Monday, August 27, 2012

Convertible is Relative

Man, when knitting fails, it does so writ large. Undoubtedly, the McCardell Convertible sweater is in the top 5 of the least successful garments I've made. And given how long it took to make, it may just head the list.

Oh, I suppose it looks ok when I tie it in front (not a great tactic vis a vis maintenance of hand-knit fabric):



But the back is an utter disaster, which I cannot bring myself to show you (read on for the deets).

Honestly, I have no idea if I'll actually ever wear this thing but I can't bear to throw it out right now. On the plus side, if I do, by some miracle, manage to incorporate it into my wardrobe, at least I won't feel compelled to treat it preciously.

We'll never know - as I don't intend to waste another minute on the pattern - if that's what sucks or if the alterations are to blame. According to this thoughtful post, my money's on the alterations:

Let's say that your pattern instructions direct you to create a sloped edge by decreasing 1 stitch every row over 10 rows, 10 times: a total of 10 stitches decreased over 10 rows. When knit at 5.5 stitches and 7.5 rows per inch, that's 1.8 inches difference horizontally, and 1.33 inches vertically, or a length of 2.25 inches forming an angle of 36.26 degrees with the horizontal. But if you decided to resize your pattern by changing your gauge to 4.5 stitches and 6 rows per inch, you'd wind up with 2.2 inches horizontally and 1.6 inches vertically, or a length of 2.72 inches forming an angle of 53 degrees.

This difference may have an impact on the way your garment is put together, causing seams to not fit together correctly, or altering the pitch of the sleeves when they're joined to the garment. The difference may not be significant, and thanks to the stretch of knit fabric, you might be able to fudge it; but there are circumstances where changing the stitch gauge and not altering the pattern can potentially result in a misfitting garment.

There are too many fit challenges to dwell on, but the main ones are these:
  • The side seams pull forward towards the centre front of the garment when the front is wrapped even the smallest amount. 
  • The fit under the arms is too big (Remember, this garment came together like a sewn pattern - 2 wacky looking pieces seamed at the centre back and side seams / sleeves. The sleeves are kimono-style aka part of the bodice / not sewn in.)
  • The back of the garment - even when the front is wrapped - is so big, it resembles a swing coat more than anything. Not good when you're making a fitted surplice sweater. I ended up taking 2 tucks in the back on either side of the centre seam (each extending about 6 inches in length) which made things wearable, if no less dire. Of course, it looks totally "handmade" as a result. Kiss of death in my book.
I've never before felt the wrath of the knitting gauge gods, but I'd do well to choose my future patterns more wisely:
  • It's going to be a while before I tackle another vintage pattern - at least one that hasn't been modernized by a skilled (read: living) designer.
  • I'm never going to make another pattern with no schematic, no pattern drafter (to consult with) and no reviews online. That's just stupid.
  • It's one thing to alter, for example, width gauge (up or down an inch or 2 at most), when you're working with a pattern designed on the straight of grain. Attempting it on a garment, seamed on the bias, is insane. To my credit, I didn't realize this was what I was undertaking until a long way into the project. Not being able to envision how the pattern pieces were to go together, cuz there's nothing - not even a full page of instructions - to pave the way, makes it hard to tell what's what. Not that I'm any less to blame.
Even given all of this fit badness, with most of my knitting attempts, I've learned tons from the first garment (the wearable muslin) and have successfully been able to apply that knowledge to the second version. I suppose might be able to do it again with another try at this sweater, but there are too many unknowns which may adversely affect it: the impact of the bias cut, the next batch of yarn I use (I don't much love the finished feel of the Lorna's) and the gauge that new yarn will have / its drape.

You've got to know when your skill set - plotted against your fortitude - is up to a challenge. I don't generally go the easy route, I hope you would agree. But I don't like to set myself up for failure.

PS: For those of you who are curious about the look of the finished pieces, before seaming, here you go:

Totally bizarre, no?

23 comments:

  1. Just reading your posts shows you've learned a tremendous amount---you sound like a professional(wink)! Sorry this one didn't work out. I found the front to be quite beautiful and the color is fantastic. I'll take your word on the back. At least you'll be able to take what you've learned to the next project if you don't revisit this one.

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    1. High praise coming from you, Lady :-) I'm going to look at the pluses!

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  2. Well, kudos to you for having the guts to try out this crazy pattern. For what it's worth, it looks good from the front!

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    1. Thanks Mika. If only I never turn around while wearing it.

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  3. I agree it looks lovely from the front if you can bring yourself to wear it.

