Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 13 - Cutter Sweater (Custom Fit) and an Update on Bust the Stash

So it's minus 10 C again and I'm back to wearing fur. At least, today, it didn't snow/slush. And there's sun. But, man, when I consider how most people living in most places have better winter weather than we have in spring, well, it rankles. Fortunately, I haven't had much time to dwell on it. Work continues to challenge me. As previously mentioned, when I'm stressed, the methodical rhythm of knitting is meditative. (I actually meditate, btw, so I can confirm, anecdotally at least, that the activity works on the mind-body just like other forms of stillness and movement meditation.) It appears that the more stressed I am, the faster I knit. 

To wit: I finished a sweater in 9 days:  

Requisite disclaimer: The dress form is wider than me but this sweater is pretty stretchy.
It would not take a good picture, sadly. The light was bad this morning. This sweater, the Cutter, is longer than I would have liked by about an inch or inch and a half. On me, this falls firmly over the derriere and is practically tunic length. That's mainly because I used super wash yarn and it over-stretches when blocked (see freak out below). I also didn't get gauge (though I made a robust swatch and blocked it). As I made it, I had to renegotiate row gauge to get to the requisite length. Somehow I did a lot of paying attention but I didn't actually look at the length to ensure that I liked it.

Elegant, if simple, waist-shaping...
This is my second Custom Fit effort and it's designed by Amy Herzog, the Custom Fit founder. It's exactly the same (except for the rib pattern used on hems and neckline) as my other Custom Fit sweater - Kristin's Basic Pullover, formerly known as Kristin's Basic Cowl, which was legitimately my "invention" - albeit a very plain one. 

Here's what I'll say about Custom Fit this time around:
  • The pattern wasn't perfect. I encountered missing headings that would likely confuse a newish knitter.
  • This system excels at determining shoulder-width and vertical dimensions.
  • Amy's Fit to Flatter premise is somewhat different than mine. Hers is, dare I say, somewhat more suburban than mine. This time around, having learned from the relative looseness of the KPB, I actually altered the recommended dimensions even more substantively than I did last time.
Brief explanation of Custom Fit: 
  • You take a zillion vertical and horizontal measurements and input them into the CF system. 

  • Then you swatch to get the texture of fabric you desire. Then you apply the swatch to the sweater pattern you want to knit (either an Amy Herzog pattern, presuming that it's already in the system, not all of them have been uploaded yet - OR a design of your own based on available parameters). 
  • Mathy magic ensues and you get a chance, before the pattern is actually created, to go rogue with the proposed measurements. Last time I was conservative. I knew that I didn't want positive ease in the waist and that the hips would likely be too large, but I figured that, with all of my actual measurements provided - and having indicated my desire for CLOSE fit - that I would indeed get a pattern to reflect this. Instead the horizontal measurements were all a bit too big (with the exception of shoulder width). 
  • Then you click "ok" and you get a recipe or a pattern fitted to you. Note: the difference between recipes and patterns still eludes me so I can't really explain that part.
This time around, I entered my horizontal waist, bust and hip measurements incorrectly ON PURPOSE because I figured it would be the easiest way to get the degree of negative ease I desired. The finished garment is still a bit too big as far as I'm concerned. And I'm by no means in a slender phase. Note: This time, I attribute the size issue to my super wash yarn which, btw, I will never use again for anything other than socks and baby garments. Drape plus messed-with yarn fibers (to allow for machine wash and dry) produce an end result that's way bigger than whatever you can predict, even with a reasonable sized swatch. Yeah, it does shrink back as it dries but never quite as much as it should, particularly vertically. I'm going to have to put the air-dry, just-blocked sweater in the dryer to see if I can shrink it a bit more.

Here's my point. I've used CF twice now and I've had issues with size both times. 

I've also had issues with the patterns.

Last time I decided to knit using the CF "mostly seamless" instructions and ended up having to write out the detailed instructions for myself as they aren't overlaid on the main recipe. Basically, I had to mix and match, which means I had to create one doc containing all of the info (obliquely referred to in a tiny paragraph at the end of the pattern). That irritated me. This time I decided to follow the instructions exactly. I knitted flat and seamed and, man, gotta say I don't buy it. I've knitted sweaters in numerous fashions and it's a rare, plain pullover that needs side and sleeve seams for structure over and above what a seamless knit will provide. But it sure does add hours to the project.

First you have to block your pieces flat. That's a stress-fest when you're using grow-y superwash yarn (and you see your fit expectations vanish before your eyes). After 2 days, with no finished garment to speak of, you have to mattress seam the shoulders, the sleeve inset, the sleeve seam and the side seams. Yeah, I know you can seam other ways that are faster but they all look comparatively shoddy. Mattress seaming makes your seamed garment look seamless. Alas, it takes 3 hours to pull it off well.

