Ok, so trying to follow a pattern is too hard*. First, finding the right yarn to end up with the fabric that matches the pattern is difficult. Texture, color, weight… there’s a ton of variety in yarn, and patterns are written based on one specific combination of texture and weight. Second, taking a lovely pattern and then identifying all the ways I want to customize it so that it looks the way I want it to look… it’s a lot of preparation**.
What’s plan B? Find a yarn I like, and then figure out how to make it into an object of clothing I would want to wear. On a whim I bought three skeins of this Noro Aya yarn during a sale at my LYS. I didn’t know what to make out of it, but maybe a vest or something.
I said that I wanted to customize the fit of this sweater, and my theory is that it’ll be better to fix before I get started, rather than after I’ve made it and am disappointed. To that end—being the seamstress that I also am—I decided to make a cloth mock-up, so I could see what it’ll look like on me. I decided to use muslin, for the simple reasons that it’s super-cheap (~ $1/yd.) and that thin cotton is easy to work with.
Fortunately, this pattern comes with expected dimensions, and I have sharpies, a ruler, and a basic sense of geometry. So I drew the pattern directly onto the fabric, adding a 5/8 in. seam allowance to each edge that was meant to be sewn together. Unfortunately, I forgot that the pattern already included a 1-stitch selvage. The gauge is 16 stitches per 4 inches, or about 1/4 inch per stitch. So, if I wanted 5/8 in. seam allowance, I could’ve just added 3/8 in. I noticed this before I sewed anything together, and sewed 7/8 in. seams to get a proper sense of how it will fit.
The other thing was that despite its cheapness, I didn’t want to use up as much fabric as it would take to make the whole sweater. Since this was just a mock-up to get a sense of how it would fit, I created the whole back, one front, and one sleeve. Three seams later (I didn’t bother setting the sleeve into the sweater… I hate putting in sleeves), I had a pseudo-sweater and a sleeve. At first I tried to just put the pseudo-sweater on myself, but I realized I wasn’t getting a good sense of where it would hang on me, so I safety-pinned the critical points (shoulders, center back, side seams) to a tank-top.
This sweater is meant to be baggy. I’m ok with that. But here’s the thing. Yarn is forgiving. You can make it much smaller than you’d ever make something woven, and it’ll still fit just fine, because (in general, and obviously this varies depending on the yarn and the stitch) it’ll stretch. Also, with a bottom hem that just hangs down and isn’t tight to the body, no ribbing around the hips or anything, it’s likely to stretch out and become even baggier, one direction or another. So starting out with a too-baggy sweater, it’ll only become an even more too-baggy* sweater.
The pseudo-sweater seemed to fit just fine around the hips, but around the waist it looked huge on me. Turns out I’m not square-shaped. So, I measured the difference between my hips and the narrowest point of my waist, and divided that by 4 to pick a starting point for how much to leave out of each quarter of the sweater (front left, front right, back left, back right). Then I tucked in and pinned the side-seam by approximately that much (I totally eyeballed it, not having my measuring tape handy), and was impressed by the improvement. It would still be loose, but not crazy-baggy.
The next questions are: where do I make that dart**, do I make the dart in both front and back or only the back, and after I’ve decreased that much do I want to increase again back to the hip-width, or do I want the shoulders to be a little narrower, too? Everything I can find about making vertical darts in sweaters indicates I should decrease at the side-seam, not in the back like I would if I were sewing a shirt, but no one seems to explain why. While I will go with that theory, I’m still waiting for the why. Since I took in the proper amount from both the front and the back in my pseudo-sweater, and it looked just fine, I think the darts should be symmetrical about the side-seams. Double-decreases, and double-increases. The third question, I’m going to play by ear. I could see increasing to get the shoulders to nearly the width of the hips, without affecting how the sleeves will fit. From there, I’ll also have to play the sleeves by ear. From the fabric mock-up, they seemed about the right length or a little short, so it’ll just be a matter of how the yarn actually behaves.
