The Monsters’ Birthday Party

I closed my last post, Birthday Knitting Season, with unfinished business, some of which I have finished. I completed my older daughter’s birthday sweater and got it into the mail 12 days before her birthday, which hopefully will be enough to get to her in time. I’m pleased with it aesthetically and technically, and I’m not worried that it won’t fit her. All right, I’ll just say it: it’s a complete success and I’m busting with pride at how well I knitted it and about every aesthetic decision I made and carried out.

The first aesthetic decision was the colors. Melissa had the hot pink, a Manos yarn, and the black Lamb’s Pride from Brown Sheep Company in stock at the store (Lovelyarns) during the summer, and the combination was a no-brainer. The whimsical monsters wanted to be knitted in an eye-catching color like the neon pink, and the small Fair Isle patterns also needed a high contrast color pairing, and I love pink, as does my daughter. Other neons and black would also have been effective, or primary colors like red and yellow for a child-sized adaptation. Maybe a high-contrast combination of red and purple, if one found the right red and the right purple. If you saw the monsters as space creatures, that theme could be sold with a hand-painted yarn in nebulous colors, contrasted with simple white for the monsters, to play up their extraterrestrial eeriness. If you saw them as deep-sea creatures, a hand-painted yarn in blues and greens and aquas and the monsters in neon lime green could communicate the underwater world idea.

I talked about the improvised embellishments and adaptations I made to the charts in my last post so I won’t repeat myself, but when I could see the sleeves attached to the body, the effect struck me as a merry party with confetti and streamers raining down as the monsters dance and cavort.

All done! Just need Prima to wear it
There’s a hard-to-see ghost monster floating around on the back of the sleeve

While I was pleased with the aesthetic effect of my partying monsters, I was even more impressed with myself because the wonky details came out just about perfectly, specifically in the accidental near-perfection of the math of the yoke and the perfection of the jogless stripes. My gauge swatch had showed me that I needed 40 rows of yoke decreases, and then a neck band, to get eight inches of depth in the yoke. At the join of the sleeves to the body, I had 180 stitches in the body, 60 stitches in the sleeve x 2 = 120, minus 12 stitches for the armpit for both sides of the body and both sleeves, 12 x 4 = 48. 180 + 120 – 48 = 252, which was the number of stitches on the needle at the start of the yoke. The next bit is where I couldn’t get past a mental block, because I had a total fail on the fact that the raglan yoke I was planning had me decreasing two stitches at the four corners of the raglan, eight stitches, every other row for 40 rows, 20 decrease rows. How hard is it really to multiply 8 x 20 and come up with 160, subtracted from 252 for a total of 92?

But my math missed the fact that I was decreasing 8 stitches 20 times and somehow I thought I was decreasing 4 stitches 20 times. That would have made the neck way too big at the end. So I was all set to do drastic decreases around the neck band to get a neck opening that was both comfortable and not too open, but would have changed the neckline shape to a round neckline. Fortunately, my numbers were smarter than I was because I finished the 40 rows of yoke decrease and somehow had 92 stitches. That meant that I could preserve the square shape of the neckline by doing the garter stitch neckband with three sets of centered double decreases at the four corners of the raglan decreases, eight stitches decreased per decrease row, three times, 24 stitches decreased. Well, maybe I had 94 stitches at the end of the 40 rows of yoke stripes, because I might have missed a couple of decreases in the black stripe after doing a set of short rows to raise the neckline at the back. Black yarn, bad light, I couldn’t see the stitches properly. Which brings me to another technical detail that I did so sneakily that you can’t see it unless I tell you, the short-row shaping of the neckline. There are three sets of short rows, one each in the top three stripes, stretching across the back from the center stitch on each shoulder. The short row stripes have 10 rows per stripe at the back, the front stripes and the bottom two back stripes have eight, which is a barely noticeable difference. At the point of the short-row turns on the shoulders, you have to look very hard to see the turns. So subtle, it’s like magic.

Look for them, see if you can find the short-row turns
Can you see the short rows in the top three stripes? If you can, you’re better than I am

Another subtle magic trick was the jogless stripe hidden in plain sight front and almost center, at the raglan corner on the front of the wearer’s left shoulder, where I began the yoke rows. I meant to start it at the back of the shoulder, but that front corner was where I placed the first sleeve onto the body and I didn’t bother rearranging the stitches before I started knitting the yoke. But it didn’t matter because the jogless stripe is so invisible. And so easy to do! Just knit the first row of the stripe, then slip the first stitch of the stripe purlwise at the start of the second row and keep on knitting the usual way until the start of the next stripe. I carried the unused yarn up the knitting until it was its turn again. The tricky part was twisting it around the working yarn in a way that didn’t show through to the right side.

And while we’re looking for things you can barely see, check out the jogless stripes

Then the sweater went into the mail to my daughter. I was so proud of it that I sent pictures of it to the text thread I have with my four sisters, and Mandy and Nancy and I had the following discussion about it:

Mandy: Can you say a few words about the left sleeve of the sea monsters sweater? There’s a story there I’m not sure I’m getting.

Me: I generally followed the designer’s chart, although I adapted and embellished it as the whim struck me. One of those embellishments, on the figure on the sleeve, kind of took an unintended anatomical turn, which I attempted to cover with duplicate stitch. It mostly covered it but it was still possible to make out the [member] underneath the duplicate stitch, so I embroidered a coy little flower over the crotch and called it a day.

[Laugh reaction from Nancy]

Mandy: Is the dude a merman? Is he shouting? He seems to be angry at the sea monsters.

Me: Does he look angry? Maybe there’s more going on among these guys than I was aware of.

Nancy: I love it when “outted” knitted creatures go off on a bender.

Mandy: The lines coming out of his head suggest shouting to me. Maybe I’m reading into it things that aren’t there. His physique is quite striking.

Me: I thought he looked like a shaman.

Nancy: Yes, he does look angry. Maybe he wanted a larger crocheted flower. “See here, my good woman…”

Me: It might be the angle of the photo. I thought he looked benevolent.

Nancy: Aha! Yes, I could see that too.

[I send a detail photo of that sleeve, but it takes a while to arrive]

Mandy: I think you’re onto something, Nancy!

Mandy: Oh, yes, from closer up he looks like he’s smiling and those lines look like rays emanating from him.

Me: That’s how I saw him.

Nancy: I’m glad we cleared that up!

Me: Multiple interpretations are possible and valid.

Mandy: Although I am left wondering what a shaman is doing underwater.

Me: I thought they were space monsters. They’re having a birthday party.

Nancy: I snorted tea out of my nose on that one!

Me: They’re having a whee of a time.

Nancy: [emoji, laughing to the point of tears]

Mandy: Ooohhh! That makes much more sense. I assumed I was looking at a cephalopod of some kind, a classic sea dragon, and… maybe some very enlarged plankton. But they look much more like space monsters. The shaman still seems kind of out of place.

Me: That’s why he’s exiled to the sleeve.

Mandy: It’s very helpful to be able to ask the artist.

Me: I didn’t design the charts, just adapted them.

Nancy: Unless…unless the shaman has summoned the monsters. So glad to be part of such an interesting symposium on the intertextual meanings of a sweater’s imagery. Very liminal.

Me: I’m glad you’re here to provide the academic analysis.

Nancy: I don’t get out much. The pleasure is all mine.

Conversation ends there.

I have pictures of the wrong side. I am very proud of the wrong side.

The sweater arrived more or less on time, and finally I have modeled photos.


7 thoughts on “The Monsters’ Birthday Party

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