At Last: Bláithín

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I notice, as I leaf lazily (and metaphorically) through my blog, that I haven’t written anything about knitting since August. This came as quite a surprise, as I probably spent more time knitting last autumn than I did sewing. There was the purple cardi, which I sort of finished, and then decided needed the button band re-doing (it’s currently sitting on my sofa with the button band removed but not replaced), a couple of baby presents, but mostly this cardiBláithín by Kate Davies.

Two cardis, you think, that doesn’t sound like so much. Oh if only you knew, dear reader, the sorrows I faced. Perhaps I exaggerate. Not sorrows, then, let’s call it frustration.

Bláithín was on my list to knit for my mother for quite a while, sitting patiently at the top of my Ravelry queue while I got on with quicker, more urgent things. Eventually I realised that Christmas was a good a deadline as any, and with 4 months to go I ordered the wool (Donegal Yarns, Soft Donegal – the wool specified in the pattern. I don’t often use exactly what the pattern says to, but Kate’s sample was such lovely vibrant colours that we decided that to get as good a result, using the same wool would be a good start.

What was completely new for me (and I was just a bit intimidated by it at first) is that the cardi is knitted as a jumper (round and round up the body, up the sleeves, join together and knit the yoke) and then steeked – cut up the front to create the cardigan opening. But what’s life without a few challenges. I barged right on.

The original pattern has a-line shaping from the bust down, but my mum wanted it without which I think was probably a wise choice. Too much fabric can end up swamping the wearer. It was an easy change to make by casting on the number of stitches that the pattern said there would be at the bust and knitting straight up. No decreases to remember to count rows for – heaven! Knowing the dangers of knitting without checking the gauge I duly swatched, and went about knitting at a leisurely pace, I had three and a half months to do this!

By mid November I reached the underarms, where you stop and pick up for the yoke when the sleeves are knitted. I sighed happily. I laid my work tenderly on the floor. I extracted my tape measure from wherever it was. I measured the bust width.
It was much to big. Much too big.
I called my mother. I asked her to re-confirm her measurements, and the measurements of her favourite cardis. And then her second and third favourites just for comparison (again, I exaggerate for effect.) No, it was definitely too big. I decided to go down a size as well as down a needle size (because somehow gauge over a garment never comes out quite as it does in the swatch.)

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My mum insisted that I couldn’t redo all that knitting in time for Christmas. I told her I could and hung up. I wasn’t going to be beaten by a cardi – nay, a mere half-cardi (and a couple of balls of wool.) So I ripped it all out and began again. I knitted like absolute fury. And not having to do those decreases for the a-line shaping was a god-send. I’m not sure how long it took me to get back to where I’d been, but it definitely wasn’t two and a half months!

The sleeves only gave me a few problems – apparently knitting in the dark in a moving car wasn’t my best idea. 15 minutes before we reached where we were going I decided to do a quick count of the stitches as I finished the second sleeve and realised that I had two more than I should have. So I spent the last leg of the journey going over the sleeve minutely to work out where I’d accidentally increased.

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I didn’t have any problems with the yoke. I’ve only done stranded knitting like this once before, but I’m naturally quite an even knitter and I didn’t have any tension problems. I finished the yoke on the train on the way to the Bern Christmas Market, and realised that I’d forgotten to bring sock wool with me to start the steek. No matter, I thought, I can get some in Bern. But when I went in to the wool department of the Coop, I just grabbed a ball of wool in a sock-wool-ball-shape, and didn’t realise until the next day that it was sport-weight. Actually I only realised when I’d crocheted all the way down and up the front that it too thick because it was making my knitting pucker, so I pulled it all out and waited patiently until I got home. Apart from that the steek went off without a hitch. Kate Davies’ tutorial on her website is brilliant and I didn’t even feel a twinge of fear as I snipped into my knitting. The “steek sandwich” is also brilliantly explained and I didn’t really have any trouble except with getting the same number of stitches on both right and wrong side of each side. I couldn’t quite work out how to escape the “fence post” issue referred to in the questions section but somehow I bodged it and managed.

As far as finishing was concerned there was a small confusion in the instructions (with step 14 – in relation to starting on the left or the right) that I mention in my notes on Ravelry, but with careful scouring of the Kate Davies Bláithín thread on aforementioned site I worked out the problem and got past it.

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Blocking – Thank goodness my sister arrived home a week after I did.

The I-cord finishing was a bit slow, but the method of finishing hem  neck and sides all at once makes the finished garment look really polished. It’s little touches like that, the short rows on the back of the neck and the precise steps of how to get the best results in blocking that set this pattern a step above other patterns. Both my mum and I am delighted with the final result:

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I spent a while looking for buttons that wouldn’t overwhelm the cardi and detract from the colourwork. In the end my mum came across three bright (exactly-the-right) orange shell buttons in her stash left-over from something else, which were exactly the same size and shape as the white shell buttons from John Lewis so we alternated white and orange.

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She says wearing cardis done-up isn’t her things, but just for reference.

One small niggle, I think there’s a bit too much decreasing before the final lot of flowers on the yoke, because this stretches quite a bit more than the other flowers across my mum’s upper back, and the blue centres disappear almost completely into the back. Then again, I haven’t noticed anyone else with that problem, so maybe it’s just me!

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But all in all, pretty darn happy. Smiley face.

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