So, I think I’ve identified all of the sizing changes. Decrease several inches, with the decrease vertically centered at my waist (careful measurement and attention will be required for that…), then increase probably 2/3s as much as I decreased. And then pay attention to sleeve length as I go.
No problem! o_O
* Check me out, rockin’ the descriptive adjectives. Oh yeah.
** In knitting, they use the term dart just like in sewing. But in sewing, a dart is where you cut out and sew together fabric, to make a 3D shape out of flat fabric. In knitting, you just don’t knit those stitches, so they never exist. Trippy.
I’ve decided I need to name something Ahenobarbus. It means golden-beard, it’s a Roman name (in fact, anyone named Domitius Ahenobarbus was known to be of a noble family, during the Roman Empire), and it was one of Nero’s names. He was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. Not to be confused with his dad, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus. Nor to be confused with the name he was given when his mom remarried (she married the emperor, after he executed his third wife, who was Lucius’ cousin, for adultery, and then she arranged to have his aunt, her sister-in-law, the third wife’s mother, killed, too. Oh and before all that, she [the mom, Agrippina the Younger] had been exiled for having an affair after her husband, Nero’s dad, died [cuz he was quite a bit older than her]. But she still managed to marry the emperor, and have him adopt her son. And somehow her son became the next emperor, not the emperor’s son. And then he, Nero, aka Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, had his adopted brother, the emperor’s actual son, killed. And then, supposedly, he might’ve had an affair with his mom [ooh creepy], and later had her executed. Or maybe he didn’t.), which wikipedia claims is Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus, but I swear the teacher said it was Tiberius Claudius something Nero Caesar something else. :-/ I’m a little confused* now.
Anyway, doesn’t Ahenobarbus sound like a great name? A-HEE-no-bar-bus. I can’t decide what it should be. Maybe my new climbing rose**? No, it’s a little too manly for a pretty climbing rose. Umm. My cell phone? I dunno, calling it “Ahenobarbus” would take longer than calling it “my phone”. :-/ Any suggestions?
But anyway, you should totally listen to this fabulous class I’ve been listening to, from UC Berkeley. It’s a history class about the Roman Empire from several years ago, and the teacher, Isabelle Pafford, is funny and tells a great story. And you know how I like a good story. http://webcast.berkeley.edu/course_details.php?seriesid=1906978539 Have I mentioned how Berkeley podcasts classes? I’ve listened to several now, and it’s better than actually taking the class. Mostly because I get to hear the cool stories, don’t have to do any homework, and I can follow along at my own pace. Go check it out!
Yesterday morning my mom called saying she was feeling dizzy and would I come over in case she needed to go to urgent care? 🙁 So of course I did, and we didn’t go to urgent care, but I stayed to help make food and make sure I was around in case she needed me. And we watched an episode each of Star Trek TOS, TNG, and Voyager. It was great fun. 🙂
But because of that, all the things I meant to do this weekend have to happen today. And I need a list, or I won’t do anything*:
Call my Dad, my Aunt, and my Dad’s Second Cousin (left messages)
Write a post about the book I read yesterday.
Work on my story
Pick out at least one book** and one DVD about Archetypes to acquire – either library or Amazon (found several at the local library… now I just need to go get a library card.)
Plant the succulents Mommy gave me -> Next week
Plant a few onions
Repot succulents into a strawberry pot -> Next week
And apparently I was gonna write about going to see Avatar for my birthday a week ago, but never did. Weird.
EtA: Alright, I’ve done a few things… and now we’re going to make risotto. Yummy.
* Yesterday morning Ben and I had a conversation about all the things we wanted to do this weekend. And at the end of it I said, “Alright, on that note, I’m gonna read a book.” This is how I deal with having things to do. :-/ It was a fun book. 🙂 So really, having the list may not make me any more likely to do things. But when I do, I can cross them off!
** this is homework, so it doesn’t break my no-new-books rule