Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Clear Creek Cardigan

Drum roll, please…. I finished Clear Creek Cardigan! Now it is going to NYC as my daughter’s early birthday present. In January she asked me (!!!!! Yes, she asked!!!!!) to make her a big cardigan with buttons, pockets, and thumbs openings like in my Dream cardigan. She started to really appreciate my handmade cardigans especially since the winter in NYC this year has been rough to say the least. I was flattered and felt really motivated. After checking my stash and the last cardigan patterns on Ravelry I decided to go with Clear Creek Cardigan by Sarah Solomon from the Spring 2018 issue of the Interweave Knits.
It took me a while to finish it and all the while I was repeating to myself like the famous Moliere’s character “Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?” which could be roughly translated as “Why did you pick this project? Are you mad?”
So why did I pick it?
My reason was extremely simple – somehow I managed to stash the yarn required for this pattern (I don’t even remember when and where I bought it) and had enough for the whole cardigan. And I had the Interweave Knits magazine as well. I stopped buying it years ago but the last three issues seemed to me full of good patterns so I ordered them all. And the main attraction was the Sarah Solomon’s patterns – they looked traditional but modern, appropriate for any age or life style, and definitely worth trying.

And then I started knitting. The cardigan is made in pieces from the bottom up and seamed. My first piece was the back and the ribbing was supposed to be 28 rows long. I stopped at 26 rows because it was getting longer than I expected already and then took a better look at all the measurements given in the pattern directions. 21 ¼” till armholes is too long even for my daughter who is much taller than me. With this length it is rather a coatigan. My daughter asked for something to be worn under her coat which is not long, therefore I had to shorten the whole thing accordingly.

My next change was a mistake. But since I noticed it rather late – at armhole decreases – I decided to treat at as a feature rather than a bug and keep my variation of cables. You can see on the picture that the first two rows of cable patterns are just to establish the cables and they are not supposed to be repeated. That is why there is a dark black line separating them from the rest of the cables. Somehow I missed the line, didn’t see it. Probably because I was in a hurry to finish the cardigan, but maybe because there are several different cables on the back, the whole thing was complicated, and required a lot of focus and concentration. Anyway, I noticed it when 2/3 of the back was already finished and kept my version of the pattern throughout.
There is an obvious mistake in Chart C of the cable (I circled it in red). When stitches are crossed, the front ones are knit and the back ones are purled. But then on the purl row they are all purled as well which could be done only if they are all knit in the knit row. And that was my solution – I knit all the stitches in the front row and purled them at the back. You can follow my example, or copy this part from the Chart B (Chart B and C are rather similar, so you’d better look at them closely before you start knitting).

My next hiccup was at the armholes. The pattern tells you to “BO 2 sts at beginning of following 8 rows”. How would you interpret this sentence? I bound off 2 sts at the beginning of each following 8 rows and got less than 96 sts I was supposed to get. After some thinking and calculating, I bound off one stitch at the beginning of each row and got the needed amount of stitches. I am not saying that there is a mistake in the pattern. I am saying that Sarah Solomon’s way of explaining things just doesn’t agree with me.
For example, I got stuck on this paragraph: “To prevent edge flare when BO over cabling, BO by knitting 2 sts tog out of every 4 sts over cables. First, place a removable m after last st that is to be BO, so that you do not lose count while dec and BO at the same time. Then, k1, *k2tog, pass 2nd st on right needle over first, [k1, pass 2nd st on right needle over first] 2 times; rep from * until marked st has been BO.”
For me the first sentence was more than enough and I still don’t know how to do this the way it is explained in the pattern. Do you? Can you clarify it for me?
The back was finished, washed, and blocked, when I got stuck again at the armhole decreases on the left front. Because this time it is “BO 2 sts 4 times” only. I did as I was told and got the needed amount of stitches. But now my armholes at the front were much deeper than the ones at the back. I smelled trouble. The diagram of the pattern shows a perfectly symmetrical sleeve cap, which couldn’t be true if you get different decreases at armhole on back and front. Yet, I’ve made garments with asymmetrical sleeve cap before (Ebony and Ivory by Helga Isager) and I know that they fit better than symmetrical ones. So I wasn’t too worried thinking that I could modify the sleeve cap decreases easily to fit my particular case. And this is what I did eventually when I was making the sleeve caps, but I am getting ahead of myself.

When I first looked at the picture of Clear Creek Cardigan I didn’t like its buttons – they looked too small for such an oversized massive garment. It didn’t stop me, obviously, because buttons are no big deal and you can sew any buttons you want at the end. Right? Wrong, not in this particular case. Because of the way buttonholes are done according to the directions, only tiny buttons would get through them. Keep in mind that the front bands are double-layered and you have to make two buttonholes in one row and later stitch them together (totally new skill for me, but I managed). This process makes a buttonhole even smaller. So if you follow the pattern, you are stuck with tiny buttons which, in my opinion, look better on a sheer blouse than on a wooly grandpa cardigan.

I also had to make some changes while knitting pockets. First, you make 2 pocket linings: cast on 32 sts, knit for 37 rows (in my case), and make 6 increases in the last purl row (I was surprised about the increases but dutifully made them). Actually, for pocket linings I used provisional cast on and, while knitting the fronts, unraveled them and connected to the fronts just after the ribbing. When I was inserting the pocket stitches, 38 seemed to be too many for a pocket (look at the picture, these pockets are generous enough with 32 sts) so I just decreased the added 6 sts in the first row. I had to do the same for the second pocket.

The last thing that I changed here were sleeve cuffs. My daughter specifically asked for thumb openings. Again, I used provisional cast on, then, when everything was finished and seemed, unraveled it, picked up sts, and knit them in the round leaving openings for thumbs. It was totally worth it because now the sleeves can be worn both ways – rolled up or down.

The cardigan is big but not heavy thanks to the yarn. That was my first time with Berroco Ultra Alpaca and I loved every moment of working with it. The yarn is soft, light, warm, and a little fuzzy. The color is really spectacular – heathery dark green-blue with some brown specks. It was easy to work with, just sliding from the needles (I used the wooden ones). Bottom line, this yarn is a gem. I don’t know how and when I got so much of it, but I am glad that I did.

Oh, and if someone is interested in my sleeve caps decreases, here are my calculations:
On the back side: BO 6 sts, BO 1 st in every alt row 15 times, BO 2 sts in every alt rows 7 times
On the front side: BO 6 sts, BO 2 sts in every alt row 4 times, BO 1 st in every alt row 15 times, BO 2 sts in every alt row 3 times
BO remaining 14 sts.
All the specs about the yarn and needles and more pictures on my Ravelry page.
Now, you are probably going to ask if I will make more patterns by Sarah Solomon after the difficult time that I had with Clear Creek Cardigan? As you all know, patterns are exceptionally difficult to write. I cannot do it and have an immense appreciation of the people who can. Every designer makes mistakes now and again. To say nothing of knitters. Of course I will knit her patterns. I bought 3 Interweave issues just for them, remember? Plus now I know that I have a tendency to misunderstand or totally not understand her writing style, so I will adapt and adjust my expectations. Wish me luck!

PS: Do you want to know my favorite method of knitting buttonholes? Stay tuned…