I’ve just spent three wonderful days with my eight year old nephew, Willem. He came from interstate to stay for the school holidays. He left this morning and the house is oddly quiet and empty (although I’m feeling unwell so the peace and quiet will do me good, I’m sure).
I worked hard to finish what should have been his birthday present in time for his visit, and I got there, but how I got there is a tale of woe. I’m not sure how to write about it without sounding like I’m trashing a pattern and a great designer so I’ll be careful, because the designer is someone whose work I respect and admire.
Here is the finished item – the Zigvest - made from Rowan Felted Tweed I’ve had in my stash for a while. It looks great but I found it hard to work the cables in this yarn. Something smooth and in a solid colour might have been better.
The designer, Tikki, has been my favourite children’s knitwear designer for the last year or so. I’ve made lovely patterns of hers like Olearia, Jane and Acacia. They’ve all been clever, fun and quick and highly wearable. So I prepared to knit my first boy pattern from her collection with great anticipation. It didn’t really live up to expectations. Whether it was because I wasn’t concentrating (it’s been known to happen!) or it just didn’t gel, I’m unsure, but from the moment I began the zigzag cables I found they didn’t stick in my mind and I had to refer back to the lengthy pattern over and over again, flicking backwards and forwards and never quite getting it right.
Then I started over. Twice. I almost gave up but I didn’t because I hate to be defeated and I really thought it was just me. No one else on Ravelry seemed to encounter problems.
Eventually I got the body done and decided on the collar style neck (it has two options, a v neck and a collar). How I wish I’d chosen the v neck. Without going into lengthy detail, the collar has odd instructions (which Tikki says in the pattern is fiddly – she wasn’t wrong) and it just never sat right but I was happy enough with it.
Then I tried it on him. Willem has that typical large dome shaped head some boys have. It wasn’t going to go over his head so I decided to cut a steek in the back of it. I’ve steeked before, and it was successful but it was four years ago and quite a different experience. Then I knitted something that had a panel worked into it meant for the steeking. This time I was doing it after the fact and well, it all went a bit wobbly. Here’s a photo to show how it looked when I first cut it.
Yes, I know the red yarn really stands out but I couldn’t see how to work a steek in the same yarn and not mess it up entirely. I wouldn’t have been able to see where to cut as easily and I thought the red might be a nice flash of contrast.
All was fine until minutes later when bits of it began to slip out of the crochet chain and it was all so distressing I threw it aside and decided I’d screwed it up and that was that.
A couple of reassuring conversations with my support crew (RoseRed and Tanya in Brisbane) and I pulled out the sewing machine, ran a zigzag stitch inexpertly along the edges and secured it. For extra support I crocheted in the brown yarn (Rowan Felted Tweed) around the opening to make it stick. It’s bulky and ugly but it holds and I hope never to have such a shockingly bad knitting experience again – but undoubtedly I will some day.
Here’s a back view where you can see at the neck, it’s unsightly but it holds. I’m too ashamed to post an up close photo of my dodgy surgery. It holds, it fits. That’s the main thing. And I can learn a lot from this hideous experience.
I’ve learned that I probably should have ditched it when I was having so much trouble and just knitted him a hat. We’d all be a lot happier.
But he’s my lovely, handsome boy and he’s grateful for handknits and he does look so great in brown felted tweed. He finds the neck a bit itchy though so I’ve learned that from now on, Willem gets only the smoothest, softest yarns near his throat. He deserves that.
Next time round, I hope to make him something that results in enjoyment for both of us.
Truly I don’t want to rubbish this pattern because plenty of people have loved it. I think it’s just a case of, as the cliché goes, ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ At 28 pages, and written for two different yarn weights, it became cumbersome at times to read the pattern. I know that’s where I failed a few times. Lesson learned: read the pattern through entirely and be really, really careful to make sure you understand all the next steps. It’s near-fatal to not do this.
So this pattern and I just didn’t not mesh. But the result is pleasing enough that I can look at it and feel some pride that I stuck it out.
ps a note on problems with commenting – a few readers have told me they are finding they can’t comment on posts because WordPress won’t let them. I have looked into this and I’m yet to find a reason why it’s happening. I’m sorry for that. But thanks for letting me know and if anyone who uses WordPress knows how to fix it, please let me know.