So I like to crochet, eh? But I’m not an expert by any means. Still, I buy crochet magazines and have a set of crochet hooks and a little inexpensive yarn stash (mostly Michaels), and like to crochet scarves and cowls and other mostly flat, mostly square or rectangular objects.
Then I went to my local knitting shop, HandKnit, while I was already downtown looking at the local fabric shop. So dangerous when they are so close! And I sat in a puddle of my own saliva on the bench looking at all of the wonderful fibres. Merinos, cottons, alpacas, silks, linens, blends! In lace weights, fingering weights, worsted weights, chunky weights! Corals, oranges, blues, purples, heathers, lemons, scarlets! Oh my. I was not capable of leaving without a few skeins of yarn.
Well, I might have been capable, but I decided not to test that theory. I bought some yarn. Two lovely skeins of blue alpaca chunky yarn for a cowl and ear-warmer for Frances, and some gorgeous lace-weight fuzzy angora-silk yarn in a beautiful bright coral red, for the stash. Wouldn’t that make for a beautiful crocheted lacey cardigan? I thought. Something for spring.
Wouldn’t you know it, but in all my crochet books and magazines I found no patterns for beautiful lacy cardigans suitable for spring. Scarves, doilies, snowflakes, trims, ear-warmers, hot plates, disch-cloths, girls’ clothes, and the occasional sweater, yes. Lovely lacey spring-y cardigans, no. Drat.
Clearly, I needed more patterns.
Also clearly, I needed more yarn, so I could crochet a project pattern I had on hand. (Frances’s ear-warmer and cowl did get made up and turned out rather well, I think, though the ear-warmer could stand some tightening as it is a bit loose.)
What I really wanted, I decided, was a sweater I could wear with my red skinny jeans.
These red skinny jeans are incredibly comfortable, fit very well, are a beautiful shade, and are a continual fashion challenge. Maybe not for the vast majority of modern-day North Americans who tend to fill their closets with varying shades of black, grey, and beige, but I actively avoid purchasing black, grey, and beige, which means that all of my nice bright shirts clash rather vocally with my nice bright jeans. I have a lovely, ivory, very fragile sweater that I can wear with them, and which rips every time I wash it. (Argh.) But it would be nice to have other options. Why–you know the refrain by now–buy something when I could make it myself? Surely in one of my crochet magazines I would find a sweater pattern I liked, and then I could go back to the yarn store and get some lovely yarn and make a sweater to wear with my red skinny jeans.
I found one. One sweater pattern, in all of my magazines, which did not look boxy and weird, and which provided adequate coverage so that it could be worn on its own, rather than on top of something else. I bought additional magazines, but they yielded no new sweater patterns. I bought a book about crocheted sweaters, but nothing in it was really great for a warm winter sweater that could be worn on its own. (Though it did furnish inspiration for future crochet sweater projects.)
The pattern was rated as “moderately challenging.” Well … just because I haven’t crocheted a sweater before doesn’t mean I can’t do it … right? Especially if I go very slowly and am prepared to rip out many stitches on the way … and it’s not like the photo from the magazine will be pinned to the back of the sweater so if it doesn’t come out quite right, who will know? It just has to be good enough to wear.
Not-so-brief Aside about Colour Theory:
Really, nothing clashes. I know what I said above, but that is more a nod to social convention on my part than an actual conviction that yellow-and-red or pink-and-orange don’t belong together. There are only colours that our eyes have been trained to see together, and colours that they have not. What colours your eyes have been trained to see together has more to do with your physical environment than anything intrinsic about the colour wheel. It is my personal conviction that the reason that so many people are afraid to wear colours, and wear so much black grey and beige in the belief that they and they alone “go with everything,” is the logical result of a heavily urbanized society, in which we spend our days surrounded by asphalt, concrete, and glass. Our eyes are no longer trained to see colours together. But if you go anywhere outside of the city limits, or even to the local botanical garden or park, you will see lots of colours in happy juxtaposition and your eyes will probably quite enjoy it.
The true neutrals are blue and green, for the simple reason that blue and green exist in almost every environment around the entire planet, so our eyes are trained to see them with everything. Black, grey, and beige are not frequent colours anywhere but in human cities (and other deserts). No matter what you are trying to match, there is a shade of blue or green that will look splendid with it, even to modern-day North Americans. Give it a try.
I found a sort of muted seafoam yarn. Greenish-blueish, not too bright (pictured above). Very pretty. Alpaca-wool-silk blend, super soft, a bit nubby in texture, and the right weight. And I calculated that I would need 18 skeins.
They had ten, so I left an order for another eight.
I started crocheting the sweater in early December, and I’ve so far completed the waist-band-to-bottom-hem portion, with some progress above the waistband. I’ve done the waistband itself three times and am still not completely happy with it–it certainly doesn’t look like the photo, but once done and properly blocked it will be pretty regardless, I think. Also, the nubby texture of the yarn hides any number of stitching sins. Once I got the remaining eight skeins, the dye lot turned out to be ever so subtly different (one is a bit greener, and the other a bit bluer) which really showed up in the actual garment, so I cobbled together a way of switching back and forth between skeins of different dye lots to make it look like it’s just sort of variegated. The waistband, however, is quite noticeably bluer than the rest of the sweater. Oops. God help me if I run out of yarn and need to get another skein or two to finish it.
Of course, when I was back at the yarn store picking up the eight skeins, I fell in love with a soft merino blend in fingering weight, a lovely marigold yellow. This winter has been about the coldest and greyest I can remember, and apparently my subconscious has decided to address this through the application of a sunny orangey-yellow in as many places as it can be managed, including this yarn and a few metres of quilting cottons to be turned into cushions and couch throws. Four skeins of the yellow, I reasoned, should be enough to make a short-sleeved shirt perfect for spring. A library book had the perfect-seeming pattern, which means I’ll have to buy the book, because I won’t finish the sweater in three weeks.
I think when I started this post it was about how sometimes, trying something out of reach of your current skill level can be fun and good, as long as you have low expectations for success and a lot of patience to correct errors. This sweater is definitely a staggering-around-bashing-into-things learning project. Hopefully I can wear it when it’s done, particularly since it involved buying 18 skeins of alpaca-wool-silk blend yarn that is so soft it would be criminal to waste. And then led to the purchase of extra magazines, an additional book and four skeins of yarn. Which, since the new yarn isn’t quite right for the project that requires 4 skeins, means I might have to go back to get a few more. And there’s only one thing that can lead to.
You see how this making-stuff-yourself thing can get out of hand. People think making your own clothes is cost-effective. Ha! No amount of economizing on your part will ever make up for the economies of scale of mass clothing producers and dirt-cheap third-world sweatshop labour (but would you really want it to?). Factor in the impulse purchases, the new projects, the botched projects, and the sheer time involved in making something you would actually want to wear, and anything you make yourself is bound to be more expensive.
But then, you get to make it yourself. And spending an evening in the comfy chair crocheting while Frances tells me about her day and we discuss our weekend plans is a ton of fun.