Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Longest Shrug

Back in November I attended a wedding in Miami, Florida. I naturally assumed that the weather would be warm and sunny and therefore neglected to bring sweaters, wraps, etc. As luck would have it, the evening of the (outdoor) wedding, a cold front swept in from the North. Fortunately for the bride and groom, the rain held off until after the ceremony but the wind was chilly and I was forced to don my DH's blue blazer in order to stay warm. This was not the elegant look I was attempting to achieve. When I viewed the wedding video several weeks later I realized that I looked like a hobo in a coat three sizes too big (no offense to hobos). Then and there I decided that I needed to be more prepared in the future. As I am not the sophisticated type who can pull off the look of a wrap draped across my shoulders with elan, I decided to knit myself a shrug.

A shrug from Stefanie Japel's  GlamKnits, the Textured Circle Shrug, had caught my eye a while back so I decided it was just the ticket. I like how it hugs the waist in back, has a curved line up the front and a deep collar. I've also been obsessed with burgundy reds recently so I chose MadelineTosh Vintage yarn in tart. (As a side note, apparently their hand-dyed yarns don't indicate dye lots so I was unable to ensure that the skeins from different sources matched).

Here is the final result on Heidi:

I made several modifications and discovered several things about this pattern which I will list here. I think this next section will be interesting to anyone who plans to knit this up, but otherwise I'm afraid it will be somewhat boring.

Do's and Don'ts When Knitting Up Stefanie Japel's Textured Circle Shrug:

* Do be prepared to knit miles of ribbing before you start. I know this sounds trivial, but just to bring home the point: There are 78 rounds of ribbing (22 are in seed stitch) across at least 268 stitches. I needed 15 minutes per round. If my math is correct (which is a big "if") this means I spent approximately 20 hours knitting ribbing. The ribbing is critical to the final look of the garment, but as everyone knows how you feel about the final product and how you feel about the experience of making something are two very different things.

* Do check out the Lion Brand sponsored knit-along (KAL) that Stefanie led in the Spring of 2009. You will find many helpful photographs and explanations. I printed out the entire 5-week series of posts and referred to them constantly.

* Do pick up exactly the number of stitches recommended. This has implications for how the garment will hang when it is completed. I had to re-do my stitch pick-ups a few times, but it was well worth the effort!

* Don't cut the yarn after completing the first part of the body. I found that it saved on loose ends and hassle to just keep the back stitches live. I think it may have also reduced some of the "puffiness" that others have encountered in that portion of the garment.

Do change to the smaller needle size when picking up stitches for the ribbing. This piece of the instructions can be easily overlooked and makes a huge difference to the final look!

* Do take the time to watch the video included in the KAL on how to do RLI if you don't already know how. (I wasn't familiar with this method and I was very glad to learn it.) There has been much confusion on Ravelry about this piece of the instructions. If you do the increases as described in the pattern, it works out perfectly. If you try to do a different type of increase, it will likely throw off the stitch count and ribbing.

* Do place markers! During most of the knitting you will have an endless round of ribbing that looks the same from every angle and it's very easy to lose track of where you are on the garment. Stefanie** recommends markers at the beginning and ends of the sleeve sections (different colored markers for each sleeve is helpful). I also used markers to indicate the collar section and the middle of the lower back. The lower back marker is useful for when you have to begin a new ball of yarn so that the ends can be woven in where they won't ever be seen. Finally, a marker in the middle of the right sleeve section is helpful for buttonhole placement. I had to guess where to put one and was wildly wrong.

* Do knit the sleeves in the round. It saves on seaming and, IMO, it enhances the final finished look.

In the final analysis, I did enjoy the process of making this shrug, but I'm glad I took my time and followed the tips listed above. I also deviated from the pattern in several ways as follows.


* Eliminated the textured stripes to create a smoother, more slimming look
* Knit the sleeves in the round and made them full-length
* Did 8 short rows across 120 stitches across the back of the neck to ensure that the collar would lie flat over the seam line at the bottom of the collar.
* Added a black edging or tipping to create more of an evening look.

So, There you have it!

** Disclaimer: I am using Stefanie's first name as though we are close friends. I should make it clear that, alas, we have never met and she doesn't know me from Adam (or Eve). I just feel that I know her well after living with this pattern over the past month. I intend no offense by presuming a first name basis - I hope none is taken!


Sally said...

It looks beautiful; I especially like the back. (Not to mention the color, but I am a big fan of red in general and of Tart in particular.)

I'm not sure I'll ever make this because it's semi-close to Sunrise Circle in construction, but I love all of the tips you gave.

espressoVC said...

Wow! This is Gorgeous and so Elegant. Very Flattering and a perfect style for you. Bravo!

Love the color.

craftivore said...

The shrug is absolutely gorgeous and I'm sure your notes will be useful to many. Heading over to Ravelry to favorite.