Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Climbing the Column of Leaves

What an amazing journey I've been on.

But let's start at the beginning. A few months back, I started to go to (another) knitting group. This one meets on Thursday evenings in a Greek restaurant and I will admit, I was a little intimidated the first time I walked in. I knew a few of the other members but only casually and, in the spirit of the 9-year-old girl I still am sometimes, I was afraid I wasn't going to fit in or that they wouldn't like me or that I would like them and oh-my-god what the hell am I doing here.

But I sucked it up, introduced myself and ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Here's where it gets good. These women are amazing! And not just amazing knitters but amazing people--they're all different from each other but they fit together like one of those ancient mosaics that you see on the History Channel and wonder how the hell they figured that out.

And can we talk about talented? No really, I don't mean just nice even knitting with good finishing skills. I mean these chicas pull things out of thin air and then actually make them. And they're gorgeous--both the women and the things they make.

And I am an acolyte in this group which is an amazing feeling. I've been knitting since I was about 9 (I was home sick from school and found my mother's copy of Knitting Without Tears and I've never turned back) and am often the go-to-girl for my friends but this is like being in first grade. Everything feels brand new to me and each week I learn something new and exciting.

So--now let's get to my journey. Jeri made a beautiful sweater in 2007 that she was finally peer pressured into writing up the pattern for. Are you ready for this? This is the great part.


True confession--I was a little terrified. What if I screwed up? What if I took too long? What if it was ugly? What if it didn't fit? Oh crap, what have I gotten myself into?

And like all good journeys, it was wonderful. Yes there were challenges but we were a team (the famous Margaret of the magical fix on my sister's Christmas mitts was test knitting as well) and we were all in this together so off we went.

The sweater is knit in one piece from the bottom up with some really beautifully subtle waist shaping. And rather than keeping track of a load of increases and decreases while knitting lace, Jeri was brilliant enough to just change the needle size. Sometimes the most elegant solutions are the simplest ones. I was knitting the larger size and, often, sweaters for we busty girls have very limited shaping and are very boxy. Not so in this case.

Once you hit the armpits, it was time to set aside what was now a pretty big piece of knitting and knit two sleeves. The original pattern called for three quarter length sleeves but I wanted a longer sleeve so I was planning more repeats. Uh-oh, the sleeve was waaaaaaaaaay to wide for me. It's supposed to have a bit of a bell shape to it but this was way too much (think 1970s hostess pajamas). Tried going down a needle size--nope. Tried going down another needle size--nope. So after several midnight emails, a bunch of phone calls, a trip to the studio and a bunch of trying on, the sweater has what is the perfect sleeve for me. Just belly enough and close enough to be so very comfortable.

Sleeves attached with a little pattern tweaking and onto the yoke.

And this was the part that really scared the hell out of me. It's a very unique and original method of shaping that involves reducing the lace panels and angling the leaves in to the v-neck. This is where I found out just how brilliant Jeri is. It was smooth, it was elegant it was a delight to knit and so different from anything else I've ever done (or seen for that matter) before.

Oh my God--am I really done? No honey, you still have a little bit more to go. It's time to finish the neck.

I don't even know how to describe this. If attached i-cord and a perfect gusset had a baby, that would be how you did the neck. Sorry--I can't describe it any other way.

I fell so truly madly and deeply in love with this sweater that I almost cried when it was done. Instead, I wore it around the house for about 4 hours (yes, over my nightie) and then summoned some really cool, damp weather so I could wear it out.

Want to knit it? Come on, you know you do. You can get the pattern here. And you can see Margaret's version here.

This is my rebound sock. I just couldn't get into another long term relationship too quickly.


Permission to Unwind said...

I am utterly jealous about the knitting group! How wonderful for you to find such a neat bunch of ladies. Also... the test knit is FABULOUS. It would probably be my favorite sweater, too! :)

(By the way, per your comment on my blog, I think your method of knitting in exchange for Chardonnay and the yarn is a great exchange!)

Rainy Daisy said...