Living with your results when your plans go wrong

Beady eyes.
Owl eyes

I like planning. I like planning my day and planning my meals and planning my life in 5 years. I especially like planning my next knitting project and this particular project was more than 2 years in the making.

I stumbled across the owl cable pattern before I really learned how to knit. It was the first pattern I had seen that made me want to make something to wear instead of buying it from the store. I really like things that look like something else, especially when that something else is a bird. So a cable pattern that looks like a bird was just what I needed to get me thinking about learning to knit.

Fast forward to 2013. I decided it was time to learn how to knit. I had a new nephew on the way and a baby is the perfect excuse to knit tiny things. While learning how to hold the needles, follow a pattern and read my stitches, I had this sweater in the back of my mine.  After eight months of knitting I finally felt ready to start a sweater, but not the sweater. I completed the massive Knit Swirl Strata Sphere sweater and needed a break from the large needles and massive amount of wool required for a sweater, so I put off the owls a little longer.

I finally worked up the confidence to knit a fitted sweater and had rested long enough to forget the long rows of Strata Sphere. But during this time, I slowly amassed a respectable stash of yarn and none of it was good enough for my owls. Either too fine or too cheap or just not right. So I waited some more until the perfect yarn presented itself.

I had admired Kate Davies designs for a long time and her interpretation of the Owl sweater was perfect for me. I then got a message from a friend last fall who had found some oatmeal coloured tweed wool at a thrift store. This sounded perfect for what I wanted. For $20, she picked up 4 skeins of bulky wool and sure enough, it was just the right colour. And this is when my planning went awry.

Thrift Store yarn. Not a bad haul for $20.
Thrift Store yarn. Not a bad haul for $20.

4 Skeins Reynolds Tipperary Tweed should be 580 meters and a size two Owl calls for 570 yards. My swatch gauge was perfect. The brown was a tawny colour that looked perfect for an owl and it worked well with my skin colour. It was a match made in heaven, right? Well, just to be certain I had enough wool, I decided to use a contrast colour for the cuffs and waist band. That should save a few yards. After weighing the Tipperary Tweed to double check that I had more than enough yarn, I started. The yarn was beautiful, but it wasn’t knitting up as perfectly and I wanted. The fabric looked a little loose and the wool looked a little uneven, but I plowed on. Maybe I should have frogged it at this point, but the idea of restarted this project with this fiber glass-esque yarn was not appealing. Besides, even if I did restart it with a denser stitch, I would run out of yarn!

Helios didn't seem to mind the results of the loose fabric. Good grip for his little talons.
Helios didn’t seem to mind the results of the loose fabric. Good grip for his little talons.

I finished the sleeves (perfect knit while in the dentist chair, by the way) and finally started the owls. I was starting to get nervous because I was on my last skein. I took out two rows in the owl cables. As I approached the end of the cables, I was ecstatic. I had just enough wool left for a collar! My planning paid off! Proud of myself, I went to the next step in the pattern and started …. the back shaping short rows. I managed to make it one row into the collar before I ran out of wool. Correction, ran out of discontinued wool.

Well, Ravelry came to my rescue and I found a woman in New Jersey who had the beige Tipperary Tweed and she kindly sold me 2 skeins (I wanted to make sure it was worth her while). A couple of weeks later, I was in business again.

Not quite right. The owl's eyes didn't pop.
Not quite right. The owl’s eyes didn’t pop.

Once I washed it in Soak and hair conditioner, I blocked it and sewed on the brown buttons I had been holding onto for a long time. Another fail, the brown buttons blended in the brown sweater. After a few pretty pictures, I decided I needed to find black buttons. After a quick trip to the fabric store, it was finally complete. Of course, this was just in time for spring.


Imperfect, but done.
Imperfect, but done.

It was worth keeping the collar in the main colour and $38 isn’t bad for a handmade sweater. The sweater isn’t perfect, but it was worth the effort. I wouldn’t want to scrap the wool for another project and I do wear the sweater, so even though my careful planning didn’t pay off, it thought me that I can still finish a project with too little, scratchy, slightly-under-bulky-weight yarn. And guess what? It just means I need to make another owl sweater! I learned a little and I get a functional piece of clothing that I expect I’ll wear for a long time. I think the most important thing I learned was to pick my battles. Frogging an imperfect sweater wouldn’t have resulted in anything better. The yarn was horrible to work with, so it would have ended up sitting in my stash. And besides, learning to wear something that you see so many flaws in is a good lesson in itself.


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