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January 7

Lumberjack Man Sweater

Happy 2016!

While I’ve been busy sewing for myself and doing all sorts of house work, here I am leading off the year with my very first project for Felix which I’ve been calling Man Sweater.

Lumberjack Sweater

Left to Right: Meg’s Josh, my Felix, and Michelle’s Mike

Update: My Ravelry Project Page with Detail Notes on Knit Alterations

Felix has actually never wanted me to sew or knit him anything.  I know right?!  He’s had this fear that if I took the time to make him something and he never wore it, that I’d be angry.  (This is probably correct. My Felix is a smartie.)  So he just wanted to stay out of the fray and buy his clothes instead.  He’s only wearing this now because I was the one who wanted to knit this up for him.

Of course Meg, Michelle & I saw this pattern (aka the Lumberjack Sweater) pop up on Ravelry and we mutually agreed this would be a great sweater to make for the men in our lives.  The pattern seems easy enough for a first-time man-sweater maker.  (Hint: this is an incorrect assumption & more on that later!)

Lumberjack Sweater

Felix and I picked out the yarn for this sweater when we were in Paris from a shop called Lil Weasel.  It was a charming shop and the price of yarn was quite reasonable to boot.  They have both a yarn shop and a fabric shop right across the way from one another (yarn is reasonable, fabric not so much).

Lil Weasel

I should add there’s a lovely little cafe/wine bar next door that I visited not once but twice, if you happen to be in the area yourself.

Since this was Felix’s first time actually looking at yarn in any serious kind of way, I picked out the type and he simply picked the color.  Felix overheats quite easily and rarely wears sweaters to work, even in the winter months.  But since our house does get quite cold, I knew he’d eventually wear the sweater.  Not wanting him to get too hot in it, I decided on a Rowan 50/50 mix of wool & cotton.

Rowan Yarn

Felix is a man of simple taste.  His wardrobe consists of various shades of grey, black, browns, and the occasional colors – in muted tones of course.  So it seemed to make the most sense for him to pick out a nice grey that he could layer easily & I knew he’d end up wearing it more comfortably than a brightly colored knit that I might have preferred.  But believe me, he’s slowly getting introduced to some new colors.

Michelle is experienced with knitting for her husband, Mike.  But for Meg and myself, this was our first hand-knit man sweater.  I can’t speak for Megan, but I felt like I was starting all over from scratch about how to ‘fit’ a garment.  I felt like quite the newbie knitter.

Lumberjack Sweater

Lumberjack is a top down, raglan style sweater.  The neckline stitches are picked up again later on and the collar is worked into the sweater (1×1 ribbing).

I measured Felix’s chest and waist and picked my size accordingly, with the correct gauge of course.  I cast on and started working on the sweater to the point where you divide the sleeves from the body & work the body in the round.  He tried it on and it was awful – a joke!

Lumberjack Trial Lumberjack Trial

It was waaay too large even though I was on gauge and picked the ‘correct’ size.  I ended up frogging the entire thing and sizing down two sizes.  I worked to the same point again – but the second time there were just too many stitches on the sleeves for his arms while the chest and back area were alright.

Frogging back once more a few inches, I slowed down my raglan increases (aka fewer increases) on the sleeves while keeping the increases on the front and back body the same as the pattern.

Third time is a charm I guess.  Kinda sorta.

Lumberjack Sweater

I still feel like there’s too much pooling at the armpits – but I continue to be told that’s just the way a raglan sweater fits.  It’s a personal preference thing.

We all met up last weekend to take photos at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.  It’s the perfect location for photo taking as its bright, just like being outside but warm enough inside in the winter weather.  I’m sure I’ll be going back here for photos of me in my stuff soon.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Coincidentally this is the same place Meg, Michelle, and I came for our first knit photo shoot in December of 2013.  How the time flies!

Ingenue Team

It seemed only fitting that we had the guys pose for us, now that we were on the other side of the camera.

They’re goofballs – look at the progression of Josh in the middle.  Laughed so hard I cried going back over these images.

Lumberjack Sweater Lumberjack Sweater Lumberjack Sweater

Lumberjack Sweater

They were good sports about all of this.  But we did pay them off in chocolate and hand knit sweaters.

Once the sweater body is joined in the round, there ceases to be any shaping to the body whatsoever.  Michelle advised me that there should be some decreases to create shape and was scoffing at the pattern pretty hard at this point.  I followed suit and decreased like she does for Mike.

