Two Sticks and Some String, and a Cat: Building Becca’s Noro Sweater

In May, my daughter Becky bought me Noro yarn for Mother’s Day. Gorgeous stuff, pure wool, the kind of yarn where you open the bag, shove your face against the yarn, inhale, and sigh with happiness.

The Bag of NoroBut it had to sit there for a while, because…

Well, LIFE first, and then with yarn, you have to get to know it for a while before you can start to see what it might become. (More on that in a bit.)

But in July, I had an idea of what to do with it. Nothing solid, just “Sweater for Becky.”

So I called her. Said, “Got some questions for you.”

She was wary. (Smart, my kid. Questions from mothers always require caution.)

The conversation went like this.

“Cardigan or Pullover?”

“Cardigan… And I like where this is going.”

“Fitted or oversized?”

“Oversized.”

“Pockets or no pockets.”

“Pockets.”

And that was it. I started playing with the yarn, doing some cast-ons and some rip-backs until I considered Becky.

Test squares, I thought.

I was walking through JoAnn Fabrics to pick up a few more knitting markers, and discovered these buttons, which were, I thought, the same colors as the Noro Becky’d gotten me.

Bought them, took them home, and…

They. Were. Perfect. 

The Startlingly Matching Buttons

Not just perfect for the sweater. Perfect for HER. Not the same color, not tiny, not timid.

They were bright and bold and happy.

Meanwhile, the test squares had become some coherent pieces.Pieces

And Sheldon had taken up his position as “Associate Knitter in Charge of String Pouncing.” Note the feigned disinterest.

Sheldon, Knitting Tester

So, anyway, I got the raw body pieces together, and shoved one of the sweaters I’d made for myself inside to make sure I had the armholes and pockets in the right places.

I don’t use patterns, you see. I think up what I want the sweater to look like, I consider the couple of measurements I need to make sure it’ll fit the person I’m making in for, I test what I’m building against my numbers as I knit. It’s an always-interesting exercise in three-dimensional artifact construction, and the way I do it, it takes a little math, and sometimes a sketch on paper (though not this time), and a little twiddling at the beginning when I’m working out the bugs.

Example—getting the left-side squares on the back to slant in the opposite direction from the squares on the right required me to knit from bottom to top rather than top to bottom, from left square to right rather than right square to left, and to use an entirely different cast-on.

Testing Armhole and Pocket Placement

With the main body pieces made and knitted together, I discovered that I was not going to have enough yarn to finish the sweater, however… and I also discovered that Webs was out of that color, and that I couldn’t find any more elsewhere.

So I… er… “shopped the stash,” and found the very first good yarn I’d ever bought. Elspeth Lavold wool-silk, very dark purple, that back when we were living in Georgia, was my step away from Red Heart. Only not, because once I got it, I discovered that I was going to have to buy a swift and a yarn winder before I could use it, and it was sport weight, which I’d never worked with. And by the time I got the yarn winder and the swift and smaller needles, I’d discovered Noro.

So the Elspeth Lavold has been sitting in the stash for, at this point, about thirteen years.

I knitted on the left button placket with doubled Elspeth Lavold, and sewed on the buttons so I’d know where the buttonholes would go and how big they’re need to be when I moved to the other side. 

Left button placket with buttons in place.

And ended up with this.

Buttons done!

At which point my impatient daughter said, “Oooooh! Vest! I want it now.”

Vest. Is. Not. Cardigan.

I made her wait.

Figured out how to use the Elspeth Lavold for detail stuff, and started working out the sleeves.

Growing the Sleeves Sleeves Grown

And ended with some spiffy cuffs in the Elspeth Lavold that work into the diamond shapes at the top with some fancy ribbed decreases, and finished the collar and the hem, all with Kitchener bind-offs. (Makes it look smoother and of higher quality. And is a lot of fun to do.)

Looks done, right?

Not so much. On the right side facing you, you can see what it looks like with the ends sewn in. EVERYTHING else is what it looks like everywhere but that one little haven of done-ness.

What it looks like on the inside

Meanwhile, I’m getting, “But I want it NooowOwwOwww!” from my impatience oldest child.

Back, before ends sewn in

Seriously…

And at the point where I started sewing in ends, Sheldon, who had managed to restrain himself throughout most of the construction, suddenly lost his mind and became Lunatic Cat of Button-Chewing.The pretense of ignoring temptation.Note the pretense of being uninterested.

Sheldon does a little stretch closer.

Note the little stretch that moves him closer.Sheldon attacks the Demon Button.

Note the button attack. In all fairness, the button did call him a name.

Kill the button

A bad name.

Dog, possibly.

Dog, possibly.

Front ends sewn in

Anyway, I got the ends sewn in on the front…

Back ends sewn in

And the back…

And washed and blocked it…Washed and blocked

And waited three days for it to dry…

Drying with towels

Drying with towels — the Noro dried quickly, but the Elspeth Lavold took forever.

But Still Not Done…

Cardigan.

Oversized.

Oversized Cardigan

POCKETS…

Sewing in pockets

Which took an age to knit, and another age to sew in while keeping the stitches hidden from the front.

 Sweater, inside out, with pockets sewn in

Sweater, inside out, with pockets sewn in. They’re big, and deep, and they went in AFTER I’d blocked the sweater so they would not cause any puckering.

And NOW it's done.

And now it’s done.With pockets in use

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

9 comments… add one
  • Elizabeth Sep 6, 2018 @ 15:07

    Not sure how I missed this post, but OMG!!! That sweater is insanely gorgeous!

  • Mary Aug 23, 2018 @ 21:17

    Wonderful story. I love that you knit, but I crochet and been having the urge to buy yarn late. Love that you have a kitty who goes after your yarn. I have…quite a few. This made my day.

  • Judy French Aug 23, 2018 @ 16:43

    Ahahahaha!! Love the story

  • Vanessa Aug 23, 2018 @ 14:42

    There is nothing in the world better than someone who loves you enough to knit or crochet for you. Makes me want to learn so I can make stuff for my kid too. Beautiful job Holly!!

  • Cheryl S Aug 23, 2018 @ 12:58

    Gorgeous. And what patience! Yes, let’s see the fashion show. 😀

  • Marianne H Donley Aug 23, 2018 @ 11:30

    Nice sweater. I made a Lady Eleanor scarf with my Noro because I do need patterns.

  • dragon Aug 23, 2018 @ 11:25

    I now know why I crochet … No patience. That is absolutely gorgeous and I think Rebecca wants her sweater. LOL

  • sophia Aug 19, 2018 @ 22:01

    Very very cool. I vote for a pic of Rebecca wearing the sweater ASAP 😀

    Looks all kinds of warm and snuggly…

  • Rebecca Aug 16, 2018 @ 11:27

    CAN I PLEASE HAVE MY SWEATER NOW?!?! I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD HAVE IT NOW!!!

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