Camaro: a hand-knitted birthday jumper

For her birthday, I gave my sister a knitted object of her choosing. From a collection of patterns and ideas I pulled together on Ravelry, she chose the Camaro, a top-down seamless sweater with fun colourful stripes on a V-neck yoke by Tanis Lavallee. Beth decided that this will be her “hand-knitted jumper”, because that sounds much more interesting than just ‘sweater’, and tells a little more of the story of its origin.

This pattern is good fun to knit and looks great, too. The stripes are bold and beautiful and the v-neck construction is clever — all things that attracted me and my sister to this pattern/garment in the first place.

Off to the LYS

I went (for the first and definitely not last time) with my sister and mum to Stash Lounge, a local yarn store (LYS) in Calgary. Not only is it in Inglewood, which is a lovely, walkable neighbourhood, but it is also SUCH a wonderful yarn store! It is simply stacked with beautiful yarns and knitting and needle-craft notions. The folks working there were so helpful and patient while we mulled over which yarns and then which main colour and then which contrast colours to buy. One of the staff had a ‘they/them’ pin on their shirt and it made me love Stash just that much more. ❤

The yarns

For the colourful contrast colour stripes, Beth chose three colours, thinking that they could repeat in the yoke. (The pattern allows you to play around with different stripe widths and colours and combinations.) She chose a vibrant golden yellow, an incredible bright red-almost-pink, and a shimmery dark greenish turquoise blue – all machine-washable merino 4/8 DK (#3103) from the Mineville Wool Project (MWP). I didn’t know this at the time, but the Mineville Wool Project has an interesting premise: they are a Canadian company (a side-project of Fleece Artist, based in Nova Scotia) that sells large quantities of quality unlabelled yarn.

For the main colour, Beth liked this dark grey merino wool from Juniper Moon Farm. It has a slight heather to it and in addition to being organic and humanely grown, it is significantly more rustic – I was regularly pulling fascinating little pieces of spiky, curly plant bits out of it. It’s a gorgeous wool and I much prefer yarns of the more rustic non-superwash variety (even though superwash takes colour so splendidly!)

An interesting difference I observed between the two yarns during blocking was that the rustic, less processed Juniper Moon Farm merino dried *much* more rapidly than the superwash Mineville Wool Project superwash. Perhaps this is not surprising to the more experienced knitter. Thanks to my first sweater project in a superwash merino yarn, which magically grew several sizes, I was unmoved this time around by the extra stretch factor of the superwash.

Knitting in a dark colourway

The colourway name of the organic merino is ‘anthracite’ (like the coal) and I quickly learned why knitters say that if you make something for someone in a dark colourway, you must really love them: it was very hard to tell what was going on stitch-wise! I quickly learned to look through the fabric and count the holes created by the stitches, rather than trying to count the stitches themselves.

Deciding on a stripe colour sequence

We fussed about with the order and thickness of the colour stripes. I knitted a ‘test yoke’ with one colour sequence for Beth to try on, but it just wasn’t right. What helped me immensely was remembering this short Brooklyn Tweed post about colour theory for stranded colourwork about colour ‘values’.

The key thing is to place colours next to each other that have contrasting ‘values’. A quick way to text a colour combination is to take a photo on your phone or digital camera of the yarns together and then turn on the black and white or monochrome filter and see how much contrast there is. More contrast means the colours can go next to each other in a colourwork pattern. (And that is the limit of my understanding of colour theory!)

The thing that was tripping us up when initially playing with colour sequence for the yoke was that the turquoise superwash merino and the dark grey main colour have more or less the same value. That is, they look like identical colours in a black and white photo, and so they shouldn’t be next to each other in the colour sequence. We eventually landed on doing six even stripes (12 rows each): blue/red/yellow/blue/red/yellow and then the dark grey main colour for the remainder of the body and sleeves.

The winning colour stripe sequence of blue-red-yellow-blue-red-yellow keeps colours with different values together (blue with red, red with yellow, yellow with red, yellow with grey) and separates colours with values too similar to lay side by side (blue and grey).

