It should have been a pretty straightforward exercise. After hours and hours of knitting, I was finally ready to do the neck shaping on the front of the Diamonds and Rings Aran. I had it all figured out: At Row 18 of the center diamond motif, which is 24 rows total, I’d have about 1 1/2 inches left for the sweater front. At that point, I should put the center stitches on a holder and then shape the neck and cast off. No prob, I thought. This is something I can accomplish in a late afternoon knitting session, after the Saturday housework is done. So yesterday afternoon, I started in on the last repeat, with an eye toward finishing off the front in one session, with time left over for knitting mittens.
As I was working, I realized how the sweater front was going to look at the neckline: If I put the center stitches on a holder at Row 18, I’d be ending at the biggest focal point of the sweater, but not at the end of a repeat. No, indeed — I’d be about 3/4 the way through the center diamond. Not fatal, but not great. Sort of bad feng shui for an Aran.
I cringed inwardly. Hours of meticulous design and near-flawless execution, and I didn’t anticipate this? I’d swatched and calculated: The center diamond is four inches high. Six repeats to make 24 inches, plus three for the ribbing, and I had a perfect 27-inch length. The back knitted up just so. The issue was that in front, I didn’t take into consideration just where the center motif would be cut when I went to do the neck shaping.
For my last sweater, the Saxon Braid Aran, I did consider it. I put stitches on a holder a full repeat before I ended the sweater at the shoulders.
I knew it would make a humongous neck opening, which is why I came up with the neck yoke stitching as filler before I topped it off with a mock turtleneck neckline. The neck yoke solution works well to rein in a large neckline, but it’s not something I always want to include as a design element.
I don’t know what I was thinking with this sweater. Or rather, not thinking. The neck for this one will be either a crew or rollneck, and I didn’t plan for a neck yoke, as I’m not crazy about them on guys’ sweaters.
I put down the needles, took a sip of water, and weighed my options — all bad. The one good thing about making a fair amount of mistakes is that I learn from them. Sort of the way that I’m really good at getting out of being lost when I’m driving. Thanks to my lousy sense of direction, that happens quite a lot. But thanks to experience at getting lost, I’m also good about not panicking and figuring out how to right my course.
Same goes for knitting. This is only my second from-scratch designed Aran, but I’ve had a lot of experience with altering patterns to suit my gauge and petite self. That’s plenty of opportunities to get myself into and out of knitting trouble.
When fixing knitting mistakes, I prefer that the difficulty of carrying out the fix to be in proportion to the obviousness of the error and the eventual use of the knitted object. Small error? Duplicate stitch over it, or drop the offending few stitches and fish them up with a crochet hook for re-knitting. Bigger, systematic error in an everyday object, such as a casual scarf? Consider it a design element and move on with my life. Major error in an heirloom or important gift? Suck it up and rip it out, or employ some other time-consuming fix that is perfect or nearly so.
It’s not like I haven’t re-knit whole sweater fronts before. When the front of my brother’s Melbourne Pullover inexplicably grew three inches in every direction during blocking, had no choice but to re-knit the whole blessed thing. But this? This? I expect my son to wear this sweater on camping trips about a half-dozen to dozen times a year, tops. He’ll need its warmth in the mountains, but probably not often otherwise. Why martyr myself over a camping sweater?
I therefore dismissed the option of re-knitting the front pretty much out of hand. I’ve already been with this sweater long enough, and my plan is to put it into summer torpor in a few weeks, knitting up the last of the sleeves in the fall. Re-knitting was out of the question.
I could frog the bottom band and up to about half of the first repeat, then re-knit the band downward. Then, I’d be able to knit up to the end of the top repeat, slide off the center stitches at a graceful point, and then continue the sides until it reached the correct length. It’s not a bad idea, but I’ve had decidedly mixed results with re-knitting bands downward. Besides, that, too, was a lot of work.
What could I possibly do that didn’t take that much time and effort? What would look best if one didn’t look too closely? I looked at where I was — six rows from the end of the repeat. What if I compressed the next two right-side rows together, then crossed the final knit row on the stitch holder, so that the diamond would end properly? The result would look just a bit squished, but the top repeat would end reasonably gracefully right at the neckline.
What did I have to lose? There was always the no-action option — leaving the neckline with an imcomplete repeat. I could always rip back just these six rows if my fix didn’t work out so well.
So, for the next two knit rows, I brought the sides of the diamond in by one stitch. On the third and final knit row — the one where I’d slip the stitches to a holder — I twisted the center five stitches.
The result is something I’m reasonably happy with. Not elated, but satisfied. It didn’t take me that much time to come up with the solution or to execute it. My son will never be the wiser. Knitting Police don’t tend to go on camping trips. I’ll not fret over it.
Lesson learned, however. I didn’t fully sketch this pattern out when I designed it. If I had, I’d have realized that I needed to start the repeat at the bottom ribbing about 1/4 to halfway through in order to end it gracefully at the neckline. Or, do as I’ve done before and plan on a neck yoke. For future sweaters, I’ll pay more attention to that detail.