YOU GUYS. I KNIT A WHOLE SWEATER.
No, really, I did. And I didn’t frog it immediately afterwards. Pretty exciting. Sounds weird that I have been knitting for over a decade but have never completed a sweater to a truly satisfactory level. UNTIL NOW (kind of). Meet Mary Mary, an adorable sweater pattern by Andrea Black knit in Anzula‘s Squishy which I bought on the Yarnover Truck when it was parked over at the Lab. This yarn, seriously, is loooooovely. 80% Superwash Merino (practicality and shape retention), 10% Cashmere (fancypants) and 10% Nylon (durability and shape retention).
I’ve spent most of my knitting years making cabled berets and small accessories. Sweaters have been my kryptonite! I did knit a small shrug for my wedding but was unhappy with the fit even after I knit the collar three separate times. I finished one other complete sweater; which I wore once, awkwardly and then frogged into oblivion. I got through the entire body of the Effortless Cardigan only to decide that it was the wrong yarn for the project and frog it. Then I took that yarn and made the body of the Shapely Boyfriend sweater which has also been frogged. So you see, me and sweaters are not good friends. So yay! A completed sweater!
I actually learned a lot of techniques with this sweater. A provisional cast on, buttonholes (which are a bit off but hey— first time!), how to drop a whole cable down to fix it’s direction and then knit it back up correctly. Oh and how to read a chart! Which was probably the hardest out of the lot but not all that hard. Next level knitting! I am one of those people who will fake myself out and think I can’t do something and become afraid of even trying it. Which is why a successful sweater from my needles is a big deal!
This is immediately after casting off, after a whole day of knitting at knitting camp talking about knitting nerd techniques (ALL KNIT ALL THE TIME). I was tired, it was late, but it was done! Seriously. Since this is right after casting off, it clearly hasn’t been blocked yet. You can kind of tell from how the ribbing is laying in various places, it’s kind of puffy and the bottom hem kept wanting to flip up. Blocking is magic. Don’t skip it. Natural fibers tend to be very flexible and remember their shape well which is why they respond so nicely to blocking. Blocking gives your garment a shape to remember.
The shaping of this pattern was pretty neat. I really liked the accented waistband the details along the sides of the waist. I made the smallest size for the pattern but think I would go up a size if I were going to knit it again. The only real modification that I did was adding a few repeats to the torso to accommodate my long waist. I love cables and figuring out how to fix a cable that was going to wrong way from several rows beyond it was pretty rad. You can actually just drop the stitches from the actual cable (so let’s say 4 stitches) down to just past the mistake and correct just that column of 4 stitches for the 20 rows that you sped ahead with. Huzzah!
After all this knitting work, I was having a hard time finding buttons that I liked to finish Mary Mary off. An idea occurred to me after playing around with some Sculpey a few weeks ago for some thumb-sized kitten gifts. I could just make my own buttons!
Polymer clay that you bake in the oven has been a staple of my craftlife since I was tiny and making all the characters from the Labyrinth. I tend to just buy the white Sculpey III in a big block and go from there but as I found with the thumb-sized kittens, painting that stuff is a paint in the ass. It took several coats of acrylic paint to get a solid coating and it wasn’t the most even of applications despite being pretty careful. I decided to save myself the grief and just buy the color clay that I wanted the finished product to be. Black kittens is was. I bought the cheapest set of sculpting tools at Michael’s, a block of the black Sculpey and some Sculpey Satin Glaze.
Cat button madness! This clay is pretty soft to start with but I like to take a small ball (think cookie-dough-ball size) and work with it with my hands to get it warmed up and even more moldable. I made tiny balls from the clay which I then squished into discs and then I used the wooden modeling tool you see in the animated gif above to cut their little ears into their heads. Then I took a sewing needle and started stabbing holes in their tiny faces and pulling the needle all the way through to make sure the resulting hole would be large enough for a needle and thread to pass through it after baking. There is totally a metal tool for this in the craft aisle but I am cheap and loved MacGyver as a child; I enjoy making do. I kind of winged it on the shaping and sizing but if you want some mega-consistency, make a stencil for yourself and trim around that!
Once everyone’s face had been punctured, I popped these little dudes in the oven following the package directions. Baked them for about 15 minutes. Let them cool and then tried one out on the sweater (see the bottom right photo in the montage directly above). Happy with the sizing and their functionality, I glazed all of those little guys and baked them to set it. I think I did about 3 coats of the glaze which gave them a slight sheen and the glaze is supposed to set them permanently. You can also see the rad Hiya Hiya Locking Stitch markers I was using to remember where my buttons were supposed to attach.
In the test stitching, I tried to make a triangle shape for the little kitten nose but changed my mind when actually attaching them to the sweater because the little x’s looked more appropriate on their faces. The polymer clay is a tish heavy so it was important to keep these buttons pretty tiny.
Overall result: HAPPINESS. The Anzula Squishy yarn was delightful to work with (so soft!) and it’s superwash so I could put in the washer but I won’t because of the buttons. Handwashing is the destiny of this garment for sure. I would also recommend the Mary Mary pattern. It was a good way to break into chart reading and had some techniques I had been too intimidated to attempt but enough mindless stockinette cruising to keep me from getting too overwhelmed by those new skills. I really think that this balance is important when learning any new skill. Take your basics and your comfort zone and then throw in 3 or 4 new or unpracticed techniques and you have a recipe for something that will be satisfying, successful and an expansion of your skills.
What skills have you leveled up recently? Any projects that you finished and are super stoked on? Share in the comments!