Pattern sizing

The short version…

I knit this sweater to fit a 36″ bust. The short story is that I:

  • cast on for size 32.5″;
  • knit to a 34″ size for body/sleeve separation (276 stitches at body/sleeve separation, which is 2 stitches more than you should have at body/sleeve separation for the 34″ size);
  • put 52 stitches on hold for each sleeve and cast on 12 stitches at each underarm (I wanted 64 stitch sleeves [52 on hold + 12 underarm = 64 st.], which is the sleeve stitch count for sweater size 37.25″);
  • ended up with body stitch count of 196 stitches (as for size 32.5″) [86 front + 86 back + 12 underarm + 12 underarm = 196 st.], which according to my gauge of 5.25 stitches per inch would give a finished bust size of about 37.25″; and
  • shored up the neckline with an attached i-cord to prevent it from rolling and prevent gape-y stretching.
An applied i-cord around the neckline helped prevent curling and added some structure.

The longer version…

Have a gander at the Camaro projects on Ravelry and you will find many, many words of warning about sizing. I read these and panicked and procrastinated and eventually cast on the 32.5″ size — two sizes down from the bust of the wearer (36″).

This was a good choice, producing a nice neckline and yoke, until I got to putting stitches on hold for the arms and creating armholes. After blocking and having my sister try on the partial sweater, it was clear that the armholes for the 32.5″ sweater were too small. (You put 44 stitches on hold for sleeves and then cast on 12 stitches at each underarm for a total of 56 stitches.)

To fix this, I put 44 stitches on hold for each sleeve and cast on 20 additional stitches at each underarm (for 64 stitches). Because this added lots of room to the body, I then went on a shaping journey that led me to creating princess seams down the back of the jumper.

Having a go at shaping

Many Ravelry folks’ project notes mention shaping; one knitter described the pattern as written as “almost certainly tent-like”. Eep!! After much fretting, I decided to do princess seams down the back having never done custom shaping before in my life. After finishing the stripe sequence and the short row shaping in the back, I started the princess seams.

Princess seams down the back of the sweater caused puckering.

This approach… worked to bring the body in and give a more fitted shape, BUT there was some pretty terrible puckering at the back. I think this is because I decreased and increased too rapidly. The puckering at the shoulder blade area stretched out on a body, but the puckering at the lower back did not. I ripped out and made another attempt to decrease the body stitch count by decreasing at the underarms instead of at the back, but didn’t get that quite right either, so I decided to rip out again and knit the body straight down without shaping according to the pattern.

This turned out to be totally fine.

Final attempt: knitting the body straight down according to the pattern, and grafting the pre-knitted sleeves on right at the yellow/dark grey colour break.

Seamless but separate sleeves

Just a sleeve!

Because I was so nervous the whole time about eventually having to rip the sweater back (I knew in my heart that the sizing and attempted shaping wasn’t going to go well), I knit the sleeves separately so that I could graft them on later and not ‘lose’ that work if I had to later rip out the body. I initially knitted them starting right at the connection to the body, in the middle of the red stripe. When I grafted them on in the middle of the red stripe, it looked passably seamless, but I could still tell where the graft was. The variegation in the red yarn gave it away. Then I had the stroke of genius to pick up the stitches on the body and knit the rest of the red stripe and the yellow strip, and then graft the main colour section of the sleeve on at the end of the yellow stripe using the dark grey main colour to do Kitchener stitch. Here is where the light-sucking effect of the dark grey yarn did it’s work: no sign of grafting at all.

Using Kitchener stitch to graft the sleeves on at the colour break between the yellow stripe and the dark grey body using dark grey yarn made me feel very clever.

Finishing

I wove in the many ends. Although I did a good job securing the ends at colour changes (where I slipped the first stitch on the 2nd go round with the new colour to create jogless stripes), next time I will definitely switch colours along a raglan seam or somewhere less obvious than the middle of the back.

I blocked it gently in lukewarm water in the bathroom sink and laid it to dry on my trusty Canadian Tire kids play mats/blocking mats, with only the ribbing at the hem of the body pinned out.

I can’t wait for Beth to finally try on the finished product!

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