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  4. I think that "re-styling" is the key to this sweater. So what if it doesn't look like it was supposed to? The gathered front looks great. (Of course the back may be another story.) It may not be your style, but it still could be "stylish". When I knit, part of the reason is the challenge of the pattern and part is the enjoyment of the repetative action and part is the pride in the final product. The end product is great to have, but sometimes I just enjoy the process.

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    1. Vic: I'm psyching myself to post a photo. Stay tuned.

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  5. Well, the pics look beautiful. So sorry it didn't turn out like you hoped.

    I'm totally with you about not doing patterns that don't have reviews or enough ancillary info. I made a cowl a couple weeks ago that had me spitting nails by the end--similar situation. (But not nearly as much effort as this!)

    How did you take the tucks in back?

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    1. Thanks A! You're so sweet. The tucks have profile on the right side of the sweater (they stick out) and they're vertical. I could remove them easily enough.

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  6. Have you ever thought of making a muslin? Take sweatershirt fabric (or whatever cheap knit will match your sweater in thickness and stretch), draw altered sweater schematics, run through the serger. Then you can be sure you're spending a lot of time on something that'll both fit and look good.

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    1. Thing is that it would be very hard to approximate the knit fabric in something I might find. And I didn't know what shape this pattern would be till it was finished (there was no schematic). But I can see value in your idea. Thanks!

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  7. Oh how disappointing that it didn't work out for you..
    I am currently embarking on a vague pattern with no schematic or even gauge lol. This makes it a little scarier, lol! However it's not such a crazy shape... so fingers crossed!

    Thanks for sharing your process on this knit :)

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    1. Is it too late to run screaming?? :-)

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  8. Unfortunately, without pictures of the back, I can't really understand what went wrong. I'm not a very advanced knitter. For education purposes and the possibility that someone else might still try to make this pattern could you please post a pic of the back. Before I started reading the post I was blown away with how beautiful the finished object looked.

    We know how talented a knitter you are so we won't see it as a fault of yours and it will only serve to emphasize the faults of the pattern.

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    1. I completely agree that I should lady-up and show a pic. I'm working on it. There will be no fooling you with good styling once I do :-) Thank you for such a lovely comment.

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  9. oh it is so frustrating to put so much time and effort into something and to not LOVE the results. i cannot stand when that happens!!!!!

    i was an art major in college, with a focus on painting and drawing. one instructor told me that my MAJOR problem was that i was too timid and afraid of failure. well who ISN'T afraid of failure! failure is a pain in the ass! but sadly i guess that is how we learn.

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    1. You know, art is an unknown (and craft, apparently). I'm trying hard not to be afraid of failure (which is practically impossible). But showing that failure is tough.

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  10. Call me crazy, but are you sure you've got the pieces sewn together properly? The picture from the pattern shows the sweater buttoned at the side waist and able to be worn frontwards or backwards. Can we please see the back of your sweater as you've sewn it together? Is there any indication in the pattern of how the pieces go together or are to be seamed?

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    1. I'm going to send you a copy of the pattern - for research and discussion purposes. I'd love to think maybe it's just been put together wrong. But I seriously followed those (inadequate) instructions.

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  11. I keep staring at the original photo of the sweater on Etsy. Here's my problem. That sweater is not shown simply reversed from front to back. If it was, the wrap would go in the opposite direction and the button would be on the model's other side when shown from the back. Looking at the photo from the front, the wrap goes from her right shoulder to the left waist. If she had simply turned the sweater around for the photo from the back, the wrap would drape from her left shoulder to her right waist. But it doesn't. It drapes from her right shoulder to left waist again. It looks like the wrap is actually meant to reverse too. I am very confused and would love to be able to actually hold your sweater in my hands and play with it on the dressform. Have you tried putting your sweater on your dressform and duplicating the looks in the original photos? Can it be done?

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    1. I know! I've been trying to reconcile the photo to the finished product given the instructions and it just doesn't add up.

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  12. Sorry, I don't think I'm being at all clear in my comments. My theory is that this sweater is not meant to have a center back seam. I think each half is meant to wrap to the opposite side where the front and back meet at the waist. The convertible part comes in that you can wrap either side on top. Does that make any sense at all? If there is no center back seam, does that eliminate the problem of too much fabric at the back?

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    1. No, I totally understand what you mean and I thought that too! I have looked at that crappy photo so many times trying to understand how it could possibly go backwards. But the instructions advice to seam it up the back. I'm going to look at them again to see if maybe I've completely misinterpreted them.

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