 3 dpns and started to work the collar as if I was making a turtle neck. Thinking I would most likely be wearing the collar turned down, I made the cable-side be in the inside. As I was working on it, I was absolutely convinced it would never fit over my head, but I kept trying it on and I kept managing to pull it on, so I kept going. I'm still not quite sure how it's possible that something that feels so snug around my neck (thus reminding me of why I do not and will not own any turtlenecks!) could possible squeeze itself over my head. But it does, and good thing too, I would have hated to have to do that last step multiple times. Although I kind of regret not making it a bit longer. That really *would* have choked me while I was trying it on, but I think it would have looked nice laying across the shoulders after the cutting open. Ah well, next time.

When I was completely done, I tried it on, and luckily that choking sensation proved helpful motivation to avoid chickening out and not cutting the steek. But before cutting, I decided to steam a bit. Note to self, never steam in the bedroom again! It's so dim in there, I didn't notice a few spots where the wool was starting to singe. Oops. Nothing super noticeable to anyone besides me, luckily, and given the price I see charged for ratty jeans and frayed tops, I suppose a few little extra-crispy-brown bits will only add to my indie cred. Ahem. anyhoo, moving on from that little regrettable gaff, I used my trusty 60s sewing machine to sew up the steek, and the took a deep breath and cut.

The edge looks a little fuzzy, but no signs that it's going to give way. phew. Now time for the zipper. In preparation for this moment, I had the day before taken myself to the Jo-Ann's for a bit of a looksee. At first I despaired, but just as I was about to leave, I found that they had some separating zippers in the cardboard packages as well as just hanging freely, and I found one that looked okay. At the time. Now I'm convinced that it's entirely to light in color. But as aforementioned, weekend trip upcoming, want sweater now, yadda yadda yadda. I folded over my steek edge and proceeded to sew away. Of course, I was almost at the top of the cardigan when I realized I was in the process of installing the zipper inside out. d'oh! pulled it out, tried again, this time with much more success. But herein the wrongness of the color caused me a bit of irritation.

Because of course, when you leave the top partially unzipped as I wanted to do, you see the whole zipper, not just the teeth peeking out, and while those pearly white teeth are bad enough, the tape was just blinding. Not to mention not particularly attractive independent of the color, just lying there held to the sweater with a line of stitching. So I ransacked my stash for a bit of coordinating calico, and found just enough to pull off a little binding tape, ironed flat and tacked with sewing thread around the edges. It doesn't go all the way down to the bottom because I didn't have enough, but it goes as low as I'll want the sweater to hang open, so it'll do. When I put the new darker zipper in, I'll probably also ransack Jo-ann's for a bit of even closer matching fabric and redo that. But I think meanwhile, this is much better than it was.

Despite my zipper issues (which also include its tendenacy to wave rather than lie perfectly flat) I'm reasonably pleased with how this project turned out. of course, I usually say that, and then a few months later I'm wondering what I was thinking, but I guess only time will tell! One thing I'm sure of is that I really, really enjoyed working with the merino. So soft and warm! Of course, we're having a little mini-heatwave just at the moment, but the forecast says we'll be back to the normal 50s any day now, so I'm sure I'll still get some good use out of this before the warmer weather hits in earnest.