The saga of the recycled sweater has come to an end. What a process it’s been.
Working on this simple top has taught me a lot about basic seamed garment-construction. I had to stray from the pattern early on (not enough yarn), and ended up inventing a garment that looks quite different from anything I could have imagined. It helps to follow one’s whimsy every now and then.
This sweater has taught me how much reconstitution knitting involves. Knitting entails reworking and reconstituting both my materials and my aspirations (!) as I go back and forth between dreaming of perfect, fictional (and perfectly fictional) garments and the givens of reality. One can’t always have their proverbial cake and eat it, too — especially when working with second-hand yarn. This project taught me to follow my gut, stay loose, stay calm, and knit on. I’m happy that such an important set of lessons also happened to produce my very first knit tee – it’s a little misshapen and has some uneven bits here and there, but it’s wearable (and it fits!).
Hooray for the summer sweater! (Sonya Philip has a very fun article on precisely this topic, Wear what you make: The Summer Sweater. I really enjoy her fun sense of style and colour, and she’s spot on about the need for a summer knit in cool, air-conditioned interiors).
As usual, here are some lessons culled.
First / Recycled Sweater Learnings
1. Roll with it (mods are a-ok). Stockinette fabric is a curly thing. After seaming, the sleeves wanted to curl in, and the sweater’s bottom hem wanted to curl up. During early fittings, I felt like I was wearing a big blue curly corn chip. I decided to be kind to the fabric; instead of ‘killing the acrylic’ with an iron (permanently flattening it out), I decided to work with the knitting’s natural inclinations: I rolled up the sleeves to make cuffs (with inspiration from the 80s cut off sweatshirt), and I rolled up the bottom hem on both sides to make a little garter-stitch border. Since the sweater was very fitted around the waist, I left 3″ open slits along each bottom side-seam to add some space and movement to the hemline (see above). I just did what I felt worked. Hopefully, though, I will be doing less ‘sideways’ knit garments in the future and will encounter fewer of these curly ends.
2. Bulky Seam Syndrome (BSS) is avoidable. What I call BSS is about as appealing as it reads. A number of readers (thank heavens) warned me about the possibility of bulky seams as I began finishing up. I had to see these purported bulky seams for myself, so I did an underarm seam using a regular mattress stitch. Just as expected, this method produced a bulging, heavy, rope-like thing in the armpit that was so thick, it stiffened the fabric’s natural movement.
Thankfully, there’s another way to go about it – an adapted form of mattress stitch that is much less bulky for when seams are called for. It’s still ‘concealed’ and does the trick. See it in action here.
3. Mark beginnings and endings of seams beforehand. I’m taking a page out of my sewing days here. I took up sewing clothes at around 19, and learned from the instructions that came with the Butterick and Vogue paper patterns. A key step in garment-making, I remember, was to pin the pieces of fabric together before running them through the machine. It turns out that this is good sense when seaming knits, too. Because I was careless, and did not count my rows on the sleeves, I produced sleeves of slightly different lengths! Securing the starts and endpoints of my seams before sewing went a long way in keeping hemlines even. Which leads to my next learning…
4. Count the rows. Another reminder to myself. Next time, I will not rely solely on my tape measure to determine whether equivalent parts of the sweater are the same. Next time, I will measure and count actual rows. Having long prided myself on my pencil-and-paper minimalism when it comes to row counting, I just may buy a stitch counter the next sweater ’round.
And finally, 5. Process is queen.There’s always a little fear that comes with straying from the directions. But there’s a lot of freedom in straying, too. If I were to picture the process of making this first sweater, from thrift-store find to intended pattern to FO, it would basically consist of a series of unexpected and make-do-with-the-circumstances strayings, like this:
It’s ok to fear, in the thick of things, that a project might fail. Every now and then, though, the seeming ‘failed’ part ends up being precisely the thing that leads to a new direction. And an entirely workable or downright happy direction, at that.
This recycled yarn project has been 4 months coming, and it feels good to be finished! I will do this again, and have already taken to finding other froggable garments. If you have a little bit of spare time, it can’t hurt to try your hand at some simple yarn recycling.
Thanks for reading, and happy making!