Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top Five of 2012: The "Bottom Five"

That wins for weirdest post title, IMO. Anyway, this is the post wherein I tell you about my crafting failures. Thing is - and I am going to sound SO Pollyanna when I say this - I don't feel I've failed! I mean, yeah, I have some garments I'll never wear and some I just can't get with for me, but I learned in the construction of every one of them. Probably more than I learned from the garments I will wear, going forward.

Alas, this post isn't about my high self-esteem, it's about the things that didn't work according to some, self-determined, definition. And, as I've been able to regift each of my so-called non-successes because their primary flaw is not fitting me, I'm going to define failure as "garment I won't wear" or "garment I really didn't have a lot of fun making".

Remember to search by the keyword names of these projects if you want to read the whole, gory story...

OK, the one that wins, hands-down is the vintage-pattern McCardell Convertible sweater:

I'm very happy this will fit my friend beautifully because I put SO MUCH time and work into this thing. Not to mention yarn! I love it in concept. In practice, the waist was baggy on me and (given the lack of other projects out there and the complexity of the bias-cut design) I have no idea how I'd reknit this to keep the circumference in the bust while shaving inches off the waist. I had very high hopes so it was sad and frustrating when I finally had to let this one go.

The Inaugural Cardigan:

What I love about this garment is that it taught me I cannot wear worsted weight sweaters containing more than 900 yards of yarn. I also love that you all helped me to determine it would be a lovely sweater - which it is! - as part of the ongoing Gauge the Situation knitting series. This pattern is very well-drafted and the designer is available to give lots of feedback. It just doesn't look good on me.

The Madeleine Cowl:

I'm happy to tell you that my friend Hilary manages to wear this in the chicest fashion, which looks nothing like the hideous pose going on in the photo above. I had very little investment in this cowl which took less than a week to construct. It's a nice little pattern that I probably won't make again but not because it isn't a fine result. I think it would be best on a person with a small bust and wide shoulders - of which Hil has both.

The Siivet Pullover:

This photo is horrible, sorry. I took it in the depths of illness and I really wasn't on my game. I've overexposed it so that you can see the detail. It's actually a beautiful, rich navy.  I might make this sweater again - though it was the most boring and tedious thing I've ever knit (other than the McCardell Convertible). I just made it too big - too wide in the shoulders, too much fabric. I should have made the smallest size and got gauge rather than, purposefully (but erroneously as time would tell), making the second smallest size in a slightly larger gauge. I really like the lines of the sweater and I think it would be utterly wearable in the correct size. But I've proven, yet again, that a sweater that doesn't fit is the worst kind of bad-fit.

The Sort-Of Vintage Culottes (Butterick 5681):

Remember these?? I made them as part of my spring palette and I have to say they haven't seen much play. Intelligently, I modified the pattern in all the ways I knew it needed to be modified (right after finishing this version), so I do have a very useful TNT culottes pattern when next I get the urge to make them. I do wear these and people seem to like them but they're not my best work - though not for lack of trying.

Special mention goes to this dress - which, at first, I loathed but now I seem to wear regularly. (It looks much chicer on me than the dress form, I promise!) Go figure - I've really come to terms with the 80s. I did love making it because I threw caution to the wind, creatively-speaking and self-drafted the skirt, while heavily modifying the vintage-bodice. I "felt" its construction rather than planned it.

In truth, I did knit much more than I sewed in the second half of the year, for a variety of reasons from renovations to illness. And much of my sewing was limited to the huge project, the Tailored Suit, which took 2 months. But I'm intrigued to see that most of my failures of fit are knitted.

I have really improved for those projects - I now make every knitted garment MUCH smaller than I imagine I will need to - of course, doing all the math I've always done to establish gauge and to modify proportions to suit my own. Experience is also teaching me how to modify knitting-patterns as I go, even if those mods don't accord with the preparation notes I labour to produce.

How do I feel about these near-hits? Just fine. I mean, I'm not so blase that I can rip out the sweaters to reuse the yarn. It hurts just thinking about that. But I can see the value in the work and the things that need to be done differently next time.


  1. I agree with you completely. I just put up my "fails" list, but the truth is, I don't really see any of them as failures, but rather as learning experiences. I always have learned best from my mistakes!

    1. It's kind of a bitch that the miserable projects are the ones that teach the most. But I guess it makes them tenable...

  2. Thanks for the information - especially reminding me about the inaugural cardigan yarn weight. I am going to re-read your post - I just bought a craftsy class on Aran (Irish) cable sweaters that call for heavy worsted - and I like you, are a bit top heavy - so I appreciate this post GREATLY!

    I agree - not failures - rather items you just don't prefer . . on paper they look brilliant though.

    1. I'm going to try to find ways to make those bulkier ski sweaters in finer yarn. I figure it will be an interesting lesson in math, if nothing else :-)

  3. LOL - I have no problem - and a reputation for - ripping out the sweater to retrieve the yarn especially if I loved the way it knit up. If not, gone is good. Next is better.

    1. I know! I cannot believe you can go to all that effort and then rip it back with nary a care. I'd save a lot of money, though, if I could get with that system. :-)