Wednesday, February 26, 2020

FO: Owligan à la Megan, Plus My First Time Steeking!

Owls by Kate Davies is one of those iconic online knitting patterns that it seems is a rite of passage to make for yourself. I watched for years as others made their own adorable pullover sweaters, always wishing I could make my own but always knowing I would never get to wear a bulky pullover sweater in Florida. I wanted to make a cardigan, so when the designer released a cardigan version of the same owls design I was very excited and bought the pattern. Sadly, I discovered that the new cardigan version was not just a change in having buttons down the front - it also is a looser fit, which I was not a big fan of. I wanted the fitted look of the original pullover but to just have buttons. I knew this could be done since I had seen plenty of cardigan versions before the cardigan pattern was released, but it required steeking, which I have never done and scared me quite a bit when I hadn't done that much knitting. I always hoped to still make my dream owl cardigan, even buying 2 skeins of Cascade Eco+ yarn in the Butternut Squash colorway to make it with during a major Craftsy clearance sale in 2017, but I never actually cast on until this January. But it is now a reality and I'm so glad I finally made this happen.
I did have to make some changes to achieve this. I knit a gauge swatch and discovered it was a little tight, which I slightly expected because I'm consistently a pretty tight knitter. Instead of going up a needle size, I decided to go a bit rogue and rely on the button bands I would be adding to make up a little bit of the difference in width I would need. So I decided to knit a size 5, which was technically the size I needed by my measurements, knowing that it would be a little tight as a pullover but knowing my button band could add at least 2 inches, which seemed to be what I would need.
Because I would be steeking, I decided to add 4 extra stitches down the center front to enable me to cut it and fold it over without taking more width away. I just made sure to knit these 4 stitches the whole way up and I added stitch markers around that section so I would know to do so. I also shifted the start of the round to this added section at the center front (the pattern is written with the rows starting at the side). This wasn't an issue at all until making sure the sleeves and owls were positioned correctly, but even that wasn't difficult - just something I had to pay attention to. I also noticed a slight error in the pattern - she doesn't seem to tell you to reserve any stitches on the bottom of the sleeve for grafting, but she does have you reserve some on the body and then just says to graft them. So I reserved the 6 stitches on the inside of the sleeve to make this work correctly. Even with reserving those stitches, I still had 2 extra stitches when I put the whole thing together, so I had to decrease those before doing the cables. All very minimal issues that only take a minute to accomplish.
I will confess, I was also always hesitant about making this sweater simply because the yarn is so thick and I felt self conscious about it adding bulk to my middle. I fully realize I may get attacked for saying that on the internet as a "curvy" maker, but at the end of the day why make something if you won't feel comfortable wearing it? So another boost in my motivation to make this up was that I've lost weight recently. It does still add bulk given the thick yarn, plus I've added the button bands that makes the area even more bulky, but mentally speaking it's not a big deal. I'm actually super happy with how this sweater looks on, which I take as a testament to my own mental state with my body over the last 6 months. Yay for small victories, right?
The owl cable design goes all the way around the yoke of the sweater. One of the notable differences in the pullover design and the cardigan pattern as written by Kate Davies is that the pullover has waist shaping at the back while the cardigan does not because it's a looser fit. I decided to make this completely like the pullover, so there is a little bit of shaping at the lower back.
So the steeking. This was scary, ya'll. I will say that I was less intimidate by steeking a sweater like this - something that was a super simple pattern made in thick yarn which would therefor knit up very quickly (I made this in 1 month even given my very limited knitting time) verses something in, say, a fingering weight yarn that I could spend months and months on only to have the steek not turn out well and the whole thing fall apart, wasting the time and yarn. If you do the research and make sure you reinforce the steek correctly, this does not happen, but when you've never cut into your knitting before I believe this is a natural concern to have. I didn't want to spend what little knitting time i had and end up disappointed in the end. So I made sure to watch the Sweater Surgery class on Bluprint (from when it  was Craftsy) before starting this project. After watching Carol Feller show how easy doing a steek actually was, I felt much more confident in how to proceed with this project. So I knitted the entire sweater as written, just adding 4 knit stitches to the center front flanked with stitch markers, then when I finished the body itself I put the neckline stitches on scrap yarn and made my steek. I chose to stitch my steek simply because it sounded like the more