Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Opus Medius -- Finishing my Aran Sweater.

Remember the St. Brigid sweater by Alice Starmore that I started nearly two years ago? Well, this past weekend, despite, many trials and tribulations, I finally finished it! (kinda sorta).

This cardigan has become somewhat of a opus magnus for me. (Okay, maybe not quite opus magnus, more like opus medius....) Nothing about it was overly complicated, but, it did take a lot of work and effort to finish. It is definitely one of those things on my knitting bucket list that I can now cross off -- completing an Aran sweater!

But, before I could cross it off, I still had some finishing work that needed to be completed over the weekend. And I was very determined to finish this cardigan!

First, I had to do surgery on the sleeves that were much too long for me. My Viking had helped me determine where the sleeve needed to end.  I cut nearly four inches off, and then proceeded to tink back several rows.

Then carefully seamed the sleeve band onto the sleeve.

This process took nearly two entire weeknight evenings to complete. After work, I would eat dinner, then sit down and work on a sleeve. The cutting of the sleeve was quick. The tinking back to the appropriate location took a while to finish. And I had to carefully graft the band onto the sleeve.

At this point, the cardigan looked pretty darn good....or so I thought. When the weekend rolled around, I hoped to have the cardigan fully completed and wearable after the weekend. At one point during the weekend, I wasn't sure I was going to live up to that early expectation!

The nearly finished cardigan...or so I thought

The second thing I did was all of the necessary finishing work, including:

  • Putting an edging treatment on the sides of the cardigan to keep it from rolling and to add a zipper later.
  • Reinforcing the seams (shoulder, side, and neck) with a single crochet. (For how's and why's, see this article by Tech Knitter or this old blog post by the Yarn Harlot).
  • Adding grosgrain ribbon down the length of the saddle shoulder.
  • Adding grosgrain ribbon along the edges of the cardigan.
  • Adding a backing ribbon on the sleeve cuffs and collar.

I used Nancy Wiseman's book, "The Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques" to help guide me.

It was a lot of extra work, but the extra finishing work that I put into this sweater helped take it to the next level. I actually finished one side first (all the seam reinforcements, etc), and wore the garment for my Viking. He told me he could see a difference in the finishing work, and pointed to the correct side that I just completed.

Finishing Work Details

Edging Treatment: For the edging treatment, I was undecided between an icord edging or using a crochet edging. There are pros & cons to both, and the hive-mind of Facebook suggested using icord. I took my original swatch for this sweater and tried both things, and found I could get the look of an icord using a crochet hook with a lot less hassle. I completed both sides.

Sleeve Band Facing: At my local sewing store, I found a pretty ribbon (width= 2 inches/5cm) that I wanted to use as a neckband and facing to the sleeves. The ribbon has very little give so would act like grosgrain.

Sleeve cuff band

Attack of the Sweater

At this point, I tried it on, and saw my first big issue. If you look at the photo of the finished cardigan above, you'll notice something about the collar. It's TOO BIG. I tried to fix it....using darts, taking it in at the back of the collar, but to no avail. The collar band was simply too big by nearly 10 inches, and I was going to have to completely undo a lot of the work that took me a few hours to complete.

Why 10 inches? Because I measured the length of the seamed body and came up with a number (26 inches). However, where I wanted it to sit only required 17.5 inches of collar......

Isn't amazing how it only takes 20 minutes to undo about 2.5 hours worth of work?!? Ugh...I was kicking myself while I ripped out the edging and remove the collar. My Viking was nice enough to help me figure out how much of the collar to rip out. I put the sweater on myself, where I wanted it to sit, then he took the collar and marked where it should end. The collar was SIX inches too big.

I pinned the sweater on my dress dummy, Esmerelda (or maybe Harley? Or Morticia? I have still yet to decide....), where I wanted it to sit as the finished garment, and pinned the collar to it. There was some easing that needed to occur, but it wasn't too bad.

Afterwards, I seamed the collar onto the body with the aforementioned easing. I added seam reinforcement to the back of the neck, and then added the crochet pseudo icord back.

Neck Band Facing: With the neck finally completed (and sitting correctly), I added the grosgrain ribbon and neck facing. The grosgrain and crochet seam reinforcement would help keep the saddle shoulders from slipping and stay where they should when I wear the cardigan.

Grosgrain down the side saddle (along with seam reinforcement)

The ribbon would add additional structure to the collar and keep it from flopping over.

Neck band with the edging grosgrain pinned to a tailor's ham

It's looking pretty darn sharp! I really like the splash of color that the ribbon gives.

Now, I just need to find an appropriate length zipper in a matching color. My local sewing supply store didn't have them in the correct length of a matching or similar color. Nor did any of the other colors work. :-(

I love these cables!

As a costumer, I know how much finishing work can make or break your costume.
I'm really pleased with how much the finishing work helped pull the cardigan together....even if it took two days to finish all of the finishing work! For a sweater that took nearly two years to complete, what's an extra two days?

I might wear it as is, until I find a zipper of the right color / length. I'm extremely happy with it.

Could this be one of my opus magnus? I'm not sure yet. I'll let you know when I work on something far more complicated.