I am within inches of finishing my Blumchen sweater – really, just that close. I am on the second sleeve, and this one practically dropped off of the needles, due purely to my decision that this sweater needs to END. I don’t think I have ever felt so frantic to really just stop a project before. The biggest problem for me has been that the stitch pattern is just SO repetitive. That’s what drove me to cast on other projects so soon after starting it, and that’s what kept me from returning to it during the periods when I actually had time to. Really, I think this wouldn’t have been so painful if I had been doing other projects in the meantime, but it really just hit this point in the last two weeks when I wanted to be monogamous and have all of my WIPs from 2012 done. And so, here I sit – I need to do 2 more stitch repeats (that’s 12 rounds), and then I can move on to the cap shaping. I wish I could say that then I could just move on to working it up, but you and I, darling audience, know that’s not how piecing an item together works. First, it needs a good wet-blocking.
This pattern is the first I’ve ever encountered that badly wanted me to steam-block it. I know that the designer, Anne Hanson, is a gigantic proponent of steam-blocking knitting – she actually gives a truly fabulous tutorial here on how to do it. So on Saturday, before I cast on for the second sleeve, I spent a good 45 minutes online, researching steaming and how to do it safely and what the purpose of it was. And after all of that research, I came to several conclusions.
1. Even with the online tutorials and videos and directions, I would be really really nervous to do it myself. I’ve read enough about people who have fouled up a project at the doorstep to finishing by doing a bad job of steaming and rendering the garment unusable.
2. Steaming involved getting the fabric wet to get the seams to lay flat. Amazingly, this is also what wet-blocking accomplishes. I already know how to wet-block, and it doesn’t scare the bejesus out of me. I have only had water-blocking be an issue with a project ONCE, and that was purely because I missed several notes and directions that could have warned me how much seed stitch stretches.
3. The only reason I’m supposed to steam-block the seam edges is to get them to lay flat before sewing the whole thing together. I think that Anne also likes to steam the seams once she’s sewn the whole thing up, and I can see from her photos what a neat effect that makes…but really, at this point, the purpose of blocking is just to get the lace to relax and the seams to be straight enough to work up. Since I can accomplish this all through wet-blocking…well, I think you see where this is going.
I had been hoping to steam the body of the sweater and the one sleeve I had finished. I figured I could then take those to The Phoenix, attach the sleeve, and also begin knitting on the button band. Then, working on the second sleeve might not seem so tedious. But I’m truly a novice and don’t know what I’m doing with steaming…plus, there’s the thing of me just not seeing the POINT. I mean, if the point is just to get the garment to lay flat so I can work it up and it looks good, and I already can do that through wet-blocking…well, you catch my drift. I’m sure steaming does some marvelous things to a garment. I’m sure it’s more than just getting the stitches to relax so that the whole sweater plays together nicely. But I’m just as sure that unless I have someone right beside me who knows what they’re doing with steaming and can walk me through the process step by step, there’s no way I’m going to just go out on a limb and try this. I may have remade several sweaters in my lifetime, but this won’t be one of them!
My plan is to finish this sleeve tonight, then soak everything for a few hours, and lay it out to dry. It’s winter, which means it’ll probably take a few days for the sweater to dry completely, particularly since I did the sleeves in the round and can’t lay them out flat, thus creating a basically doubled piece of material. That means that I won’t really be able to pick this up to knit on it again until Thursday or Friday, maybe Wednesday at the earliest. But going a day without carrying some form of knitting around with me? Now THAT is a problem of epic proportions…even if I don’t get to knit in a day (it does happen, on occassion), it’s still just a horrifying thought that I would be caught so woefully unprepared! So I’m thinking that, depending on the yarn gods and how this sleeve works out…I might just be able to cast on for another new project this week while I’m waiting! I would still need to do the finishing on this and my Weekend Bag, but really, finishing is all that’s left with those two, and I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to do as much on that bag as I can this week, while my mom is off of work and can help me with her sewing skills.
We’re nearly there…soon, there will be new projects. Soon, I will work with yarn that is not grey!