Joining Can Really Kill You

For the second time in a row, I’ve tried to join the sleeves onto my Vivian sweater.  In part, it’s because I want to at least have the body and sleeves connected before I lay it aside for the season.  That way, it’s at a good stopping point and when I pick it up again as the seasons cool down, I won’t have to wonder where I’m supped to be beginning.  No matter how many notes you take on a project, if you give it long enough, you will forget what the scribbled note of “117 rows in, begin at second decrease” meant to you way back when.  My other reason for so fastidiously sticking to this project is that I feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to things I’m working on that already have a pattern.  I have 3 or 4 things floating around right now that I’m in the process of designing myself, but let’s face it, that can be an arduous process.  I need to pick those projects up, really study them and focus on them to figure out not only where I am but also where I need to be.  (It does not help that I have not been the most organized note-taker when it comes to these designs…I’m amazed I have *any* designs finished!)  Because those require so much energy, it’s just seemed easier to pick up the projects that have ready made patterns.  We’ve hit the point in wedding planning where I feel constantly busy with it, and so I want something a little more brainless to work on when it’s just me, sitting on my couch.

Yet this sweater, Vivian, is turning out to be anything but brainless.  It was already somewhat complicated – lots of cables = lots of charts.  But it had definitely hit that point where I knew what was coming next for each chart and could follow along without really looking.  Then on Wednesday, I finished the second sleeve and started trying to attach them.  First, I ripped back that night because I didn’t like what the pattern was telling me to do in terms of the right vs left sleeves.  I wanted the sleeve to be near the part of the body with the same cabling, and for some reason, the pattern instructions told me to do the opposite.  That sort of dissonance is not something I could handle, so I detached the only sleeve I had put onto the sweater to fix it.

Tonight, I picked it up again.  Now, I’ve done one other sweater pattern by lovely Ysolda, and I had this exact same issue back then.  I don’t know if it’s her instructions, or if it’s the editor describing how the joining and decreases should go, but somewhere in that equation is my confusion.  To start with, it’s not made clear at this point how many stitches should be on each front panel and the back panel.  (I know, this sweater is all in one piece and doesn’t actually have panels, but still, it’s about to get armholes at this point.  It would be nice if it would give a head count, as it were.)  I think that creates the initial confusion.  Then, somehow between the instruction to knit x number of stitches on the right front, then knit across the sleeve stitches to attach it, then knit across the back before joining the second sleeve and knitting to the end, everything just gets kind of messy.  It’s so hard for me to know where the issues lie – is it me, having not counted correctly?  Is it the wording of the pattern?  Is the description not setting me up well to complete this part of the sweater, so that by the time everything is connected, it’s already too late?  I just can’t put my fingers on it.  But I will say this – for most knitters, joining sleeves to a sweater is similar to dismantling a bomb.  (Ok, I’ve never actually done that, but humor me.)  It’s something that no matter how many times you’ve done it in you life, it still feels a little different every time.  Every sweater has its own personality, its own unique needs and requirements.  You have to be patient, to listen to the sweater.  It’s something that’s terrifying but also exciting and that you’ve been wanting to do – joining the sleeves is when the whole concept of the sweater becomes real.  And in both of these situations, the most helpful thing is to give the most information possible.  It helps me way more for a sweater designer to over explain these things.  You should have 53 stitches on both front panels and 106 stitches on the back.  You will be putting 5 stitches of the sweater on scrap yarn at each armhole.  After doing that, you should have 50 stitches on each front panel and 102 stitches on the back.

To me, that’s helpful.  Because otherwise, here’s what happens – I struggle.  I look at the pattern instructions when I get to where it claims my armhole should be and I wonder – did she really want me to chop a cable in half so that 2 stitches are on the body and 2 are on the sleeve?  I mean, I can do that but it seems like an odd placement.  Then I dither and try counting stitches and a few other things that are totally useless except to make me feel like I’m doing something.  Then I decide to just shut up and trust the pattern and keep going.  It looks pretty good, so I do another row.  And then, on the next right side row where I need to start doing centered double decreases to continue joining the sleeve to the sweater, it becomes obvious that there’s just something off about the sleeve placement of at least one sleeve.  Then I reread and recount and bitch and moan and complain because I know that once again, I am going to need to remove the sleeves to make this sweater work.

That’s my exciting Friday night – it’s been awhile since I was this low-key, and I’m enjoying it.  I just really desperately wish that instead of having a basket full of sweater that still needs to be tinked back so that I could fix it, I had a basket full of sweater with correctly attached arms that I was about to put away for the summer.

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