are you sitting down?

Posted on Posted in designing, lace/shawls, projects

you know how sometimes someone talks about something often, but doesn’t really seem to make headway with it? they promise over and over that it’s almost done, almost resolved, almost there—if only we can hang on a little bit longer, we’ll see results.


yeah, that would be me, knitting my sea pearl sweater. hmm, i was under the impression that this sweater has been on the needles for a good two years, but when i checked just now, my blog history tells me that actually, i cast on less than one year ago, around june 5th, 2013, right in the midst of our kitchen demo what the heck was i thinking??).


talk about a long year—i can’t even remember the time before then . . .


anyway, i worked very quickly through that first part—which is kind of hilarious because that is the very widest part of the sweater, encompassing the body and the sleeves at once. just goes to show you how powerful an effect the enthusiasm for a new project can have on momentum.


by the 16th of june, i had already split the sleeve from the yoke to begin the body section, so i was rocking’ it for a while at least.


by mid-july i had started the more complex patterning of the lower body and gaining slowly but steadily on it. i had also chosen a name by then—artus & anne—after a husband/wife team of craftsman potters.


in early august it was looking a to more like a sweater and though it was going a bit slowly, it was still progressing.


and a week later it was quite a bit longer!


i seem to have weekly updates all the way through the late summer and early fall, in fact—near the end of september the body was off the needles and i had started a sleeve. i had also ordered buttons from moving mud


why then, do i remember myself as such a slacker?

oh, right—because after that, i don’t know what happened but things slowed down a lot. i do remember that between renovations, training of new employees, and ambitious project deadlines, my concentration took a big hit. the quiet time needed for working on complex projects has been a gift, enjoyed only sporadically over the last half year.

all i know is that i halted at this spot some time in the late fall and stayed there til spring.


the sleeves—especially that first one—were the death of me. sleeves knit in the round are my own personal second sock syndrome; i like to call it “sleeve island”. you know—where you’re stuck on a desert island with only your sleeves to knit and you feel like you’re never going to get off?

(curiously, knitting sleeves flat has exactly the opposite effect—i fly through those in mere hours, even the fine gauge ones; what do you suppose that’s all about?).

and suddenly it was mid march and i was pretty sick of myself procrastinating on this sweater project. i threw down the gauntlet at the feet of my loser self and dared her not to finish this sweater (she was teetering; i could see it!).

alright already—i’ll finish it.


i completed sleeve one and started sleeve two right away. amazingly, they grew much faster when actual knitting was applied.


once the april club deadline passed and my chapter was out, i was determined to finish it up.


i know, it’s excruciating isn’t it? like watching a kid eat his lima beans one by one. i don’t think i’ve knit anything this slowly in a long time (ok, well you’re right—there was wasp and rose; that was another slow poke).

honestly, there were moments even last week, when it was almost done, that i felt myself getting distracted.

eventually i bound off the second sleeve and moved on to the neck and button bands, which are among my favorite parts to knit (probably because they signal the end).


and then finally, finally, the other day i finished. OTN! can you believe it?

now the job of blocking and finishing was at hand—no small feat with a garment that is worked all in one piece. BTW, the following is not intended to be the final word in any way on the subject of blocking—there are many approaches and you should choose the ones that suit you. nor is this really a complete presentation of how i do it—for that, you might want to check out my workshop on blocking handknits, available in DVD from our online shop and in downloadable format from interweave press.

back to the job at hand . . . i could see that this particular sweater had several areas of concern, which could freak out someone who doesn’t have experience with openwork fabric.


first, as with all sweaters, the fabric appears to be very uneven and doesn’t lay very nicely. this is caused by all the handling that our yarn and fabric is exposed to during construction. it literally gets out of joint over it, haha. blocking will coax the fibers back into their proper alignment so the yarn can regain its intended shape and drape.


the openwork portions are lumpy, bumpy, and very contracted; again, blocking will allow the fabric to relax and open up so that the full beauty of the lace patterns is revealed and the final blocked measurements are achieved.


the narrow neck and button bands don’t want to lie as flat or straight as i’d like, curling out in some places and waving back and forth in others.


lightly steam pressing these areas before wet blocking will allow me to manipulate and tame these quirks in the fabric. i’ll show you what i mean in a second.


