Na Craga Surgery Report

Yes, I’m on quite a roll with performing surgery on existing sweaters.  This time, it was the Na Craga.  The Na Craga, one of Alice Starmore’s designs, was a screaming success, but I was never happy with the neckline.  I followed the instructions, which yielded a 100-odd stitch neckline.  Looking at the photos in the book, Aran Knitting, I was supposed to have some sort of cowl-y rollneck.  Well, it wasn’t.  It was a very wide rollneck.  Now, some people like necklines that are big.  I am not one of them.  I tried wearing the sweater with various turtlenecks and was just never happy with the result, although everyone else seems to love it.  I had a sweater that fit to a T everywhere except for the sloppy neck.  I’ve lived with it for going on two years now.

The idea for the fix came to me during a bout of insomnia, so I suppose insomnia does have its uses.  My mind was churning on how I should design the neckline for the Saxon Braid Aran, and then it turned to the Na Craga.  I thought, “Yes, I’ve lived with the sweater for some time now, and get compliments on it, but why not just unravel the neckline, decrease it to what you want, and re-knit it?”  Why not, indeed.  I have the yarn, and the time investment would be just fine if I came out of it with a sweater that I was truly happy with.

Many, many knitting patterns have large necklines.  I don’t know if that’s because the designers want to err on the side of largeness rather than smallness, or they’re using EZ’s proportions (which I think are a bit large in the neck) or what.  But when I see a sweater with a large neck, I immediately think “homemade,” rather than “fine handmade.”

After making a number of Aran sweaters, I’ve determined that my ideal neckline is about 80 or so stitches.  To get there, I make what amounts to a neck yoke, picking up and knitting the 100-odd stitches that result from the humongous opening I get due to making saddle shoulders.  I knit about a four-inch yoke from there, often in the same pattern that’s on the cuffs, or some riff on that pattern.  Four inches gets me to a good-sized opening, rather than a humongous one.  Most sweater patterns would have me finish that off into a neck.  Instead, I decrease over one or two rows down to 80 stitches, then knit up a collar in whatever manner I want — crew neck, rollneck, turtleneck.  This two-part procedure for knitting up the neckline results in a nice-fitting collar that doesn’t scream “homemade.”

So, what to do about the Na Craga?  I had to painstakingly unravel the now-felted and bound-off neckline and put the stitches on a large circular needle.  I left on the needle the  inch or so of stockinette that I’d already knitted to start the rollneck.  This was about 100 stitches.  I then decreased down to 80 stitches and knit an additional two inches of stockinette before binding off.  The result?  The rollneck neckline I’d envisioned when I originally knit this sweater.

Getting the live stitches on the needles was no easy task.  I had to keep cutting the working yarn, and sometimes cut the live stitches, so that when I was done, I had to tack down a lot of loose, short ends with needle and thread.  It was about four solid hours of work, but worth it, I think.

Surgery on the St. Brigid and the Na Craga has taught me that fixing fit issues that had been nagging me for quite some time is worth the time investment so that I have sweaters that I can truly love.

What’s next?  Still in the throes of Swatchfest, with another report coming soon.  Almost done with the second border on the Rosebud Shawl, too.  I’ll post photos, but it will continue to look like a used cheesecloth until I have it finished and blocked.

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