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How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Sweater

We’ve all been there.

You’ve knit and knit and knit, and eventually (finally!) have a sweater to show for it.  But, wait…

Damn it. There’s a problem.

What makes good sweaters go wrong?

  1. Not to harp on the point (I know I say this a lot), but one of the quickest ways to ruin a good sweater is to use the wrong yarn or fudge on the gauge. Patterns are generally written with the characteristics of a particular yarn in mind; substituting is fine, but be sure you find a substitute that is as close as possible to the fiber content and qualities of the yarn the pattern calls for. If you’re a pro at substitutions, you’ll be fine. But if your results are often sketchy, be sure you’re using the right yarn for the job and make sure you don’t fudge on the gauge.
  2. Want to skew your results and possibly veer off the rails altogether? Keep your blinders on. You know, don’t read the pattern before you start, fly by the seat of your pants, that kind of thing. Have you ever started making dinner and gotten partway through the recipe, only to realize you were supposed to marinate the protein overnight? Whoops. But no, really, just like cooking and road trips, things always go more smoothly when you know where you’re going and how you’re getting there. Read through the pattern and get a feel for what’s ahead. Don’t panic if something later in the pattern doesn’t make sense yet – it will probably make sense when you get to it. You’re not trying to problem-solve every scenario before you have it in front of you, you’re just trying to avoid surprises.
  3. Crummy sweaters are easy to come by when you don’t check your work as you go. Following the pattern is important, but don’t focus so hard on the row-by-row instructions that you forget to use common sense. It’s easy to misread or take something for granted and not realize it until it’s too late. Get out your measuring tape and double-check things as you go. Look at your rows every few inches to make sure there’s not a dropped stitch or a goofy cable. Check that you didn’t miss a change in the pace of increases (gosh, if I had a dollar for every time I got an email from a knitter who thought the pattern was wrong because they forgot to change the pace of increases before the sleeve divide… oye). It pays to keep an eye on things along the way.
  4. Sometimes we’re so excited to finish that we skid through the bind-off without thinking. Unless you want a wonky sweater, don’t underestimate the importance of the finale. A bind-off that’s too loose or too tight can completely wreck an otherwise great sweater. Bind off but don’t cut yarn quite yet; try it on and make sure it works before you’re committed. If not, it’s easy to do it again with more or less tension to get the right result. Don’t give up before you cross that finish line.
  5. Last but not least, if you want to be less-than-thrilled with your sweater, go ahead and skip the wet blocking. Okay, seriously. If you’re not blocking, why?!? It’s the icing on the cake. The whipped cream and cherry on top. It makes SUCH a huge difference and it’s worth the wait. Soaking a finished garment in good wool wash (this one is my absolute favorite) and lukewarm/cool water for twenty minutes can turn a good sweater into a great sweater – it’s magic. OH! And don’t forget blocking pins. These are the ones I love.

So there you go – five quick ways to ruin a perfectly good sweater (and the alternatives, just in case you’d rather not).

Knit on!

-M

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