last but not least is the almost horrifically misshapen sleeve, an effect due to the differential between the behavior of the lace fabric and that of the more relaxed eyelet fabric. i know none of you is doubtful at all that i will fix this, but if it happens to you when alone at home, be assured that you are the boss of this situation.

at this stage, do not let the appearance of the sweater allow you to lose momentum—rather, let this be the time to rise to the occasion and throw everything you’ve got at a fine, mad finish.

trust me, you’ll feel like a new person when you’re done.


i finished my knitting on monday evening, so on tuesday morning i got up early and assembled my tools to get started with the blocking process. mind you, i had not yet tried on the sweater to see if it fit; i wanted to do a preliminary steam blocking to make sure i wasn’t feeling any false tightness, especially in the arms.


i love steam blocking for the control it offers in the earliest stages of finishing, so the first thing i did was to pin out the neck to steam that back neck band flat.


careful shaping and administration of  a good shot of steam produced the desired effect. on now to the button bands, which needed to be stretched slightly to the correct length and steamed flat.


since the sweater is one big tube, i isolated the front closure by placing my sleeve board underneath to lift it away from the sweater back, then pin the button and buttonhole bands parallel to match in length and straightness.

along with my beloved tailor’s ham, my sleeve board is a go-to helper for blocking projects, especially for those knit in the round; you’ll see how it can be cleverly used to assist in even the trickiest blocking maneuvers.


after steaming the button bands and allowing them to dry in place, i moved on to pinning out the lower body flat to the correct finished measurements. this did not require an intense about of stretching (and shouldn’t or it will likely not keep its shape), but i used pins to keep everything square while i applied the steam.


i also want to retain the depth and definition in this intricate looking pattern, so i wouldn’t dare stretch it as far as it could go (and it would be far too large if i did).


next, i flattened the upper torso and yoke of the sweater and steamed lightly through both layers without creasing anything. the fabric was starting to look really nice and silky, with a much more even surface.


at this point i’m not looking for a completely final finish—that will be achieved by wet blocking later on. i just want to coax the garment into a more relaxed state that allows me to make sure nothing needs correcting.


with that part done, it was time to tackle the sleeve and i will be the first to admit it looked like a daunting task—how the heck do you get that to open up without creasing it somehow?


have i mentioned my sleeve board?? seriously, it’s my best friend right now.


mine has two “arms”, one that is very tapered and skinny, one that is all one width and a bit wider. i pulled my sleeve over the wider board which was just the right size.


i let the cuff hang off the end so it would get blocked out, but if you prefer a looser, non-gripping sleeve end, you could block it straight.


just look at the difference after some steaming with a wet cloth .  . . wowie. still not relaxed out as much as it will go in the wet blocking, but enough to try it on and that’s all i need for now.


ok, now i will give in, take a break, and try it on. i’m excited . . . and nervous.


it fits! in fact, it fits perfectly, even though i was worried that the sleeves would be too long or that the armhole might be too low. it looks very feminine and the fabric in briar rose sea pearl feels absolutely dreamy. sorry about the dark photos; it was a very dreary day and the light was dim throughout.


i took a few shots on the dress form but it fits differently  that on me. my form is bigger than i am because it was used in the fashion business to construct first samples in the standard sample size (which was a 10 at the time, with a 36-inch bust).


i basted the front bands closed for easier handling of the wet garment later.

i had to take a break to get a few other things done, but after yoga class that evening, i came home and put my new sweater into a cool, soapy bath. i always wash hand dyed yarns in cool water so as not to encourage dye run.


a big wet sweater can be an unwieldy thing to wrestle into submission, but as with all finishing work, patience will reward you with good results. i first laid out the garment face up and using the pattern schematic, pulled the fabric in both directions to the correct final measurements (this is what’s known as “shaping to size”).

then i set about shaping the sleeve on our left; you can see that shaping it makes it look a lot more like a real sleeve and not an eel. the right sleeve needs the same treatment.


i give it a rigorous widthwise stretch from cut to underarm, then a good stretch lengthwise, followed by another widthwise shaping. after a few repeats like this, it starts to look like something meant for a human arm.


yes, all of this takes some time, but it’s totally, totally worth it.


