St. Brigid Sweater Surgery Report

I performed some surgery on the St. Brigid.  Nobody panic — it wasn’t a traumatic injury; it was purely elective, and the outcome was excellent.

The problem:  The cable pattern flanking the saddles on the arms has a long repeat, so the sleeves would either end up too short or a bit too long if I wanted to bind them off tidily at the end of a repeat.  I really didn’t want 3/4-length sleeves, so too-long seemed the way to go.  This is what the sleeve looked like pre-op:

After blocking the sweater, the sleeves ended up being about two inches too long.  I tried living with the somewhat too-long sleeves, but they kept getting in the way.  Pretty soon, I had to roll them up a bit.  I don’t think this would have been a problem if the sleeves had cuffs, but the pattern went right down to the wrist, and the resulting roll-up looked sloppy, I thought.  It ruined a sweater that otherwise fit to a T.

What to do?  I had faced a similar problem in the sweater body length (also the result of the long cable repeats), and I solved it by ending the sweater a bit short and then adding a cabled braid along the bottom.  Could I do the same for the sleeves?

I knit up twelve inches of cabled braid for each of the sleeves.  Then, I set about the surgery.  I apologize for the lack of photos, but I had some sort of technical snafu betwixt camera and computer, resulting in corrupted files from the surgery photo shoot.  What you see is all I’ve got.

I snipped the first sleeve and went to unravel it back the length of a repeat.  I found out pretty quickly that the yarn had felted nicely, making a pretty indestructable sleeve.  That’s great for structural integrity, bad for alterations.  To avoid the tedium of unravelling the felted yarn, I decided to cut the sleeve off about a half-inch or so below where I wanted to place the new bind off.

Cutting the sleeve off was pretty drastic, I thought.  I’m a person who breaks into hives at the thought of steeking, and here I was, putting scissors to knitting and whacking off several inches of work.  It was nerve-wracking enough to be nauseating, but I took a deep breath and did it.  I don’t think I really breathed again until the live loops were safely on the needle again.

With the sleeve cut short, I picked up the live loops using a size 4 16-inch circular needle, taking care to retrieve the occasional loops that had dropped down a stitch or two. I used fresh yarn to bind off the stitches.

I pinned the braided cuff in place and seamed it on, and then wove in all the loose ends and cleaned it up.  I repeated the process on the other side, which wasn’t quite as stomach-turning.  Finally, I blocked the whole thing.

The result?  Taking off about four inches of sleeve and then attaching the 2 1/2 inch cuff, together with blocking the sleeves carefully, resulted in a two-inch reduction in sleeve length, which fits me perfectly.  As a plus, the cuffs lend a nice finished look to the sweater.

The operation took about four tedious hours, but was well worth it.  I expect this sweater to last for years, and now it fits everywhere.  The next time I’m faced with making a sweater too long or too short due to long repeats, I’ll include the cabled trim option as a design feature from the get-go, rather than having to rip back and add it on later.

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