At long last...my first adult-sized hand-knitted sweater is being worn around town! To recap slightly, I started knitting this piece on June 27 and steadily worked on it throughout the summer. I actually finished knitting it at the end of August but some trepidation about the finishing kept it from being completely done until September 17.
Why? Well, seaming a knitted garment isn't as simple as sewing and I needed to use three techniques I had never performed: the mattress stitch (to join the sleeve seams), the three needle bind-off (to seam the sides), and picking up stitches along a vertical edge.
The first two ended up being a matter of referencing some online tutorials and just taking my time with learning the new techniques. The last one was a little more involved.
When I finished knitting the main body of my sweater, I wet blocked it and discovered that despite checking gauge twice and taking care not to stretch my knitting while wet, the sweater had definitely grown. According to the pattern's schematics, the front and back sections were supposed to measure 20 inches wide for a 40-inch diameter sweater. Try as I might, the best I could coax my knitting to measure was 21 inches for a now 42-inch diameter sweater. With a bust currently measuring 35 inches (that's right! I'm down an inch), I now have 7 inches of positive ease in the sweater in the bust alone. It was also longer than indicated, though that may be due to the weight of cotton versus the wool that the pattern recommended.
With a sweater that no longer conformed to the pattern schematics, I had to go a little rogue while picking up the stitches for the moss stitch hem. (Warning: some pretty technical information is about to follow) This pattern was, perhaps, a little less than ideal since it gave a recommended number of stitches to pick up for the hem rather than a rate at which to pick up the stitches, a far more useful bit of information for the knitter. Because the sweater is knit side to side, instead of vertically, picking up the stitches can't be done at a straight 1:1 ratio (as in pick up a stitch for every stitch of knitting) because knitted stitches are rectangular, not square. You would end up with a very unattractively flared or wavy hem. To compensate, stitches must be picked up at a rate of either 3 picked up for every 4 knitted or 2 picked up for every 4 knitted, if you're not changing needle sizes (some patterns will change the needles size for hems and bands to create a more dense, sturdy fabric at those points).
I did some experimenting and determined that 3 picked up stitches for every 4 knitted stitches was best for this hem. I bound the hem off with Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn binding to match the cast-on and bind-off edges of my sleeves.
Then it was back to the blocking board! I used a spray bottle and thoroughly wetted all the seams and the hem band. Once dried, Kevin and I took these pictures and I wore the sweater out that night. Sweet!
So, it is a bit big. Long and wide. If I made this again, I'd plan to leave some of the stitches off of the bottom. I'd also consider making the size 35, knowing that some growth in dimensions would likely occur. I think as long as it's worn with skinny jeans it isn't an overwhelming look. Petites just have to be careful with proportions because it doesn't take much to look like you're being swallowed by what you're wearing.
I've already cast on for my next knitting project. It's a small little thing, meant to be a bookend of sorts before I begin another long sweater project for the cold months ahead. More on that later!