not only in terms of it turning out the right size, but this treatment helps condition the fabric and bring its surface to a state of silky cohesiveness that contributes a beautiful drape to the final hand.


it’s been a rainy, chilly week here and yet the heat doesn’t go on any more, so it took a while for this garment to dry. i turned it a couple of times throughout, taking the opportunity then to give it a shake and a stretch. this encourages the fiber to bloom and the yarn to become lofty again.


finally it was time to dig out the buttons i had ordered several months back and begin sewing those on. they are little crystal balls with an inclusion of swirled stardust; SO pretty.


my friend sarina from moving mud made them. i sent her a swatch knit in my project yarn and she designed the perfect ones. my button bands hold eleven buttons (i like my buttonholes placed fairly close for better closure), so keeping an eye on the final weight, i ordered the smallest size.


i finished sewing them on last night but it was too late to get any nice photos. this morning, anastasia helped me out by taking a few pictures.


i know—i look like i just rolled out of bed, sorry; i forgot to put lipstick or anything on. and my hair—well, that’s my hair.


i love how this sweater fits and feels. it’s lovely against the skin. i know i’m going to wear this a ton, so we need to get a photo shoot done this week while it’s brand spanking new, haha.


i’ve already sent the pattern off to tana for tech editing and sizing. it will probably be in production for the next month or six weeks, between tech editing, formatting, and test knitting. so it will be a nice summer project.i think i’m going to knit another in a new yarn we are working on here—more about that next time.

have a great weekend everyone; i hope you are someplace that’s getting warm, sunny weather (not like here, haha). stay tuned for sunday and tuesday posts coming up.

41 thoughts on “are you sitting down?

  1. I LOVE all the photos and text about the blocking process! it is absolutely fascinating to see something on the needles all the way to a finished piece on you. thank you for sharing and i can’t wait for its release. it’s a stunning sweater! and the color from chris is to die for!

    kudos to sarina for creating fabulous buttons for your sweater. you two are such a great match!

  2. I read this post as though it were a thriller, with my heart racing, because I knew at the end there would be a photo of the FINISHED SWEATER!! Congrats, Anne, it’s as beautiful as we all knew it would be. Can’t wait for the pattern release! I have my Sea Pearl all ready to go.

  3. It’s a lovely finished piece, and those buttons are perfect. Now, if that sweater had actually taken two years, then it would be more like something I knit. I think we all have black holes somewhere in our lives.

  4. Love it. Live the eyelet fabric and the lace pattern too. I am have to attempt this one.

  5. Oh Anne, this is the most beautiful cardi, you design the most elegant & flattering knitwear, truly the Jeff Beck of the knitting cosmos.
    Love to all at chez Knitspot

  6. Love. I don’t know how i will be able to wait for the pattern release!

  7. I am delirious, gob-smacked, and my feet are doing a happy dance. I have loved this cardigan since you began the lace part. You will notice that I refrained from carping, nagging or undue impatience! Then you came along with such a lovely, long detailed and informative post–thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. Oh, that is such a lovely sweater! And I love reading about the process. Totally worth the wait.

  9. I felt like I could hear a drum roll while I was reading this post I was so excited. it is an exquisite sweater. I can’t wait to knit this.
    I really appreciate your details about the blocking process.

  10. Oh this is stunning, Anne! So finished looking. And I can’t wait to hear/see what the new yarn will be!

  11. Ok that is one lovely sweater and I’m digging out the yarn now. That blog post made remember how much I’ve loved it all along and I have some lovely sea pearl already. . I found the blocking portion of your post very interesting but I’m thinking it might turn out much better if I just send it to you when the time comes. I have to go wind the yarn to be ready….

  12. Love it Anne, Thanks for complicating my sweater choices even more!! And I was just starting to accumulate some acrylic yarn to send you too. A lucky escape! The blocking details are excellent and definitely something I need to work on. The tip about basting the button bands together is great. Wet sweaters seem to have a life of their own! Now I am curious to see what new yarn you have up your sleeve!

  13. I’ve looked at this post about 50 times, what a beautiful sweater. It looks so elegant on you. Thanks for including the blocking details, it’s very useful.

  14. This is the most beautiful sweater ever, and it fits you perfectly. I especially love the color. Reading through this post was like an adventure – so well done. You’re probably tired of hearing me say it, but you are an amazing lady – so gifted.

