Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Custom Sweater for Matthew


Matthew Brown and I have been together for 16 years and this is the first sweater I've knit him. The sole reason for this is that he is very particular about clothing. He owns our sister store, Fancy Tiger Clothing (we started the stores together under one roof 8 years ago) and therefore he is as passionate about fashion as I am about crafting. On a recent camping trip, Matthew was dressed in layer upon layer of synthetic clothing and still freezing, while I was in a t-shirt with a lopi sweater and perfectly warm. This was the first occasion where Matthew asked me to knit him a sweater. I was wary at first, knowing how picky he is about clothing and fit, but after a while the idea of knitting him a sweater became both challenging and exciting. I didn't want to knit him a sweater just for our camping and hiking adventures that no one would see, I wanted to knit him something he would rotate regularly in his wardrobe.

I knew for Matthew to wear this sweater, he had to be involved in the process of design. I let him pick his color from our Lopi color card. Black Sheep Heather is the color he settled on, which is a super-dark, un-dyed, heathered black. Lopi is one of my favorite yarns, and we both wanted the sweater to work for keeping him warm in outdoor adventures, so the classic Icelandic wool was the obvious choice. Also, it will hold up great just in case it's another 16 years before the next sweater. We had to find a pattern to start with which was surprisingly hard. He wanted a long, fitted, plain sweater with raglan shaping. I ended up using Chesterfield by Julie Hoover for Brooklyn Tweed Men, although every aspect of the pattern was altered by the end. Before I even started there were a lot of concerns - "can the sleeves be longer?", "I don't think I want a turtleneck" - I assured him that these were easy to alter and started.

The sweater was knit bottom up. Matthew was in between sizes at 40" and the pattern came in 38" and then 42" so I was pretty much on my own from the beginning. I did use the pattern to check out shaping for men (a little bit of chest increasing) and I used Julie's short-row shaping to raise the back and neck. The first sleeve was too big so this was ripped out and I wrote my own sleeve pattern to make a long and more fitted sleeve.

The real problem came at the raglan shaping. I had a different number of stitches in both the sweater body and the sleeves, but I still used the pattern's decreasing schedule for the raglan shaping. The pattern is written to be a turtleneck and Matthew just wanted a crewneck, so my plan was to stop knitting when it got small enough and do a few rows of ribbing for the neck. Boy, was that a disaster. When I finished the sweater it was huge on top! I decided to rip it back to where the arms were connected and re-knit the top raglan shaping. I needed to take out a ton of extra fabric on top so I just started decreasing like crazy - decreasing 16 stitches (!) every other row. I had Matthew try it on every few rows to make sure it was working out alright. The second time around it fit much better. Success!

He likes it - loves it even! He has worn it almost every day since I finished so I feel great about it. I learned a lot with this sweater, but mostly that I should have written my own pattern from the get-go to fit his measurements perfectly. Next time... 


Hélène Magnùsson said...

You're good, Skuli and I have been together for 19 years and he is still waiting for his lopi sweater....

PS: all the lopi yarns are dyed, they are carded together to get heather tones close to natural sheep colors.

Fancy Tiger Crafts said...

Thank you, Helene!

Oh man - you're crushing my natural-sheep-color-yarn-dreams! All dyed?! Good to know.

Hélène Magnùsson said...

Sorry! Well, the white is completely natural. Then the natural brown, black and grey sheep colors are used - but mixed with dyed colors so you always get about the same shades from one year to another. Hope it makes you feel better! lol!