I am much happier to block a seamless, finished garment such that, when all is said and done, and it's dry, I put it on and walk away. The last time I had a sweater to seam up it took me 3 years and it's still not done. Update: I've finally started putting this (relatively complicated cardigan) together, believe it or not. As I was waiting for the Cutter to block, I figured I had no excuse. I mean, if I'm willing to sew up one thing, why not another?

Even though I appear to be bitching about everything from instructions to sizing to yarn choice, it's likely that I'll get a decent amount of wear out of this finished garment because:
  • The colour and stitch definition are beautiful
  • It's clean and simple and it fits pretty well (if not perfectly)
  • It's warm but not stupidly so
  • Imperfect fit notwithstanding, it still fits better than my first Custom Fit pullover, so I'm counting this as progress.
Will I make another Custom Fit sweater? Probably. I see the potential in this system but I don't think it's through the growing-pains stage as yet. Will I make another one soon? Unlikely. I can actually sort out the math, for a simple sweater, fairly easily at this point and Amy Herzog sweater patterns (the only ones available using this system, other than those you make up for yourself) don't generally call to me. She designs exceedingly well and she has style, it's just not mine.

Point is, I can make a simple sweater more effortlessly when I do the thinking as part of the prep process than I can when I'm wondering about what might go wrong if I'm not controlling the full picture - especially given the outcomes I've experienced with CF to date. And when it comes to the complicated sweaters - those I might want to leave in the hands of a computer generated pattern - I'm not really motivated by the offerings available.

It just goes to show that a weird vest made on a stash-busting whim can turn into the most excellent finished object while, by contrast, a carefully prepared, custom designed item can be sort of dull on completion.

On another note, and not to bury the lede, I'm done with this phase of Bust the Stash. 

All I've got left to make is a bunch of hats and half-mitts which do not excite me at this time. Having said this, every yard of my remnant stash yarn is allocated to an upcoming project so the minute I opt to get back to it, I'll have Xmas projects ready to go. 

I've used up @6200 yards of yarn since December, 2015 (some of which I bought, um accidentally, after starting the stash-busting project) . 1800 yards of this was lace-weight, which you  know takes a zillion times longer to use than the same amount of worsted. My yarn box has more than enough space now to add in a few new skeins. The goal is to add these skeins intelligently - to recognize that I will have to use the remnants at the end. My stash is down to 3100 yards, in different fiber denominations of @100 yards each. I know exactly what I have to get through and I have a plan to ensure that my stash doesn't get out of hand next time I go through an acquisitive moment.

Moreover, I've learned a lot about what I like to knit:
  • Accessories
  • Unique, "odd" garments that nonetheless work in a wardrobe
  • Really well-drafted patterns
  • Garments with more spring than drape (no super wash!)
  • Really simple, eminently practical garments (that perfect simple scarf or vest)
  • Sweaters - in sport-weight yarn. Sport-weight produces the best fabric, having optimal ease and drape for size, with the least effort.
  • Simple stitch patterns. I'll take colour work any day over cables or whack stitch patterns. Mind you, working all in one colour in stockinette, garter, seed or rib can be extremely satisfying because they allow fit and fabric to shine.
So that's a lot to talk about. I'd love to hear your thoughts about my latest sweater - what do you think? How about Custom Fit? Do you like it? Have you tried it? And finally, whatcha think of my stash-busting exercise to date? Wanna try to convince me to keep on without buying new until every last yard is gone? Give it a go!


  1. Love the color of that sweater, and the waist shaping is lovely.

    I say bust rather than buy. I used to do a lot of hand applique back in the day, and an elderly woman in my guild advised against stashing because "by the time you finally get to the project, the fabric is old hat."

    Some of the best advice I ever received (says the woman who's known to buy OOAK skeins for no project in particular).

  2. I cannot believe your weather. I was moaning today about having to pull out boots again (after a week of ballet flats or loafers and no socks)! I'll shut up right now about that.

    It's true what you say about Amy having a definite style...I knew that was one of hers just by the waist shaping. I love CF...but that's because I'm crap at knitty math! I'll agree her ease leans towards generous, but I'm somewhat grateful for that, not having your amazing figure!

    I can't believe you knit a sweater in 9 days. Awesome. And that you've all but bust the stash! I know I have a skein or two of yarn in a box somewhere, but it was rather lovely at the weekend to hop online and pick something pretty to knit for my girl.

    Heres to new knitting!