  15. Ahhh I love this, absolutely adore this one, and it does feel like you’ve been knitting it longer, but I know it’s going to be worth the wait!

  16. So beautiful! It has been great fun to watch this sweater appear through the months and the wait is well worth it. My Sea Pearl needs to be wound, but also need to learn how to make the mods for a better fit (as in a class on that). Wonderful post.

  17. I’m so excited to finally see this post. I fell in love with this sweater from your very early posts and already bought a sweater’s worth of sea pearl yarn from Chris in anticipation of the finished product and pattern release. It looks like I’ve got my summer/fall knitting project chosen. And thank you so much for the blocking tutorial. This will be my first top down sweater knit all in one piece. Off to buy a sleeve board.

  18. Anne, you’re killing me! Seriously in love with this sweater and I have some Sea Pearl at the ready. But first, must make René.

  19. Each sweater I see has me saying “this is my favorite Anne sweater”. But truly this may be my favorite. You got my heart pumping on this post. A work of art. It will go OTNs as soon as the pattern is released. Which will give me time to knit like the wind on Ivar.

    You should be so pleased with how it turned out Anne. I know I am. That wet blocking looked scary. I may have to pay you an in person visit when my sweater is ready for that step.

  20. A very elegant cardigan! I think a nice version would be to leave out the lace panels at the bottom of the body and to only have it on the sleeves. Regarding the blocking, I do wonder to what extent it is “permanent” when wet blocked. I frequently find myself having to wash sweaters not because they are dirty, since I most of the time don’t wear them next to my skin, but because they need reshaping. You know, an edge starts rolling a little too much, or it is deformed from sitting too long. I guess it does depend on the yarn material ?
    By the way, I think “elegant” is one good word to describe your designs.

  21. It looks divine, and the buttons are dreamy. The lace pattern on the lower edge is beautiful; have you considered using it all-over on a shawl pattern (hint, hint)?

  22. What a delight to see the finished sweater at last! And it’s lovely to see all the stages leading up to this. Like everyone else, I’ll be eagerly anticipating he pattern publication!

  23. It’s finished and it’s beautiful! I’ve been waiting for this one ever since you helped me choose my yarn at Rhinebeck! Now I have this one and Ivar to knit before October! It’s gorgeous on you!

  24. This is beautiful Anne! I love it!! I’m so excited cuz I already have sea pearl and moving mud buttons already!! Can’t wait to start!

  25. OMG, this is gorgeous!! And I just happen to have some Sea Pearl hanging around, waiting for its purpose in life. I really appreciate all the blocking tips. This is the part that can really make or break a project. I have no problem blocking pieces and then seaming, but blocking something ‘whole’ is a another art form entirely!

  26. Thank You!!! Finally!! I love this sweater……but the blocking seems insurmountable…….you know me Anne…always looking for the easy way!

  27. Wow, that is such a gorgeous cardigan. The blocking is amazing. I love seeing it done step by step. I look forward to this pattern coming out. I also love the colour:) Stunning!

  28. So worth the wait! I am knitting with Sea Pearl for the first time and actually stopped by to check out Blumchen. So glad to know that I can wet block Sea Pearl. It’s always a joy to come here and get such detailed finishing instructions. Artus & Anne is beautiful!

  29. Another great sweater, Anne, so worth waiting for! I have my Sea Pearl all set as well as a sleeve ironing board! Thanks for all the great blocking detail too.

  30. OMG!!! Love this sweater! The color, lace and construction, not to mention the buttons, beyond words. Thank you also for the blocking tutorial.
    LOVE THIS!!!

  31. Well worth the wait. I liked this sweater the first you started knitting it. It always amazes me how you design so many awesome patterns and get it all done. Thanks again for another winner.

  32. Amazing 😀 Wow! Really nice, congrats on getting such a marvelous piece done!

  33. Gorgeous ~ just gorgeous! I can’t wait to knit this sweater! Anne, you come up with the most amazing patterns! They are all just lovely! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  34. Love reading about and seeing the photos of the process that goes into the making of one of your designs. Worthy of a couture house.

  35. I’m waiting for this pattern eagerly! Love all the photos about blocking. I too have discovered after years of knitting it is essential to a nicely finished result, though I am not as thorough about it as you!

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