Thursday, July 30, 2009

Entrelac -- Entre*LICIOUS*

The Spring Bouquet sweater is complete!! This took some doing, let me tell you...

First of all, I washed the pieces before sewing, which was a great idea, in that it smoothed out all the edges and made the seams incredibly easy to do.

But the instant the entrelac fabric got wet, it flattened out like a PANCAKE. All the wrinkles and textured contours simply vanished!!

And the flattened fabric was noticeably bigger... The chest circumference of the finished garment measured 44", with a length from the shoulder of 30". Some spots, especially at the joins between entrelac segments, were undeniably see-through as well. It's a thick-and-thin yarn, after all. (Click on the image to get a closer look.)

Not good. I simply *HAD* to shrink it. Time for a hot-water bath.

I cannot let this moment go by without saying that I am struck by the way things come in threes. Before this summer, I had never intentionally shrunk or felted a sweater before, and now I have done it three times in the last several weeks. At least the success with the two Fjörgyn coats gave me confidence with the entrelac. I might have freaked out otherwise, but as it was I stayed remarkably calm throughout this whole process.

The sweater went through one washer cycle on hot with a short soak in the middle. I had placed it in a mesh laundry bag to protect it, but some parts still felted quite a bit, especially where the folded sleeves rubbed against the yoke. There's not much surprise in this, though, given the incredible softness of the wool. It was bound to felt somewhat when washed, even with gentle treatment.

It shrank exactly as I had hoped, to a chest circumference of 42" and a length of 26" from the shoulder. The sleeves were always on the narrow side, but I have short arms, and they fit perfectly.

The only real problem was the neck, because the ribbing of the collar did not shrink nearly as much as the surrounding fabric.

This resulted in a cowl that stood up about 2 1/2" away from my neck all the way around. (Click for a closer look.)

I *really* wanted a proper turtleneck, so there was nothing for it but to redo the collar.

Fortunately, I was able to rip out more than half of it and reuse the yarn. But the bottom part had felted almost completely, so I finally had to cut it off with scissors. Talk about nerve-wracking!! Careful, careful...

Once the neckline was clear, I used a pointy Addi lace needle to pick up stitches again (only 100 of them this time, instead of 116) and then proceeded to knit a new collar with a US size 5, instead of a 7, to ensure that the result would fit snugly.

Finally, I washed the whole thing again — in COLD water this time, to avoid any further shrinkage — and pinned it out to dry.

Some parts of the sweater are still more solidly felted than others, but the fabric has a uniformly soft texture. Here are some pictures of the finished product, which I will wear proudly and often, once the weather cools down. As always, click on any one of the images to get a closer look.

The more I look at this sweater in its finished form, the more I *LOVE* what the washing did to smooth out all the color changes. It looks muted and dreamy, just like an Impressionist painting. :-)

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