Well… I ended up frogging the body back a great deal also.  I should have known better here though – Felix is shaped nothing like Mike or Josh and he really doesn’t need any decreases from chest to waist as he has a much shorter torso and is a bit thicker as well.  So this one was on me.

But back to the pattern instructions…

The instructions for the body of the sweater are just plain odd.  What I mean is that the length given is so loooong.  Yes, Felix does have a short torso and didn’t need as much yarn.  But Mike and Josh are tall with long bodies.  They didn’t even need the full length that the pattern suggested we knit.  I bought yarn according to the size and the shop was 1 ball shy of what I needed.  Yet I still have 3 left-over skeins!  It’s such a waste.  It’s not like I can fly back to Paris and return my extra skeins.  I know Michelle also has 2 extra balls of yarn from this sweater and her yarn was much more expensive than mine was and Meg had like 4 left over and her guy is the tallest of the three!  In short, it’s just not right.

Lumberjack Sweater

One alteration I made was to add in some short rows near the hem of the body of the sweater, in the front only.  I know Felix won’t like me saying it but he does have a bit of a tummy (it is post-holiday season after all) and needed a bit of extra length here.  Adding length to the whole body would only accentuate the difference between his front and back – the sweater would be too long over his butt yet alright over his stomach.  I decided to add around 6 extra rows to the front of the sweater – nothing too dramatic that you would even notice.  I could have added a couple more, but I didn’t want it to be dramatic that someone could tell there were short rows added.

Lumberjack Sweater

I would consider myself to be an Intermediate-to-Advanced knitter.  I know how to do color work, cables, and alter most of my patterns to suit my preferences.  I don’t really feel daunted by too many knits at this point and kinda feel a bit bad-ass even noting this.  :D

But this sweater is not for a first-time sweater maker as the designer would have you believe.  Sure it’s an easy knit.  But when you have to pick up stitches from the provisional cast-on and the stitch count is not the same – a newbie knitter wouldn’t have enough confidence to figure out why and how to fix it.  The designer has you lifting a bar to increase for the first raglan increases right off of the provisional cast on edge (which I blindly followed) and when you pull out the provisional edge to work the collar – these stitches basically disappear.  So you can’t ever get the stitch count.

A designer would have also added in some waist shaping to accommodate for an average-shaped guy and also wouldn’t have us purchase 2+ skeins of yarn needlessly.

As a now-seasoned knitter and sewer, I think I’ve come to expect a higher standard for my pattern purchases.  Which honestly I think is a good thing.  I expect patterns to be designed professionally and with little errors.  Of course there will be the random mistake here or there – I’m human after all and I get that this happens.  But I can’t honestly sit here and say this is a sweater you should all run out and make as your first man-sweater when I know better.

This leads into a whole different discussion and I know I’ve opened a can of worms on this one: Higher Standards & Honesty.

I can go on and on about this topic & probably will do so at some point in the near future.  But too often do we sit back and think “It’s probably just me” or praise something to the public while complaining in private.  I think this is a dangerous habit I’ve been seeing within the crafting community as of late and I think it’s dangerous and I know many of you are with me on this.  We just want to be positive and supportive and if we have nothing nice to say we don’t say it at all.

It’s great that we want to do this for each other – it’s what makes me love this community of creators.  But honesty doesn’t have to be mean and honesty doesn’t mean we don’t support one another.

Okay I’m placing a lid back on this one for the time being.  But feel free to comment if you like either about Felix’s first hand-knit sweater, how handsome these guys are, honesty in the crafting community, or anything really.  :)

Lumberjack Sweater

Cheers & happy knitting.

