September 01, 2011

My February Lady Sweater pt. 1

So I decided to knit a sweater. It's not the sweater in the picture above. That sweater no longer exists. I decided to try unraveling a sweater to harvest the yarn to knit into something new. I really liked this red color but unfortunately the sweater was just a bit small. It became my first sacrificial sweater in the name of being thrifty. The difficult part was trying to decide what to knit next.

I really liked the February Lady Sweater, a sweater adapted from Elizabeth Zimmerman's February baby sweater by Pamela Wynne*. I had a few problems going ahead with the pattern as is. The pattern is written for worsted weight yarn and I'm using a sport weight yarn (from the unraveled sweater). Not too big a deal because if you follow Elizabeth Zimmerman, you can knit anything in any weight yarn and needle size. You just have to do the math to figure it out.

As this was my first knitted sweater attempt in years, I really didn't want to do the math. A little voice in the back of my head kept urging me to go with something simple. Something that someone else has already figured out. I figured with the number of people (11,000+) who have knitted the February Lady Sweater on Ravelry, knitting up that particular sweater should have been a slam dunk.

Not so much.

I had a copy of the February Lady Sweater pattern in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac Commemorative Edition (2010). I compared that pattern with the online edition because I wanted the most updated version. There were glaring differences. The finished chest measurements and stitches to cast on were very different. As an apparel pattern maker and grader, the numbers didn't jive - in either version. They weren't consistent and I'm not sure how well those numbers work. Yes, apparel pattern making and knitting are two different mediums, but there are strong similarities in pattern development. In other words the rate of growth in a size is going to be (or should be the same) whether designing for a knitted garment or a sewn garment. For example, in apparel pattern making the chest measurement is a 1 to 1.5 inch grade.

In any event, I didn't know which version of the pattern was the most up to date. It probably doesn't matter because so many people have used the pattern and they had enough skill to adapt or correct the pattern for their own needs. Regardless, the pattern wouldn't work for my yarn or size. I am rather surprised of the variation between the two patterns. I would have assumed that Meg Swanson would have taken a bit more care in finessing the pattern before incorporating it into a commemorative edition of her mother's book, but it is what it is.

So what I've done is set the February Lady sweater pattern aside to write my own pattern. I've never done this before and it's just like me to pick an overly ambitious project that I've never done before. The pattern I am writing is a mash-up of the February Baby Sweater by Elizabeth Zimmerman and the Incredible Custom Fit Raglan along with some guidance from Barbara G. Walker’s Knitting from the top. I am taking detailed notes so that a person can knit a sweater with this style using any yarn in any desired size. I don't know if I'll release my notes publicly, but maybe I will. There will be one big difference with my version. The neck is shaped and more fitted versus EZ or Pamela Wynne which has a boat neck. We'll see how it all works out.



*This blog entry is not a personal criticism of Pamela Wynne. The pattern she developed was a personal adaptation that became so popular that she graciously provided the pattern available for free. The pattern has morphed and been adapted by thousands of people. I will admit that I am rather put off by some of Pamela's rants about the use of her pattern, but it is what it is. And let's face it, EZ should get the credit for the design.

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