Monday, August 17, 2009

The Sweater that was Knit in a Weekend

In 2 days, the boy knit his first sweater. This is terrific because now I am off the hook for knitting him one since he's been pestering me the last two years to make him a plain cotton sweater. Since knitting miles of stockinette stitches in either black or dirt-brown yarn is not compelling, I never promised him a sweater, but I did feel guilty whenever I saw my friends knitting complex items for their SOs. I assuaged my guilt by offering up small items like a hat and a pair of fingerless mitts, out of fancy pants yarn, nonetheless. Still, he kept on bugging me about that sweater.

And then, the solution fell into our lap. The knitting machine. While we were assembling it, he said, "Now, I can make myself a sweater" and I replied quickly, "Why, yes! Yes you can!"

Late afternoon on Saturday, while discussing yarn options, he grabbed a 1-lb cone of kitchen cotton from my stash and told me that he wanted his sweater made out of that yarn. I do not fancy myself a yarn snob, but this statement made me recoil. Then, I sat down to do the yarn calculations. Suddenly, spending $20 on yarn vs. $100+ didn't sound so bad. After all, it's his first sweater, right? We procured the right dirt-colored cotton yarn at JoAnn's. We bought 3-lbs of yarn, but it turns out that he only needed 2-lbs (around 1400 yards of worsted weight).

Using a diagram for The Manly Sweater in Stitch 'N Bitch, we set to work. The first thing the boy did was knit a gauge swatch. We both measured the stitches per inch horizontally and vertically, and compared our answers. Same same. Then, we recorded his chest size, arm length, shoulder width, and torso length. Armed with those measurements, I reached for my knitting notebook to do some more calculations, but he insisted on using his own boring graph paper project notebook.

A sweater knit in pieces is the perfect project for him since he already has experience sewing bike jerseys. This was both of our first set-in-sleeve sweater, but since I had knit some (OK, only 2) top down raglan pieces, I had a clue as to how to do this.

Armed with his swatch's stitches per inch, the boy did all the calculations for the sweater on his own. I was only consulted a few times to brainstorm about sleeve shaping and other such tricky bits. I didn't even knit a single row. He finished the last piece last night, after about 4 hours of machine knitting. He had the audacity to complain that it took too long, but when I told him it would probably take me a year to finish a sweater for him if I had to hand knit it in dirt-brown, kitchen cotton yarn (is my non-motivation showing?), he merely said that his next attempt will be much quicker. Show off.

Because I am a sucker, or perhaps because occasionally I can be nice, I am seaming the pieces together. My reasoning is that I got out of knitting him a sweater, plus I am in need of honing my seaming skills. Better to practice on his garment than mine! I am using the kitchener stitch for the shoulder seams (I told the boy to not bind off the shoulder stitches) and a "somewhat mattress" stitch for the sleeves and sweater sides. My deadline for this project is Thursday since the boy is out of town until then.

Additionally, I have to note that the yarn we used, Bernat Handicrafter Cotton Ultrasoft, makes pleasant fabric. I don't know about ultrasoft (I'll reserve that adjective for Blue Sky Alpaca's cotton yarn), but it is soft. In fact, it doesn't feel any less nice than the boy's JCrew cotton sweater.

So, the guy who doesn't know what a purl stitch is can knit a sweater in 4 hours using the machine. I think he should be in knitting machine commercials. The target audience? Women like me who are tired of their husbands* bugging them for a hand knit sweater. Does your husband bug you about knitting him a sweater? Tell him to do it himself!

*We all know about the boyfriend sweater curse, right?


  1. A four hour sweater that you didn't have to knit is swell! Sounds like he's hooked.

    I generally use 3 needle bind off for my sweater shoulders; it's a bit firmer than a kitchener. That's my excuse for avoiding kitchener, which I can do but am not fond of.

    I love mattress stitched side seams...

  2. HOLEY CRAP!!! wow. that is truly amazing... and 4 hours?! What's there to complain about?! That is so awesome! :o) it sounds like he is hooked...maybe I can commission him to hem some jeans of mine and to make a sweater for Bill?! What can I offer in trade? must go think...

  3. Praise - just as you praise the dogs, praise the boy and he'll keep doing it. Pretty soon, he may be knitting YOU a sweater...hopefully NOT is dirt brown uninspiring crafter's cotton twine, but in that Blue Sky Alpaca that you love!

    If praise doesn't work, offer a cookie.

  4. Ah, the boyfriend sweater curse. I began a marriage and a sweater at about the same time. Either I knit slow, or the curse is true, because he divorced me before I pieced it together.

    Bonus epilogue: this winter I was finally "over it" enough to reclaim the yarn for a future project. Went to my LYS and had an unraveling party, complete with champagne!

  5. your boy continues to amaze me (as do you!) That pattern is the same one I modelled my brother's after!



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