Last week I introduced to you my latest project that I’m going to make - the Quintessential Cardigan - my first full scale garment in DK weight yarn, and one that I know is going to take me some time to complete!
To track my progress, and share with you my learnings on this leap of a project, full of lots of firsts for me, I wanted to keep a project diary to share with you where I'm at each week and what I’ve encountered on my way. It’s my way to make beginners knitting more accessible, relatable and show you what it’s really like, if like me, you are learning this craft but can feel a little overwhelmed at times by the sheer talent of everyone and the intricacies of the patterns that we come across, and endless photos of beautifully completed projects that makes you feel THAT WILL NEVER BE ME!
So let’s get started!
QUINTESSENTIAL CARDIGAN - WEEK ONE PROGRESS:
This week I’m casting on and getting the back panel underway.
Like everything I make here on Never Been Knit, the pattern has to be plus-size inclusive to work for me - because, I'm plus size and fully want to enjoy and wear everything that I make!
I’m an NZ size 20 and having measured myself (TIP: always always measure yourself before you start making anything for yourself ever, as sizing in patterns and dressmaking can be very different to what we're sold in shops!), I decided to make the largest option in this pattern, knowing that it will be a little oversized. Unlike many other types of garments, cardigans have an element of flexibility when it comes to sizing depending on how you choose to wear them - what fit you like, buttoned vs unbuttoned, layers etc. So you can get away with a bit more variation in size that you would something like a vest or jumper. Which is what makes cardigans perfect projects for new knitters or those who feel nervous about making garments due to fit.
I know that by sizing-up I’m creating a fair bit of extra work for myself, but I do think it’s important to think about how we want to wear the finished garments that we make and for me, I like my cardigans to be loose, slouchy and drape over more fitted under-layers. I hate to feel constricted in knitwear and so will always opt for a larger fit, wherever possible.
After all, there’s no point spending all of this time, resources and effort making something that you’re never truly comfortable in. This pattern has an allowance to customise the fit and lengthen and extend where desired, which is good in that it allows for bigger sizing and a to make the fit you really want - however for me right now that feels a little out of my comfort zone, so I'm going to stick to the pattern.
A personal first on this project is that this pattern is made in pieces then stitched together. Up until now every garment I’ve made has been done so in the round. Until I started my knitting journey here, I had no idea that knitting in the round was a thing, expecting to knit everything in pieces. So I find it quite interesting that it’s taken me this long to get to this method of pattern!
As a long-time sewer it’s a funny concept of ‘making’ the fabric before I assemble the garment, like starting the project one gigantic step back from where I usually would. But it feels good As we talk and think more and more about sustainability in our garments, incousing ones we make ourselves, and when sometimes buying fabric that I know has been mass produced overseas, in conditions probably not much better than the factories that make fast-fashion - it’s nice to think that I’m claiming back a further step in the manufacturing process - especially when using yarn that’s 100% made in Aotearoa, like Outlaw Yarn.
With my 3.25mm needles I cast on my 147 stitches using a long tail cast on. The casting on itself, I’m find myself surprisingly efficient at now and whilst I was daunted by this number, it didn’t take as long as I expected. This is proof as to show fair you can come and not even realise it - the very first time I tried to cast on it hurt my head so bad, took numerous attempts and I couldn't see how it'd ever feel natural to me!
What did take ages was counting the stitches! Every time I counted I got a different number! In the end, casting on and being sure I had all 147 stitches accounted for took me an entire night of knitting time and energy, as by the end of it my eyes and head were tired from concentrating on them for so long. Is there a trick to doing this, or does everyone struggle?!
RIBBED HEM EDGING:
Once I had cast on, it was a straightforward rib knit on each row (K1, P1), for a total of 18 rows. Straight forward, yes! Fast, no! In fact this took my entire week and honestly took a lot longer than I was expecting it to! Having been working with chunky yarns over the past few projects I’m used to the speed at which these came together. But I knew this would be the case and why it was important I got back to reality and to regular weight yarns ASAP so that my perceptions aren’t too skewed!
I thought I’d make a section for what mistakes I’ve made or spotted along the way. Because, hey, we’re all human, and I’m all for not pretending that I’m a goody good perfect maker here.
One thing I learnt when making my previous projects was to keep looking back over each row as you finish it and working with chunky yarn has made me much better at reading my work and recognising stitch types and wha things should look like.
So far there's a bit of variation in the tension as I work my way through it (it seems to slightly vary from session to session, possibly indicative of my mood/ stress levels at the time? Is that a thing?) which I’m not crazy about - but I know also that this will come with time. Otherwise, though slow going, it's all without drama or incident!
END OF WEEK STATUS:
I close out week one having completed the bottom hem ribbing on the back portion!
So far it looks great, and the Outlaw Bohemia yarn that I’m working with feels utterly amazing (honestly, it’s so soft that I can’t believe that this is wool!). But it has left me face-to-face with the reality that this is going to be a long-time project. This wasn’t even the bottom ribbing for the entire cardigan - it was just one piece!
I am trying to view every little section like this as a pattern in it’s own right. And when I look at it this way, every section completed is a victory, which cheers me on!
I'm the first to admit that I am a very impatient person, and this is the thing that always stopped me from becoming a knitter - the fear of my own impatience and frustrations I'll experience as a result of it. However I really want knitting to be about so many things for me - including mindfulness and self-improvement - and so I continue to hope each day that knitting will teach me about slowing down, taking a breather, and learning to shift my focus from at all being about the end result, and instead I'll learn to enjoy the craft, the process, the journey!
I get the feeling that this might just be the project to help me with this enlightenment!!
PATTERN:Quintessential Cardigan by Churchmouse Yarn and Teas via Ravelry
YARN: Bohemia - Radiance by Outlaw Yarn
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I'm Lou, an Ōtautahi based personal stylist and craft-lover, and this is Never Been Knit - my journey from complete knitting virgin to...well, let's find out together!