My grandmother recently commissioned me to make a sweater for my mother. My mother has been getting nostalgic lately and mentioned a sweater gram had made for her when she was a little girl and how she loved that sweater. So gram decided to dig out the pattern for the sweater to see if I could convert it for an adult size and surprise my mother with it.
Unfortunately, the pattern was in sort of a poncho style that we all agreed would look pretty terrible on an adult. I’m also not great at converting patterns and I didn’t want to push my luck.
So, we decided to pick out a different pattern. I recently purchased the knitting pattern book Celtic Journey from Knit Picks and it has a ton of beautiful sweater patterns in it. We settled on the Dubline Cardigan for this project because it seemed cozy and has a cute hood. But boy was the pattern complicated!
Let me begin by saying I’ve only attempted one sweater before, and I still haven’t finished it. This was my first time actually completing a sweater, and while it was frustrating (see my post titled Dagnabbit) I was able to complete it successfully. I’m upset at myself that there are a couple of little mistakes in the bottom of the sweater that I didn’t notice until I was done, but I did not want to take apart the whole thing. Thankfully, they’re the small sort of mistake that nobody but myself will notice.
The pattern calls for using Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn, which I truly would have loved to try but you have to order it. Swish is 100% Superwash Merino Wool, and I’ve been dying to work with a washable wool for some time now. But we were too excited to get the pattern underway, and the selection of wool yarns available locally just wasn’t cutting it. So we settled on a worsted acrylic yarn by Lion Brand.
We wanted to do a lighter color than the one shown in the picture, but we also didn’t want a variegated yarn because we felt it would detract from the intricate cable patterns.
The Lion Brand Heartland acrylic in the color Grand Canyon had just the right amount of variation so it wasn’t entirely a solid color, but the variation was subtle enough so as not to detract from the cables. It’s also a very soft yarn and was just wonderful to work with. The fact that it’s machine wash and dry makes the garment easy to care for, too.
For this pattern, you first work your sleeves to the desired length. I subtracted a few inches from the sleeve length because my mom is less than 5′ tall and has short limbs. One of her biggest issues buying clothes is that the petite section is still a bit long on her, especially sweater sleeves. For some reason, petite size sweaters never seem to have shorter sleeves. Once you work the sleeves you’ll slip the live stitches onto a stitch holder to be worked in later.
The body of the sweater is worked as one piece, so you will need to keep track of two different knitting charts as you go. Each front panel is a different chart, as the cables are going in the opposite direction. It was a bit tough to get the hang of at first since I don’t do a lot of chart knitting, but I found that once I’d gotten a system down I enjoy chart knitting more than written instructions knitting. Once you learn what your symbols mean, you can easily tell where you are at a glance, and the chart is built to look like what the cables look like when you do them.
For my first crack at this, I decided to forego using stitch markers and try to keep track mentally. Don’t do this. Use the stitch markers. It’s much easier to think of the garment as different sections when you use them. I don’t own stitch markers, so I just tied off little segments of scrap yarn and slipped those over my needles. You’ll find that as you improvise different solutions in knitting, you don’t really need all the fancy supplies that are available out there. As long as you have your regular straight or circular needles and a few sizes of double-points, you can make do.
One of my bigger mistakes while working this pattern (pictured above) was not following the directions verbatim. It never specified that when you decrease around the sleeve that you’ll be decreasing directly into some of your beautiful cables. I felt like that couldn’t be right so I decreased alongside my cables only to realize later that not all of the cables continue to go up over the hood. Hence the inspiration for Dagnabbit. If you make the same mistake, you’ll realize that you’re making your sleeve opening too small to fit an arm through and you’ll have to go back. Don’t make assumptions when working this pattern, just do exactly what it says.
Another mistake I ran into concerning the sleeves with this pattern was the sleeve placement. While working this pattern it has you set up your different sections with stitch markers (front left, front right and back). It tells you to bind off a certain number of stitches before and after the marker (removing the marker as you go). I did this, I did not count my remaining stitches, and I continued to merrily decrease away around my sleeves only to realize rows later that I had a different number of stitches for both of my front panels. I figured out how I did this so you don’t have to make the same mistake.
When binding off stitches, typically you knit two stitches and then pass the first knitted stitch over the last knitted stitch and off the needle. Knit one more and pass the last stitch over. Rinse and repeat. But when you’re doing this in the middle of a knitted row to make a hole, you need to make sure you’re not binding off stitches you’re going to continue to work with. What I did is I worked to the number of stitches in front of the marker, then instead of knitting two stitches to begin binding off, I knitted just one and passed one of the stitches from the front panel over it. I did this at both markers, which shifted each sleeve opening backward by one stitch, causing each front panel to have a different number of stitches.
Had I bothered to pause and count the number of stitches for each of my three sections, I would have caught the mistake right away. And perhaps if I’d left it nobody would notice the mistake too badly. But I’m a perfectionist and I just couldn’t leave it. I had to go back and take the sleeves off entirely, put them back on their stitch holders, and fix the openings. Very, very frustrating.
Thankfully, those were the only two glaring mistakes I had to go back and correct. Occasionally I got a cable going the wrong way, but that happens just about any time you’re cable knitting. I finally completed the project and was about to sew up the hood.
Now the hood I did a little differently than it called for in the pattern. The pattern will have you decrease some stitches and then increase again to create a little more support and keep the garment on your shoulders. Once you’re done increasing, the hood is worked straight up until it reaches a specific length and you either bind it off and sew it or you can graft it. But I noticed that in the pictures there was a point on the back of the hood that I didn’t care for. So I decided that when I got to my top few rows I’d decrease some stitches in the back to reduce the point a bit.
The hood still has a little bit of a point, but it’s much less than the original in the pattern. I only decreased a total of 4 stitches over 2 rows to get this effect. For a more rounded hood, decrease more stitches over more rows.
The pattern allows for the option of binding off and sewing or grafting the hood, as I mentioned earlier. But I felt that binding off and sewing would detract from the lovely band of cables that continues to go up over the hood and it would create an odd seam. So I opted to graft the hood top. Grafting essentially creates another row of knits or purls (or both) that finishes off two rows of live stitches. I will post a grafting tutorial at a future date. I grafted this hood from the point to the front.
As you can see, the cables are going in opposite directions and the middle where the grafted stitches are is not cabled. If the cables were going in the same direction, I would have attempted to continue the cabling seamlessly over the top of the hood. As it stands, though, the cables go in opposite directions so there really wasn’t a way to continue the cables. For this pattern, it is more important for the cables to go in opposite directions so the two front panels have symmetry than for the top of the hood to be flawless. I also think it’s important to try to graft the stitches so that the hood lies flat and does not have a seam. If you’ve never tried grafting before, give it a shot, it really does finish this project in a way a seam can’t.
Once all that is done you have only to sew up your sleeves and you’re done!
Honestly, had I not made so many errors in the sleeves to start with, this would have taken half the time it wound up taking. But now I know, so any future sweaters should come along much easier. So without further ado, here’s my finished product!
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