Wispy Bridesmaid Shrug

I’m not one to advocate throwing money at a problem. However, my lack of inspiration to knit much of anything, words included, was certainly salved with the arrival of this beautiful yarn.

Madelinetosh
Madelinetosh!  Four lovely skeins of Tosh Merino Light.  And from Loop! as well.

No discounts, no windfalls, just pure excessive expenditure on a yarn that I have in more rational moments written off as just too expensive to take seriously. Madelintosh in all its incarnations is a queen of overpriced, american-weight, luxury yarn.  So expensive that I committed a grave grave error and didn’t swatch to save on yardage. A foolish mistake!  It ALWAYS is – what was I thinking! – okay I was thinking despite the fact that I am substituting, this project is a measure as you go number.  And to rub it in I have over a full skein left.  But lets go back to the beginning…

Okay so the dresses are totally public now seeing as the wedding was back in September.  I felt I needed a cover up for my ‘mature’ and substantial arms while standing next to all these beauties:

Bridesmaids ready! Shame about the hideous box in the bushes. Also - wedding photos by the wonderful Insta Wedding! http://insta-wedding.co.uk/
Bridesmaids ready! Shame about the hideous box in the bushes. Also – wedding photos by the wonderful Insta Wedding!

I considered a very wide range of patterns but ultimately wanted something very plain with a shrug neckline but a cardigan’s coverage.  Enter Knitbot’s wispy cardigan which I have been calling a cardishrug (shrudigan wasn’t quite working).

The only obstacle with this pattern (which is beautifully clear on the whole) is interpreting the sizing based on the difficult shoulder to shoulder measurement.  Basically you’re measuring the distance between the end of your sleeve at the armpit (but on the outside), across your back, to the start of the other sleeve.  But this is quite varied depending on whether you run the tape round the back or over the top of your shoulders (and there’s no short row shaping round the armpits or anything so it’s all the same row count – have a look at Abigale if you want that work done for you).  You are probably going to want some negative ease so the shrug clings to your shoulders (just a touch – we don’t want the thing to look like it’s climbing off!).  I chose based on arm circumference and then checked progress as I went over the back (caution! see below).  There’s no specific row count needed to match up the cardi section of the shrug.  At this point sized instructions are based on the stitch count left live at the underarm.

Modifications: I designed my own sleeves.  This pattern has straight up and down tube half sleeves.  This is lovely with a floaty (wispy) lace weight yarn.  I wanted snug, form-fitting, (but goosey skin covering) tapered sleeves.  I wanted them to be three quarter sleeves too! but we’ll get to that.  I was working with size ‘M’ medium which has 88 sts at the upper arm.  I cast on in rib in the round (rather than working flat as specified in the pattern) with 60sts and used mirrored increases at the start and finish of every 8th round 14 times.  You can check the ravelry project for justification.

Now, that madelinetosh…

Things were going swimmingly and the shrug was a lovely fit.  I had a little anxiety about where to stop over the back but once I’d done it fit like a dream.

Nice and snug.
Nice and snug.
That's an okay. Bye bye frogger! (sorry for the grotty pics - apparently my laptop camera is rubbish)
That’s an okay. Bye bye frogger! (sorry for the grotty pics – apparently my laptop camera is rubbish)

But then we come to the blocking.  Now I have had a something of a crisis of motivation when it comes to blocking this year.  Currently there are two completed shawls and the arm panels for a ‘Japan Sleeves’ jumper I am knitting for my sister screwed up in project bags on the floor next to the sofa because I can’t pull my finger out to block them.  What can I say?  It’s been a stressful year and blocking takes up so much SPACE when you’re finding it hard enough to keep on top of the washing enough to stay in clean pants (we live in a one bedroom flat with no working pulley out the back of the tenement – instead we have a bird feeder 😛 ).

I really had no clue how to set this out. But you can see that crazy point at the back neck! BAD IDEA.
I really had no clue how to set this out. But you can see that crazy point at the back neck! BAD IDEA.

I wanted to stretch out the floaty cardi section nice and smooth so it would drape nicely.  But at the same time wanted to keep the upper torso stable and just smooth the stitches – and of course didn’t want any stretch transferring into the ribbing.  This must be why the cardigan is designed to be knit flat arm to arm, blocked and only then joined to continue with the ribbing round the neck and the bottom section.

Argh! The Point! The POINT. It's not going!
Argh! The Point! The POINT. It’s not going!

Just look at that TEAT of a back neck!  Oh and did I mention that I had put off blocking this until a week before the wedding!  I swear I would have thrown this in a bag and grabbed some laceweight silk to start fresh if I had had time.  But instead I slept on it and in the morning just tried re-blocking.  Looking at the top down picture I can see by eye that the sleeves are way too long in proportion to the rest.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pattern alteration and comparing and re-drawing and finding solutions based on a better understanding of my measurements and how that translates to a two dimensional map – it’s so much fun!  I love geometry!  But where was I?  Back to the misery of trial and error.

Better than the first block but not the picture of elegance...
Better than the first block but not the picture of elegance…

The point disappeared and the sleeves didn’t come past my knuckles anymore but in terms of wearability it really isn’t great.  The ease over the back means I have to readjust it quite a bit.  The weight of the wool yarn wants to pull it down off my shoulders.  I really do think that something with silk and probably in the laceweight is the way to go.

If you stand very straight and still it sits neatly - try imagining a book on your head...
If you stand very straight and still it sits neatly – try imagining a book on your head…

So.  Lovely wool but it REALLY grows.  And I still love the colour so much that I continue to wear it and definitely enjoyed wearing it on the day.  It’s just a bit of a bind when you can’t flail about like an air hostess without stopping to recenter the back seam on your shrug that is trying to leap off.  Free movement is the whole joy of knitted garments, right?

Right someone hold these while I sort my life out.
Right someone hold these while I sort my life out.

So I had to wear my very woolly, overly baggy shrug on the day.  I think I am still annoyed by my failure to remember that Madeleinetosh grows loads when you block.  Joji said this very clearly in Japan Sleeves, a pattern so well prepared that I’m doing it twice.  But then of course, how do you work with a yarn in a pattern that you want to measure as you go because you don’t really understand the measurement you’re working with sufficiently to calculate for growing yarn.

My main focus for this year is to get better at pattern fit.  And I think I will continue to be focused on the sewing rather than knitting.  I’m just a bit annoyed with not quite getting the mechanics of stretch and ease (even when I DO make up my swatches).  Sewing is helping me to understand knitting schematics and construction better – and from in the middle of working a pattern everything can get a bit isolated from its place in the whole and suddenly you’ve knit a jumper with four arms and a neckline you can’t fit your head through.  I think I’ll keep getting my knit fix with the shawls where it doesn’t matter what size it is and wait till I’ve made a couple of dresses that actually fit to get back into the swing of project planning.

There are plenty of sewing projects in the works.  I’m fiddling with an Emery fit and flare frock and an Alder shirt dress.  Then there’s my wonderful zinging (but tiny) floral wildflower print fabric and oodles of navy needlecord.  I have also had a brainwave with my Yoshiko Tsukiori Stylish Dress Book patterns.  But I shall tell you all about that when I get to some more of my finished projects from last year.

It is January though so I think some sitting here is in order whether it's to get basting or just stare at the flames.
It is January though so I think some sitting here is in order, whether it’s to get basting or just stare at the flames.

Also patriarchy still sucks and the world is a right old mess but I’d rather cheer myself up through creating something than upset myself on here explaining a bunch of things that were obvious thirty years ago.  There’s plenty of places to go for that.  Take care of each other and create something beautiful.

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He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

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