A Beautiful Difficult Return To Knitting: Rainbow Sweater
It would be gauche for me to say that this is the best sweater in the world that has ever existed, but look at it!
It is full of all the joy that knitting a sweater should be. Its simple, colourful wide bands of colour are just joyous, and the way they land at the arm-join ‘just so’ is lovely. I’m also really proud of how the neckline dips down to just touch the boundary of the next band of colour without stepping it’s toe ver the line. I love that it just works.
It wasn’t a straightforward knit, though. I decided to use a pattern, as I wanted to give my brain a break from thinking. my brain is always thinking far too much, and it just never takes a break, and this sweater was supposed to be a holiday from all that thinking.
I wanted a simple raglan sweater and so turned to The Knitter’s Handy Book Of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd, because I love her work and how adaptable it is. For whatever reason, though, things did not go well.
A Neckband Fit For No Head
I knit to the armpits three times before giving in. I love Ann Budd’s method because she gives highly embellish-able patterns in a huge range of sizes and gauges, so you knit a test swatch and then use that as the basis for your sizing. So, I knit my swatch, 28sts per 10cm, and decided to make a very, very simple sweater. It was based off of my actual gauge, everything looked great, but the neckline looked suspiciously small. I knit on because I trusted, but when I got to the armpits I couldn’t ignore that nagging feeling any longer. I moved it onto waste yarn and tried it over my five year old’s head and, nope.
I blamed myself (as you do) and unravelled to start again. I knew my cast on and bind of were not tight, but tried again, extra loosey goosey. Still no. And again, this time with an alternating cast on and matching bind off, The stretchiest there can be. Still nope.
I turned back to the pattern. I was knitting the 7-8yr old size to give a little extra growing room and because my child is tall and narrow, so the neckline should have fit over his 50th percentile (for his age) head. He has got an exactly average size head for his age, and I needed this sweater, for a child 2 years older, to fit. It shouldn’t have been difficult, but it was, and my willingness to persevere was running short. So, I did what I didn’t want to do, and decided to dive into the maths.
The size I was knitting had a 28″ chest measurement and gave 32sts for the back of the neck at a 28sts per 10cm gauge. The largest adult size was for a 54″ chest (about double the measurement of the one I was knitting) and gives 66sts for the back of the neck (just over double the number of stitches of the child size), again at a 28sts per 10cm gauge.
The stitches cast on for the front of the neck and for the rounded edges followed a similar pattern. So, double the size sweater, double the size neck, to fit double the size head. But humans don’t grow that way. My husband’s head is only 3cm (just over an inch) bigger than my son’s.
Do It Yourself
I found myself exactly where I didn’t want to be, in Maths Land. But it very soon becomes comfortable again. I knew I wanted to keep the same elements of the raglan sleeve and rounded neck so it was really just a case of figuring out what best worked in terms of front/back/shoulder stitches to arrive at the target numbers at the same time once all of the paired increases were worked, but it’s not a difficult task. I managed to increase the stitches around the neck by 34 in total, and as you can see it is hardly a disproportionately large neckline for a child’s sweater, so I’m pleased with what I managed in the end.
I also managed to plan it so that the picked up neckline stitches and separation for the arms happened at the exact moments of colour changes. This wouldn’t be noticeable to anyone in the world, but it pleased me to know that I’d done it anyway, and I’m really happy with the finished item, which is great for me as I was worried I’d end up absolutely fed up with my yarn and needles and back to finding my knitting all too much like tomato soup.
Knitting Is Like Tomato Soup
I haven’t knit in over a year. People who have known me (and who have known my knitting) a long time will remember and understand why in times of difficulty or crisis I just can’t knit. Even though it is supposed to be a mindful and meditative activity, I find I get caught up in the problems of the world whilst my fingers work automatically, and everything becomes infused with the essence of my worry, and that carries into new projects for a long time. I liken it to when I was sick as a child I was always given tomato soup to try to eat when I’d been ill. Now I cannot stand the thought of tomato soup, as I instantly recall the feeling of nausea and illness that it accompanied for so many years.
So, of course, there has been a continuing crisis the world over, and that completely shut down my knitting for a very long time. In a way it’s also what brought it back, though. That, and necessity.
My little boy will be six in under two weeks, and he is growing fast. So fast, in fact, that he has left the hemlines and sleeve lengths of his jumpers way behind him. At the same time we were facing his return to the uncertainty of school at a difficult time. All I could think was that I wanted to wrap him in all of the cuddles and love I could muster, and so I felt that the warmth we share was the most important thing that we have.
I used it as a meditation. I knit love into every stitch, and I told him so. It was supposed to be a gift for his birthday, but he was so intrigued and excited by the rainbow that appeared stitch by stitch that I am going to give it to him today, after his first day of the new school year, so that I can wrap him in those so many thousands of cuddles.