Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mermaid question

As I can't email anonymous directly (and because I love the parts of blogs where people talk about what's good/bad about a pattern or yarn), I'll answer this question from Anonymous about my last post:
I looked. I was looking for comments about Hanne Falkenberg patterns and kits. I like how they look on her website but wasn't sure how they look on real people - many are shown on mannequins. It sounded like you had some mixed feelings. Were the instructions clear? What is knit from the bottom up or side to side - looking at the stripes, is sort of looked like it might be side to side.

I have a lot of trouble fitting pre-made clothing and patterns because I'm quite curvy (true hourglass figure) but still pretty small (size 6-ish) and tall (5'9"). That this pattern wasn't curvy enough for me isn't saying much, and I can't predict how it will look on you without some measurements. :) If any specific pictures would help you, please let me know and I'll post them. I also have some ideas about how to tweak the pattern to add bust darts and reduce the waist, if anyone wants them. (I can go through the general math for adding bust darts, if anyone needs that, too.)

The instructions are terribly written for a kit of that price. I had no trouble following them after a bit of puzzlement at the beginning, but they are certainly terse. You'll find things like a long stretch of changing short-row shaping and increases with no explicit row count, followed by an instruction to reverse the shaping. It's annoying but not a show-stopper. I actually do that anyway on patterns, just to make sure everything matches correctly. I am a math geek. One knitter on the Hanne-along made a spreadsheet version of the directions that other people seem to have found helpful (she'll only give it to you if you already have the directions, btw). Personally, I found the directions sufficient, if terse for someone who's knit as little as I have.

Mermaid is knit from side to side. First, the directions specify that you knit a really freaking long icord and pick up stitches from it. I would strongly recommend that you use a provisional cast-on instead. Garter stitch tends to expand width-wise (length-wise on this sweater), which means that your icord might well be too tight, and you wouldn't find out until later when you block the sweater. The pain involved in picking out the icord and redoing it is just too much to contemplate. Anyway, provisionally cast on a bunch of stitches, then knit lengthwise the collar/lapels/front edges of the sweater. You can see a picture of this stage here: the ivory bit sticks up on top because that will be stitched together with a matching piece on the other side to create the collar later. Then one continues to knit the body (the top of this section will be seamed together to make the shoulders) to the armscye. At that point you cast off a bunch of stitches, make the underarm shaping, and cast em back on again. You can see a picture of this here. Then you do the entire thing in reverse to create the other side of the sweater; all the fancy gussets are just some short rows, and I didn't think they were hard. Seaming is a snap, so don't worry about that part. There's a good bit of icord to apply, but it didn't take me too long. All the little details about this sweater are nicely designed, but not fully explained. Luckily, there are a bunch of people out there who have figured these little details out already.

As for the sleeves, they're also knit lengthwise. Short rows and increases/decreases create shaping at the sides of the caps, but the middle is straight knitting and increases/decreases to make the top of the cap. The blue stripe down the middle is just two ridges of garter stitch. Once each sleeve is done, it's "seamed" using a three-needle bind-off with the cast on stitches. If you wanted, you could do a nicer seam or a provisional cast on, but I haven't found the seam to be bulky because the yarn is so fine.

Because this is a rather complex sweater/jacket that's knit on 3mm (I used 2.75mm) needles, you are making a significant time investment in this, in addition to the cost of the kit. Right now I'm pretty down on myself, because this isn't as perfect as I wanted, but it is lovely and I'm going to road-test it tomorrow. For me, I think it was worth it, especially as it introduced me to a lot of new techniques and ways of thinking about fabric and shaping. I also have a newfound affection for shetland yarn, which I never would have considered before. I'm going to use my Mermaid leftovers (and I have a lot, since I knit the smallest size) towards a patterned-yoke shetland sweater a la Elizabeth Zimmerman. Shetland is a little scratchier than, say, merino, but it makes up for it by being incredibly light and fluffy and warm. Even a light knitted fabric has structure, even while it preserves some drape. This does mean that I'll be more careful about the shaping of my shetland sweaters; they won't be quite as forgiving (figure-wise) as something drapier, but the structure will hold up better.

Now I'm off to do some math for a new aran-weight sweater in which I'll use small, subtle cables to suggest tailoring. I love sweater designs that show how nicely the wearer is shaped, and boxy sweaters just don't do that for me. Flattering is the new black. If anyone else is having that problem, I can write up a custom pattern for this or my red fingering-weight sweater (it's almost done... I just need to get back to it).


  1. Hi,
    you thought about the mermaid a lot... so did I
    I hope mine will get a bit longer as well during the time.
    And I agree fully with you about the shetland yarn! Never before I had considered knitting with Shetland.... but it was fine for the Mermaid.
    (You'll find my finished Mermaid in a post from August 25)

    Well, but I'm interested in your pattern.... shaping by cables sounds great for me! I love the rogue pattern - but I hate hoodies. My daughter knitted one for herself and it is definitely a greeat pattern. So just let me know what you designing.... I'm eager to see!
    I'm a curved woman as well and like shaped sweaters a lot.

    Bye for now and greetings from Germany

  2. i love your mermaid! i found interesting what you said about it suggesting curves more than actually following them. i totally agree that flattering is the new black--i'm really trying to focus on fit when i choose patterns (and other clothes) these days. what a difference!
    looking forward to seeing your next pattern :)

  3. Hello! Thank you for your post! You wrote "I also have some ideas about how to tweak the pattern to add bust darts and reduce the waist, if anyone wants them." As another curvy girl - one who is just beginning a Mermaid - I'd love to hear your suggestions. Thank you!