Wednesday, 24 April, 2024

By The Fibreside

Knitting and spinning on the Sunshine Coast of BC

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A Tale of Two Sleeves

It was the best of intentions; it was the worst of intentions.

Handing her sweater back to my mom this weekend was a great feeling. Having it fit exactly as she wanted, and not having the fact that the two sleeve ends were knit differently be noticeable without looking too hard was also great. At some point in the future if it REALLY bothers me, I might fix it, but for now, she’s got her lovely colourwork Norwegian sweater back.

But sitting down today and looking for the photographs I took when she gave me that sweater to adjust was not a great feeling. Because she gave it to me last Christmas.

Mom's sweater, unaltered sleeves.
Mom’s sweater, unaltered sleeves.

See up there in the corner? And on the tree to the left? Christmas decorations. Christmas decorations. Which means that this project has been kicking around since before I started the blog and podcast.

I am a horrible daughter.

Original sleeve length - a few inches too short.
Original sleeve length – a few inches too short.

I’ll grant you, there were a few stumbling blocks. First there was trying to find suitable substitute yarn, and realizing that I needed to keep the yarn from the cuffs to use because I wouldn’t be able to match the white, while the black I could. And it really has only been this year that I’ve started to get knitting construction, been able to finagle patterns and yarn to do what I want. And let’s not talk about the worst part of the whole thing: scissors.

About to take scissors to knitting - actual knitted fabric - for the first time ever.
About to take scissors to knitting – actual knitted fabric – for the first time ever.

I did try to unravel the sleeves from the cast-on edge up, a prospect that anyone who has tried it can tell you is a bit of a bear. But I would have kept at it, if the yarn hadn’t been split and knit at one point. There was no way around it. I was going to have to cut the darn cuff off and hope for the best. It was frightening. I knew that with steeks, you’re usually working with regular wool, and I knew that this was superwash, and I didn’t trust it. But I ended up catching the stitches, snipping, and unraveling, and the sweater didn’t spontaneously combust, or unravel, much to my surprise. After that, it was a relatively simple matter of reverse-engineering the colourwork pattern and knitting the cuff down from the black yarn I’d bought, and the white yarn I’d salvaged. In August, I had one sweater cuff.

One down, one to go.
One down, one to go.

I went back in the blog, trying to remind myself of the progression of this project. I had fully intended to whip up that last sleeve and have it back to my mom in August, when we were down for their anniversary. We test-fit the completed sleeve and it was the right length. After that, it’s a little hazy. But I do remember one thing: when I cut off the second cuff, the number of stitches in the second sleeve was different from the first. The sleeves had different stitch counts at the same point.

I expect this is why the sweater wasn’t finished that weekend in August. I expect that’s also why it lingered here in project purgatory, until I came up with a new plan. And yes, the second sleeve extension is knit from the cuff up and Kitchenered on. It was the simplest way I could think of to knit the same cuff pattern, yet make the stitch count match with the original sleeve. But it worked.

Sweater with cuff extensions.
Sweater with cuff extensions.

If you look real close at the right sleeve, you can see that there’s an extra row of white that there isn’t on the left. If you look even closer than you can in this photo, you can see that in that extra row of white, there are some twisted stitches. And if you look really really close, you can see that the stitch direction between the left and right cuff are reversed.

Cuff close-up.
Cuff close-up.

I’m enough of a perfectionist that it bothers me a little bit. I’m enough of a realist to know that I’m the only one looking for it (except all of you, but I’ve told you to look for it). And I’m enough of a pragmatist to know that it really doesn’t matter if there’s one extra row of white on one sleeve, with a few twisted stitches and opposite stitch directions.

Colourwork sweaters run in the family - Mom with her 'grand-lamb.' ;)
Colourwork sweaters run in the family – Mom with her ‘grand-lamb.’ 😉

The sleeves are long enough now, they’re warm, and even though it took me just shy of one full year to get it done, there’s still a whole bunch of winter left for that sweater to see some use. And because I’ve gone through the whole process – challenged myself, reverse-engineered, overcome my fear of scissors, and done a lot of Kitchener stitch – that sweater will now see more use than it has in the fifteen years since it was first knit. And next time I have to do something like this, it sure as heck won’t take me a year to do it. Thanks for the challenge, Mom! Enjoy your sweater.

3 comments on A Tale of Two Sleeves

  • Frazzlehead

    Having seen it live and in person, I can attest to the fact that it looks awesome.

    And look at the smile on your mom’s face … she looks great in that sweater, and now she’ll enjoy wearing it!

    This makes you an AWESOME daughter!

  • M&D

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I’m almost looking forward to the next cold snap so I can wear my “new” sweater 🙂 I really didn’t mind waiting almost a year for it… and for the record–you are a GREAT daughter!

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