  1. Michelle / Jan 7 2016

    These guys. I’m laughing as I scroll through the pictures. They were such good sports, even if they were like managing three hyperactive children with ADD while we tried to take pictures of them. :-D And, I’m all for honest reviews. I would be angry if I bought a product in the retail world that had amazing reviews only to discover that it didn’t perform or didn’t work as it was described. I think it’s the same thing with fabric, yarn, and patterns, etc…

  2. Meg / Jan 7 2016

    Agreeing with Michelle – yay for honesty! I want honest reviews with anything I think about purchasing. Also, the guys are adorable. Go us for picking winners! #highfive

  3. Elle / Jan 7 2016

    I have to agree with your point here, though I’m a sewer not a knitter. While I understand shopping small and supporting indies, the reflexive blanketing support for anything indie in the sewing/crafting community has become a little off-putting to me. How many times have we seen hoards of people on patternreview complaining about a drafting error, blaming themselves/”user error” and then still touting the brand as the best thing ever? I’m not advocating cruelty or being mean, but why are the Big 4 universally reviled whereas even constructive criticism seems to have vanished when it comes to indies?? Michelle had a post about the BHL Flora dress, if I recall, that addressed a lot of the same issues you’re talking about here. I appreciate your candor!

  4. Bonnie / Jan 7 2016

    Few things infuriate me as much as false-positive reviews (or false-negative, for that matter). I support heartily your moral courage in presenting fair and accurate critical fails in the pattern design and instructions. Integrity is sadly under-rated in our current social mores, both on and off the internet. That said, WELL DONE, especially for your persistence and dedication to quality. I hope that Felix will treasure his sweater as he should – it looks GREAT on him – my fave of the three ;)

  5. louise / Jan 7 2016

    Liz, Felix’s sweater turned out great & you 3 always look like you’re having so much fun!!! Thank you for the honest review, I find this to be often lacking in our crafty blogging community so it’s both refreshing and welcome in my book :-)

  6. Sarah / Jan 7 2016

    I think all the lads look fabulous in their hand knit sweaters! The colours suit each one beautifully! Do you have enough leftover yarn for a hat or neck warmer for Felix or yourself?

    If I’m really honest, I find it hard to be critical of independent designers (be it sewing or knitting). I’m afraid of negative feedback (I’ve seen awful online bullying/battles on some blogs and on that god-awful site, GOMI). My blog and the online sewing/knitting community is my safe place and I’m afraid of rocking the boat.

    By nature, I’m an introvert, although I can be extroverted with a small circle of RL friends. I’ve experienced bullying several times in my life, both online and in person, and although I’m sure constructive criticism/feedback wouldn’t launch an onslaught of negativity at me, I still hold my tongue for the most part.

    I am glad that you brought this up for discussion!

  7. Tasha / Jan 7 2016

    You guys (and your guys) are the cutest!!! Oh I have so many thoughts on this as it relates to knitting patterns, I don’t even think I can put it all into words. I think critiquing knitwear is even more complicated by the fact that patterns can be written in such *drastically* different ways, and it can really start to muddy the area between knitter’s preference and critiques, which is an element you don’t really get in sewing patterns. (Totally not talking about things like 500 extra yards of yarn obviously!!) For example, certain construction methods or ways of writing a pattern may seem great to some, and to others they’re terrible. And because I often gloss over a lot of a pattern if I have my own ideas in my head on what I want to do, I unconsciously don’t end up actually talking that much about the pattern. lol But I don’t think I ever say I really loved a pattern unless I really did, so in that way hopefully I’m perceived as truthful.

    Of course this is probably part of the reason I don’t write many patterns… ;)

  8. K-Line / Jan 7 2016

    I appreciate your honesty (you know I’m similarly honest about the good and the bad). I’d ensure that you reflect this in Ravelry too! I can’t say how much I appreciate an honest review before I get started on a project. It’s put me off more than a few :-) And those guys are seriously good sports! Very thoughtful to photograph you ladies when you do your KAL reviews but amazing to allow themselves to be the subject of a post. They are all adorable!

  9. Lynn / Jan 7 2016

    I too am fed up with all the fake happy, positive reviews of both knitting and sewing patterns. I, like you, am not advocating cruelty or a get-the-torches-and-putchforks mentality, but honesty is good. My personal favorite is the “perfectly fitting and drafted” patterns that need all sorts of darts and elastic to keep the neck from gaping. There is one particular indie pattern that has this problem in EVERY post I have ever seen, but still the fan girls coo over it.

  10. Becky / Jan 8 2016

    Ugh, that is a shame. Hopefully you can find a use for that leftover yarn! I’m generally one who tries to be supportive and positive, especially towards indie designers. But sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. I know that part of it is probably my body shape vs someone else’s, and there’s no one pattern that will work for everyone. But if people are going to take the time to read my posts, I would hope they’d find the reviews helpful. So I do also try to be honest, in a nice way, about what does and does not work for me.

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