CHEST OF KNITTING HORRORSTM – NOT MY PROBLEM

Remember I wrote about a trove of patterns from the ’50s and ’60s, given to me by someone here in town who knew I was interested in knitting? Well that priceless box was accompanied by the remnants of yarn stashes she had picked up at local yard sales. It was a huge bag, mostly ’70s vintage acrylics, andis now destined for charitable donation. Schools in particular are always happy to receive acrylics for weaving and crafts projects. Other causes I’ve donated to include groups knitting for Project Linus; local elder care day centers and residential homes; and groups associated with hospitals and animal rescue leagues.

Buried in the bottom of the yarn bag were a couple of sad little UFOs (unfinished objects). This one in particular is worthy of inclusion in someone’s Chest of Knitting HorrorsTM for many reasons:

First, lest you think I’m picking on some poor unfortunate unknown knitter, I really do feel sympathy for her (or him). I do think though that the best purpose this toddler-size piece can serve is as an object lesson because it embodies SO many problems.

Yarn Choice. You can’t touch this item, but if you could you’d be surprised at how coarse and scratchythis yarn is for an acrylic. It’s a standard Aran weight of the type that gauge creep in the lower priced yarn bracket is now calling "worsted." However, the hand is harsh and stiff, especially for a little kid’s sweater.

Yarn amount. Yup. You spotted it. The knitter ran out of the original yarn and tried to use another yarn to finish the top of the raglan sleeves and to seam the piece together. This second yarn is VERY different in color and gauge from the first.

Gauge. The yarn should probably be knit at around 4.5 to 5 stitches per inch, especially for a design with embossed patterning like these bobbles. It’s knit at a very uneven 3.75 to 4 stitches per inch. On the inside of the (mostly) reverse stockinette body you can see the giant gaps left by unevenly worked knit and purl rows. The purl rows are MUCH looser and gap.

Texture pattern. Although all the bobbles look to be there, they are not all formed in the same way. The knitter apparently forgot to do the extra bulk-building rows on about a third of them. In others she or he forgot to do the closure stitch that gathers the thing together neatly, opting instead to drop the stitches or put them on a holder, then go back later and do the gathering with a needle and thread.

Garment pattern. I don’t have the original pattern for this piecein the box of goodies, so it’s tough to say how off it really is. Thelength and width are about right for a 4-T/size 5 kid’s sweater, although the sleeves are a bit short for that size. The front and back however are of different lengths, even without taking the neckline cut into consideration. I haven’t counted row by row, but it does look like the knitter forgot a couple of rows after the ribbing on the front. There’s something screwy going on in the raglan decreases, too as the sleeve raglan areas are three inches longer than the front or back.

Knots. Everywhere two strands of yarn meet, they’re tied together in a loose knot, and clipped about a half-inch away from the knot. Even if you wanted to untie the knots and end off the danglers properly, you couldn’t as there isn’t enough left to darn in.

Seaming. The seams are sewn haphazardly, with no attempt to match sides, stitches, or pattern. In some spots, they’re just overcast (in the contrasting color yarn). In others they are back-stitched. In a couple of places, an attempt was made at Mattress Stitch, but it was done inside-out so that the seam allowance ended up on the outside of the work. The extra length of the raglan areas on the sleeves were squished down to fit on the shorter raglan areas of the front and back.

Spill. Again, you can see the color variation on the unseamed sleeve. I don’t know what spilled on the piece (possibly bleach), but there are discolorations up and down that sleeve. It also smells terribly of mildew.

Now I have no idea whether this piece was produced by the lady whose box of vintage patterns I received. I rather suspect not, as the piece doesn’t belie skills commensurate with her level of interest. It might be a kid’s project, rescued by Grandma and lovingly stored away in spite of its flaws. It might have been a beginner’s first sweater, abandoned but never tossed that eventually ended up in a yard sale. Whatever the provenance, you have to agree it’s a bittersweet little piece. I have no idea what I should do with it. The yarn can’t be saved (even if I wanted it); the piece is unfinishable. Perhaps I’ll stow it away to illustrate Things That Go Wrong when I teach. I have to admit, I am tempted to toss it.

Moral of the story: Buy enough yarn; work hard to get gauge; follow the instructions; seek out help for the hard spots, like seaming if you’re not sure how to go about them; and don’t be afraid to rip back and start again.

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