I was in two minds as to whether to share my Salal cardigan here. What with it being a sewing blog at all. And this being, well, not at all sewing. But, never fear, it’s still going to kind of be about sewing. Because, well, frankly, as much as I enjoy it, I’m a pretty crappy knitter, so I’d much rather talk about sewing – even in a knitting post!
Can I knit this Salal cardigan?
The other reason I decided to go ahead with this post is that I wanted to provide an answer to the question which plagued me before I started this project: “I’m a beginner knitter – can I knit a sweater/cardigan?”.
When I was trying to work up the confidence to start this project, I couldn’t really find a non-scary response to the above question online. I found lots of checklists of skills you might need and even more “well, it depends” answers.
But, I didn’t find anything giving the answer I really wanted to hear, namely “Go for it! You can do it”. But that’s the joy of the internet. If the internet doesn’t give you the answer you want to hear, you can just add to it!!!
Being a beginner…
Let me digress for a moment.
When I started learning to sew, I wasted a lot of time sewing things that I didn’t need and barely wore. I felt like there was an “order” in which I had to tackle projects in order to build up my skills. First a skirt, then something with buttons, then something with a zipper, then knit fabrics… By being so focused on the “next step” in the learning process, I lost focus on the most important thing of all: sewing garments you will love and want to wear.
So when I decided to learn to knit, I was determined to avoid the same mistakes. Now, the entire reason I wanted to learn to knit is that I loooove knitted cardigans and sweaters. So screw it, I thought, let’s just knit a cardigan!!!
And here she is!!!
My knitting journey…
Just as a digression within a digression, when I decided to learn to knit, it didn’t go so smoothly at all. I literally could not understand how to wrap that piece of thread around a needle. I gave up and didn’t pick up needles for another few years, at which time, I still somehow couldn’t understand the concept. Finally, a few years ago, I stumbled across a YouTube video that finally got it through my thick skull (sorry, no idea which one it was). Then, I finally started to knit.
At which point I realised it was actually really easy. Cue, me feeling ridiculously stupid about the several times my mother-in-law had tried to show me in person and I just couldn’t get it. Even though she was angelically nice, I still have memories of wanting to burst into tears because my stupid fingers just weren’t capable of doing something that looked so simple in her hands. My brain just couldn’t send the right messages of what goes up and under and over what. Plus, the fact that my brain was struggling to process some not-very-everyday French words she was using to teach me didn’t help much either…
My beginner knitter starting point
So the purpose of that digression, is to set up the background that I am not a particularly good nor experienced knitter. Prior to this cardigan, I had knitted 2 beanies, 2 scarves and 1 shawl.
I had never done any lace work. Barely knew how to increase and decrease. Couldn’t even recognise the difference between a purl and knit stitch in my own knitting. I’d never knitted something in stockinette before. Definitely had never knitted a sleeve. I could not rip back when I made mistakes because I wasn’t sure I could pick up stitches again (see, look, I have a random row of out of place purling to testify to the fact that I was too chicken to frog it!) Oh and I’d definitely not done any button holes. I’d never even knitted a swatch or knitted a project which required blocking (or which even involved needing to choose a size!).
When I was trying to decide if I could do this, a lot of the advice I read was about whether you had the skills you needed to knit a sweater or cardigan. But, honestly, I really think that even as a beginner knitter, you can definitely knit a cardigan or sweater if you satisfy a few very basic requirements: (1) you can knit and purl; (2) you are willing to accept all kinds of imperfections and flaws; (3) you really want to do it; and (4) you can look things up on YouTube!
How did people learn anything before the internet?
There was definitely lots of YouTubing that went into this Salal cardigan. Casting on. Umm, how exactly do you do that again – Youtube time. Picking up stitches from cast off edge. Umm, Youtube. Wrap and turn, Youtube. Yarnover, Youtube. You get the picture. I basically had to find a video for every word in the pattern instructions which wasn’t knit or purl.
But, do you know what, it was fine! Fun, even. I learned so much in this project that I can’t even describe it. How to recognise what is a knit stitch and what is a purl. Frogging things and picking up my stitches again. I learned a million times more making this highly imperfect Salal cardigan than if I’d knitted another half dozen perfect scarves.
While I can’t imagine knitting ever approaching the place that sewing holds in my heart, I find it a very relaxing and mind-clearing activity. This is about as close to relaxation as my always-switched-on-brain gets. It’s great for when you want to do something useful while commuting or during a lunch break. Also, since my sewing corner is squirrelled away in a corner of the house, knitting is perfect for when I actually want to spend some time snuggled up on the couch with the significant other but still satisfy my creative urges.
Sewing lessons for knitting
It got me thinking about what lessons sewing has taught me that are relevant to knitting.
Apart from the above key lesson about making make what you want to make, I’m not sure that there is a whole lot which is transportable between the hobbies. An understanding of garment construction from sewing was helpful, but not essential. What do you think, other sewists who knit? What “skills” are transportable from one to the other? I’m not sure if the capacity to fall in love with all the pretty colours counts as a skill…
But where’s my Tilly?
Another thing this project made me realise is just how amazing indie patterns are for learning to sew. When you sew with a beginner level indie pattern, you can often go to a sewalong page and literally have every step set out in photos. Often with videos.
For this Salal cardigan, while the website had some basic information, it wasn’t designed to teach you everything you needed to know to knit the cardigan. It assumed you understood the basic terminology set out in the instructions.
It’s true that Ravelry seems to be an amazing resource filled with really knowledgable knitters, but I don’t find myself super comfortable actually going on forums to ask questions of real people. And forums aren’t really the most useful “forum” for when what you need are basic instructions, not specific questions, like how to cast on!
In sum, this experience really made me appreciate the amazing way that indie pattern companies provide everything you need to learn to sew all in one place.
So, getting to the Salal cardigan
I guess I should say a quick word about my actual Salal cardigan. Is it just me or is it perfectly normal to desperately want to knit every single cardigan or sweater Andi Satterlund has ever designed?
For my Salal cardigan, instead of ending at a cropped waist, I merged with the Plain Jane pattern for a hip length and longer sleeves. The wool is Malabrigo worsted in the colour “Damask Rose”. I just love all the pretty Malabrigo colours!!! I used 430 grams making this cardigan, that’s about 900 yards worth of wool. And I used 4mm needles.
To crop or not to crop?
Knitting my Salal cardigan did get me thinking about cropped cardigans. The main reason I love cardigans is to extend the life of all my short-sleeved me-made dresses. Really, my entire knitting “habit” is about complementing my sewing habit.
I have lots of RTW cardigans which are generally hip length. So I thought “well I always wear hip-length cardigans”. But now that it’s all done, part of me thinks that I should have stopped at the cropped length after all. Something that hits truly at the natural waist would definitely look better with my me-made dresses. This length feels a bit frumpy when I actually wear it with a natural-waisted dress (thus no photos of this…)
But it just looked so short when I saw it on my needles at the cropped length. But I think that was probably about the fact that it’s just not a length that I’m accustomed to wearing.
My other rationale was that I wanted a garment that could serve multiple purposes. A natural-waist hitting cropped cardigan is never going to be worn with pants – at least on my body (hello, muffin top). So now I’m wondering if there is a sweet spot in the cardigan world, somewhere between cropped and hip which manages not to look dowdy on top of dresses but can still be worn with pants?
It might just help me in my task of having enough hand knitted cardigans to coordinate with all my me-made dresses. At this rate, that objective should only take about 10 years to achieve.
So you’d better watch this space…
Oh and, finally, a little P.S! If you like to get your blog hits through Bloglovin’, feel free to follow me over there: you can find me here.