So you’re still here, one year later, and Internet still hasn’t swallowed you up. I’m glad.
During that year where we went our separate ways, I lost the impulse to knit for some time. There were a few months where I thought about knitting a lot, but didn’t at all touch yarn or needles. Then, one fine day, I picked them up and they haven’t left my hands ever since. (This is a way of speech. Even knitters still do need to eat, drink, sleep,
keep their houses in order and play the organ.) Some more months were spent merrily knitting before the need to put some thoughts in writing arose again.
Today I thought it would be fun to make a few notes about cardigan shapes for future reference (particularly with the intent of providing me with some good laughs on the day when I’ll have completely changed my mind on this fascinating subject).
In general, I don’t think knitting is difficult. Knit stitch, purl stitch, yarn over — if you master these three very basic operations, then the whole world is yours and endless possibilities open. Some patterns, like complex lace knitting, do require a certain amount of concentration, but it’s more a question of practicing said basic operations in the right order and being able to count. This is why knitting complex lace while watching rugby is not a brilliant idea, because you’ll end up confusing the pattern repeat count with your favorite team’s score, which usually does not have a neat and pleasing result. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
What I do find difficult, however, is the proper fitting of garments (even for myself, as I am the person I knit most garments for, since I always have myself at hand when I need to check measurements). This took me years to learn and I still do stupid mistakes which result in an unflattering fit. One thing I realized lately is that it has much to do with body image and misconceptions.
For example, I have narrow, sloping shoulders and I have long believed I should compensate by wearing (and making) things that have squarish shoulders. This, dear Blog, is not true — not for me, anyway. The thing is that I have a rather ample chest, and if I make, say, a cardigan with classic, sewn shoulders and set-in sleeves, the narrow strips of fabric on the shoulders do nothing but emphasize how generously endowed I am. Also, I have long believed that baggy, boxy shapes would be slimming. They’re not. (I know, I should have figured that one out long ago. Well, better late than never.) I have long heard that “garments constructed with a circular yoke, particularly a patterned circular yoke, don’t look good on busty women”. In my case, this is completely wrong.
Until a few months ago, I’d always thought that a garment (I’m using that here as an umbrella term for “sweater” or “cardigan” or any piece of knitting designed to be worn on the torso) should be knit to my actual measurements, or just a little larger, to fit. It took me almost 10 years — 10 years ! — to figure out that in order to have something fit “just right”, I have to knit it on the small side, with a little bit of negative ease, and let the fabric bloom to my exact mensurations while blocking (because if your garment is just a tiny little bit too wide, and if you submit it to the process of soaking it and laying it out to dry, you will get something that is noticeably too big). This knitting-altering realization came thanks to my “epiphany cardigan”. Quite unexpectedly, I chose a pattern which was combining quite a few of the “no-no’s” I’d been applying as a filter in my pattern choice. It was meant to be fitted and knit on the small side. It included a circular yoke. It had (gulp !) horizontal stripes. It also was the most flattering cardigan I had ever worn, let alone made.
I think that, in my case anyway, the circular yoke has the effect of encompassing the bust area into a larger design which runs not from one armpit to the other but from one shoulder to the other, and thus, actually draws less attention to the chest than a classical squared-shoulder shape like the disastrous attempt pictured above left.
That cardigan had the effect of triggering an obsession with yokes (more precisely yoked cardigans, since I have also come to the conclusion that I don’t really like wearing sweaters) which has not (yet) resulted in a plethora of new yoked cardigans in my life, as I’m a relatively slow knitter, but did produce one more piece and the embryo of a third.
There was one more thing I realized when I picked up knitting again : I don’t enjoy sewing and assembling the pieces of a classical cardigan made of five parts (two sleeves, two fronts, one back — that is, if you’re lucky and there is no collar). I much, much prefer knitting in the round, sleeves and all. I know seams are supposed to give structure to a garment. But what can I say ? I have always suspected I wasn’t a structured kind of woman !