Tour de Sweater: Improv Cardigan

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This next sweater in the lineup was an exercise in knitting confidence. I’m talking about my Improv Cardigan using Karen Templer’s Improv recipe. Her recipe is an introduction to knitting any top down raglan sweater. There is a ton of room for improvisation (hence improv). She details how to use measurements, gauge, and a little math to create the sweater of your dreams.

Stumbling across this recipe on her site will probably mark an important day in my knitting life. This is the kind of autonomy I always search for in knitting. Someone who will take the time to explain why things work the way they do, and how I can make exactly what I want. This recipe is all of that and more, plus tons of projects on the ravelry page to inspire you to take chances.

I didn’t exactly dive into this project. I actually took my time to read through every blog post before starting. Preparation seemed imperative when branching out into improv territory. I found the recipe on the very edge of my capabilities, so I drew out every step to visualize the process.

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I was equally excited about my yarn choice as I was my newfound knitting autonomy. I spotted this sweater at a thrift store about a year before, immediately bought it, and was waiting to finish languishing sweater wips to cast on. It is mainly natural colored lambswool with a strand of gold spun in to add the perfect amount of shine. It’s girly, but not over the top (how I usually describe myself). Unraveling this sweater was a dream, there were no instances of armpit felting or difficult necklines. It just wanted to be released from its current shape.

The knitting process was a bit arduous. I think this was my first fingering weight sweater. I remember thinking “this sweater is taking so long” but in reality I knit it up in about a month. Upon reflection I was probably being dramatic.

I have detailed notes about my improv choices on my ravelry page, if you’re interested I recommend checking them out.

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The rubber really hit the road for this cardigan after a few wears. I found that the sweater wanted to shrug back off my shoulders. Also, as usual, the upper sleeves were too tight. The sleeve problem is understandable given my history, but the strange thing with this sweater is that my armholes were actually too large. I’m still at a loss to describe how armholes could be too big and sleeves could be too tight. I just don’t know. So, fit issues were a major factor that prevented me from enjoying this sweater. I wore it often, I just didn’t enjoy it.

As I’ve considered the fit of this cardigan, I started to wonder if, perhaps, raglan cardigans aren’t for me. Maybe my shoulders need the support and structure of a seamed garment? I don’t know enough about fit to be confident in this conclusion, but I’m suspicious.

This fall, I made the decision to frog this version and knit up a different little white cardigan in its place. I chose the Honeyflower Cardi by Hannah Fettig in Making No. 3. The finished version of this cardigan will be on the blog soon, and I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts to share.

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Even though I’ve transformed this sweater into something new, I’m still overjoyed that I stretched my skills. By stepping into an unknown world, I realized I want to learn more about good pattern construction, fit, and sweater design. The best thing about this realization is there is no deadline. I have all the time I need to think more about patterns and what I want.

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