Everyone has their own holiday traditions. For some, it’s going caroling and for others it’s baking cookies. A couple of years ago, I inadvertently started a new tradition: knitting this sweater.
Last fall, I ambitiously cast on the first stitches with a goal of finishing this sweater for Christmas (you can read about it in this ugly sweater party post…oh how optimistic I was). I must admit that I was slightly intimidated when I started, seeing as this was the first time I’d be using Fair Isle and intarsia colorwork techniques. Plus, I refused to even read the directions for the pleated sleeves until it was time to sew the sweater together because they looked so complicated.
Surprisingly, the knitting process went very smoothly. The hardest part was keeping my yarn untangled as I changed colors. Watching the tree and reindeer patterns emerge before my very eyes was addictive. I couldn’t put my knitting down until I’d finished a pattern repeat, so before I knew it, the sweater front was complete.
As I worked on the sweater back, I noticed something odd: I was running out of yarn. How was this possible? To start with, I had ordered an extra skein of yarn, plus I still had two sleeves to knit. I ordered another skein of red yarn and continued on my merry way. But as I kept working, I found myself ordering another skein, then another. It wasn’t until I attached the front and back and tried the sweater on that I realized something was wrong…very wrong.
Looking in the mirror, I didn’t see the cute, short-waisted, fitted sweater I was expecting. Instead, I saw a giant, ugly Christmas sweater staring back at me. I was totally shocked. I had used the exact yarn suggested in the pattern and knit on the recommended size 4 needles. I glanced down at my needles in total disbelief. That’s when I saw that I wasn’t using size 4 needles like I thought…I was actually using 4 mm needles, which are the equivalent of a size 6. No wonder I kept running out of yarn–my needles were two sizes too big!
In utter frustration and with no hope of finishing in time for Christmas, I stuffed the sweater into a bag and banished it out of sight.
Fast forward 10 months to this past fall. As the department stores started decorating for the holidays and Christmas commercials started airing on TV, I started thinking about my ugly Christmas sweater again. Full of determination, I unraveled the giant sweater, took a deep breath, and started again (using the correct needles this time).
After reading other knitters’ notes online, I decided to add an extra inch to the length of the sweater; otherwise, I knit according to the instructions.
When I tried the sweater on this time around, I was much closer to the look I was going for…but not quite there yet. With the additional inch, the sweater was the perfect length, but the body and sleeves were not as fitted as I hoped. Plus, the shoulders were too big. I knew the pleats would emphasize the shoulders, but I looked like a football player. There was no way I was starting over. I simply refused to let another Christmas pass without completing this project, so I came up with a Plan B: make it work.
It was heartbreaking to see all of my beautifully invisible mattress stitch seaming go to waste, but I ended up backstitching the sleeve, side, and shoulder seams, taking deep seam allowances to achieve the desired fit. Once I finally got the fit right, I spent the afternoon of Christmas Eve weaving in the sweater’s seemingly thousands of yarn ends as I watched Christmas movies and baked cookies.
I was so proud of myself for meeting my Christmas deadline, but to be perfectly honest, I was so sick of working on this sweater that I just didn’t feel like wearing it!
Today, on the last day of December and with such a beautiful winter landscape as a backdrop, I couldn’t resist throwing on the sweater and snapping a few photos. Now, I’m happy to say that I will be starting a new tradition: wearing this sweater every Christmas!
Pattern: The Perfect Christmas Jumper
Source: Vintage Gifts to Knit
Yarn: Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight