White cabled sweater.

Sweater for Baby Huey, perhaps?

After knitting the first few rows of ribbing and body of the sweater, I decided to unravel it and start over with a size 4.0mm needle for the ribbing and a size 4.5mm needle for the body because it was coming out much larger than the pattern's gauge. This cotton blend is nice to work with, but it's thick, and that was causing me to knit more loosely than usual as I'm used to working with 2.5mm and 3.0mm needles (I like 'em small). Good thing is, the smaller needles have fixed the problem and my gauge is now on spot. Being a novice knitter, I tend to check my gauge obsessively, to make sure that nothing funky goes on. I'm glad I do that, because I noticed immediately that the gauge was too big, which would have resulted in too large a sweater. When one is unsure, it pays to measure one's knitting constantly!

A crochet hook is your pal!

After knitting half the back of the sweater, I've got the diagram of the pattern memorized. Which is very good, because I can tell when I've mucked up. A crochet hook is your friend! When you realize that the stitch in which you're about to knit should be a purl one, but is actually a knit one because that's the way you [incorrectly] knit it in a previous row, there's no need to unravel the whole row to correct the mistake. Why lie? When I first started knitting that's what I'd do to fix a stitch that had been knit the wrong way because I didn't know any better. Instead of unraveling it all, simply pull the stitch off the needle, pull on it slightly so that it comes undone, use the crochet hook to redo the stitch as it should have been done and then place the stitch back on the left needle. Yay!

Binding off to shape necklines.

Yay! I finished the back of the sweater, and am 1/4 through the front of the sweater. I had neglected my knitting woefully as I was busy working on my online projects.

I've noticed that most of Phildar's patterns require binding off as a means to shape the necklines (as opposed to decreasing), usually starting off with the instruction to "bind off (x) number of stitches in the middle of the row". It's quite the pain, but it does make for a smoother, more finished look. To figure out exactly where in the middle of the row I have to bind off (x) number of stitches, what I do is subtract such (x) number of stitches from the entire number of stitches on the needle, than divide the resulting number by two. The final number is the amount of stitches I have to knit before I start binding off.

For example:

63 = Total number of stitches on the needle.
9 = Number of stitches pattern requires that I bind off in the middle of the row.

To figure out how many stitches to knit before binding off:

1) 63 - 9 = 54.

2) 54 / 2 = 27

27 is the number of stitches I'll have to knit before I start binding off my center stitches to form my neckline. This may not seem like much to a seasoned knitter, but the first time I came upon the instruction to "bind off (x) number of stitches in the middle of the row" in a pattern I nearly banged my head against the wall trying to figure where I was supposed to bind off. Hee hee.

1, 2, 3...

I got to the last rows of the front part of my kid's sweater (back is already done), and cast off 9 center stitches so I could shape the neckline, just like the pattern instructed. Then I continued working both sides, using two separate skeins of yarn, because it's easier for me to do it that way instead of finishing one side, and then the other. After I had worked a few rows, binding off stitches over several of them at the center edges to shape the neckline, as well as at the outside edges to shape the shoulders, my little brain chirped out, "Hey, Becky! Count your stitches to make sure that you've been casting off correctly!"

I counted. One stitch short on either side. Lovely.

It didn't take look long for me to realize that I had cast off the wrong number of center stitches to begin with. Yes, the pattern instructed 9 stitches, but that's for a size larger. I should have cast off 7 stitches. Which has only reminded me (once and again, although I rarely listen):

1) To circle in pencil all instructions pertaining to the size I'm knitting when the pattern has ten thousand different sizes. (I didn't do this, because I'm lazy.)

2) Count my stitches, and work ahead mentally the number of stitches that remain to be cast off. (Thankfully, I at least did this, which allowed me to catch my little mistake ahead of time, so the number of rows I had to rip out was less than it would have been if I had not counted, and had just knitted in blissful ignorance to the last row where I would have noticed my mistake for sure. But even though I did notice beforehand, I still had to rip out a couple of rows. Humph.)

Sleeves on one needle.

The front of the sweater is finished. That is, it was finished. Until I was looking at it with my always critical eye and spotted [gasp!] an error on the lower left side. A stitch that should have been purled but was knit. Why yes, I did let fly a zinger of a word when I saw it, because if there is one thing I hate is spotting an error in a piece of a garment that is ready for blocking. I could have left it, and more likely than not it would have gone unnoticed by others. But I suffer from a severe case of perfectionist syndrome (I always have, and not just with my knitting), and in a fit of mad frenzy undid the whole thing up to where the error was. I had no patience to fix it with a crochet hook this time. The yarn has already been gently wound up into skeins and steamed to let the crinkles out. As soon as it's dry I'll redo it. Ugh.

Before I spotted the blasted error in the front of the sweater, I had started both of the sleeves and am a quarter through. Following a tip I once read, I decided to knit them both at the same time using separate skeins of yarn for each sleeve and a 29" circular needle so it won't be so heavy. It's working great. Much better and less boring than doing one sleeve after the other.


Finished the sleeves (check the pictures for a peek at them while they were still on the needle) and have made quick and smooth progress with the front of the sweater. I don't know about you, but I can hear the chorus to Handel's "The Messiah" ringing away in my head, because there's nothing like moving along nicely on a fun knitting project.

Piecing together.

Am I the only one who moves like a snail when it comes to piecing together a garment? It's not that I dislike doing it, but boy oh boy am I sloooooooow as molasses when it comes to piecing everything together. I procrastinate like crazy.

But! I'm nearly done with this project (check the photos for my recent update in visuals). All I've got to do is sew on the neckline and bandes de boutonnage on the left shoulder stitch by stitch, and the sweater will be set for blocking. I decided to block the sweater as a whole after piecing it together, as opposed to blocking it piece by piece like I usually do. When it's sewn together, I'll throw it in the gentle rinse cycle for a few minutes, than place it on a flat surface while I gently pull it to the shape and size I want. It's easier that way and besides, I'm pretty sure that using hot steam from the iron on the cables would not be a wise idea.

I can't wait to see how the sweater looks on my kid!

The finished garment!

The white cabled sweater has been sewn, blocked and finished, and I'm pleased to see that out of all the projects I've made thus far, it is among the nicest. No errors (I had corrected a few and even ripped out an entire piece after it had been cast off to fix a stitch), straight seams, and neat-looking buttonholes and neckline. It's a custom fit, because I modified the pattern to suit my son's long torso. The cotton itself is gorgeous...it's perfect for cool yet sunny spring weather because it's lightweight, and the color reflects the sun so beautifully. Yesterday my son wore the sweater, and he came with me to the knitting store and to the mercerie where I get my supplies, and there were compliments all around. I am definitely proud of this one :-)

Now, on to the next project. I want to use up the white cotton I have left over from the sweater, so I am making a stuffed ostrich, about 18 inches in length. Yesterday I bought the toy filling and yarn that looks like feathers. My first toy ever. How fun!