secure option (I would change my mind on this later), so I made my stitch length on my sewing machine 1mm and stitched between my rows of knit stitches. I cut right down the center of my stitching lines and was amazed when it did NOT unravel, lol. From there I just picked up button bands as I normally would on any cardigan, sticking to a 2 to 3 stitch ratio, and knit my button bands. I followed Carol Feller's advice from the Sweater Surgery class and used a 1 stitch button hole which worked wonderfully. After the button bands, I knitted the neck band just because that's the finish I prefer, and I added a 1 stitch button hole above my other button holes. I wound up with 11 button holes and I made my button bands 3" wide (I determined this by trying on the sweater as a pullover and assessing what I thought would help with the fit but still look good). *Whew* that's a lot of info.
I didn't want all the frayed edges just hanging out and looking messy inside my cardigan, and since I am used to stabilizing my button bands with ribbon anyway, it was no big deal to add a ribbon detail to this one too. I actually would've loved to stabilize the button holes and bands themselves, but I had no ribbon even remotely this wide, so not only would I have had to wait if I ordered something, I know it would've been pretty pricey and I've had a goal to work only from my stash if at all possible given my ridiculous stash size and how little I've been making lately. I like to stabilize the button bands on sweaters just to keep things looking smooth on a fitted silhouette. I hate having a fitted sweater look like I'm hulking out of it because the buttons are pulling. Anyway, I discovered that it was not going to be an issue with this sweater once it was finished, so I decided to just focus my finishing attention to the steek edge.
First, I picked my buttons. I got majorly lucky considering I hadn't even looked at buttons before starting this. I fully anticipated not having enough of anything large enough for this sweater on hand, but a dig through my stash yielded a bag of these lovely deep plum ones that are about 1" in diameter. Not only did I love the color combination of the squash with the plum, but they were also all I had, lol. So I sewed them on and didn't look back. I also sewed these buttons quite far in toward the sweater edge, as is my habit to do. I find that since the buttons will naturally pull toward the edge once buttoned up, this helps it not look like you're popping out of the sweater. Since the plum buttons were adding a little contrast, I decided on this navy with blue and purple floral polyester ribbon from Hobby Lobby. I bought this on sale in one of my "Oh, I want to make little girl hair bows!" phases who-knows-how-long ago, so I was thrilled to have a use for at least some of it at long last. The ribbon is 1/2" wide, which turned out to be just wide enough to stuff my cut yarn ends underneath, and now the inside looks so neat and tidy. Love it!
Obviously, the show stopper of this design is the yoke of owls. It seems that everyone who makes this up has their own interpretation of button eyes, no button eyes, or how many buttons to use. I've seen everything from some with each owl having their own little eyes (some all different colors) and some with no button eyes at all. I finished the big buttons on my sweater, then tried it on and toyed around with other button options for my owls. I knew I didn't want button eyes all the way around because I didn't want my hair to catch in them on the back and shoulders, but the real deciding factor with how many owls got eyes was made by digging through my stash. I looked at every color section I thought might work, but in the end I liked these dark brown tortoise shell ones. As fate would have it, I only had 2 of these buttons and nothing else remotely close in the same or similar size. So, just one owl gets his own stand alone identity on my sweater. I call him Hubert. Isn't he adorable?!
I had to add this picture in just because. Also it illustrates that the sweater still looks good when it's unbuttoned. I lucked out and a few days after finishing this up, the temperature dropped to 65 in the day (so cold, northerners, amiright? lol). I know that isn't super cold, but it was cold enough to wear this sweater and not sweat to death. The wind was strong and actually quite chilly, but this thick yarn held up against it like a champ, almost like a jacket. I stayed comfortable indoors or out, and looked cute to boot.
Does my face show how happy I am with this sweater? Because I just love this. I love that I successfully steeked something I love that my experimental fitting worked, I love the colors together, and I love the finished look. I know this sweater is going to get a lot more wear than I originally ever thought, and I am so glad I finally knit this up. Gotta love a simple, quick, rewarding project, right?

Yarn: 1.71 skeins Cascade Eco+ in the Butternut Squash colorway - $26.26
Pattern: Owls by Kate Davies
Notions: 2 buttons (owl eyes) - free, 11 plum 1" buttons (button band) - $ 1.00 , 1/2" poly print ribbon - $1.00, thread - $0.25
Total Cost: $28.51

*This blog post contains affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase through these links. All opinions are 100% my own and I would never recommend something I did not use and enjoy myself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for joining in the conversation!