January EZ Almanac Challenge: Terrible things often lead to creative solutions and a sweater for Chivo

Yep, that's my sewing machine.

No, your eyes don't deceive you. That is a pile of cut up knitting.

WARNING: This post is not for the fainthearted. There will be much discussion on taking scissors to your knitting. It may trigger unpleasant thoughts/memories. You have been warned.

So I've been knitting now for the better part of my life. I'm really good at it. In fact, it's probably the only thing I can consider myself legitimately an expert at unless we're counting things like drinking entire bottles of wine in one sitting and sleeping-in till noon (I am super good at those too.) Alas, even experts make mistakes sometimes and today I will show how even the best laid plans can go wrong and how I got out of a knitting-pickle, all without crying or dooming the object to the "UFO" pile for eternity.

As you may or may not know, I am a huge Elizabeth Zimmerman fan. Who isn't, right? The woman is a genius and she changed knitting forever with her charming and colloquial writing style that makes us all gush with adoration. So this year, I decided I would do my own private homage to her book, The Knitter's Almanac.  In this book, EZ provides a year's worth of knitting projects that are appropriate for every month and each chapter is devoted to a particular month. For instance, EZ suggests a lace shawl for July because it's great travel knitting and Christmas items are to be knit in August so that you might actually be prepared for the holidays when they arrive. One of my goals this year (I have so many... so many) is to knit a project each month that pays homage to this book. Now, I love my girl EZ but a lot of her patterns are a bit old fashioned because she did most of her writing in the 70's and 80's. So instead of knitting the patterns she suggests, I'll be knitting projects I'm personally interested in making that follow the theme of The Knitter's Almanac.

January is devoted to "The Aran Sweater." EZ suggests designing an Aran sweater to ward off cold weather and utilize some of the extra time you have after the holidays. For my January project, I chose to make an Aran dog sweater for my beloved Chivo. I sort of knit a high-breed pattern that combines Judith L. Swartz's Classic Cabled Aran Sweater  and Norah Gaughan's Beatnik. I had made Beatnik two years ago and had extra yarn leftover so I thought it would be just disgustingly cute if Chivo and I had matching sweaters and honestly my January has been pretty crazy, so I didn't have the time to conquer a full-tail-boogie adult Aran sweater.

For those unaware of what an "Aran sweater" is, here's Steve McQueen in an Aran sweater, being a babe.

For those unaware of what an "Aran sweater" is, here's Steve McQueen in an Aran sweater, being a babe.

Everything went pretty smooth, my math was dead-on and the whole thing knit up pretty quick, and then... I didn't read the seaming instructions. I actually do this a lot because I'm a cocky you-know-what when it comes to finishing work. If I had to pick one knitting trait I reeeeally excel at, it's finishing. So, high on my own drama, I dived headfirst into seaming a dog sweater, something I've never knit before and frankly know nothing about when it comes to construction. So when I tried it on Chivo, it looked like this:

Chivo beyond thrilled.

Chivo beyond thrilled.

Basically, Chivo looks pregnant. It didn't fit him in the chest despite the fact that I had measured him a million times. I just chalked it up to Chivo having atypical measurements and that he just wasn't Mr.Average when it comes to doggie pattern grading. Hey, things don't always fit me off the rack either (whoever said we project our insecurities on our dogs may have been onto something.) Disappointed but not defeated, I was determined to make it work: Tim Gunn style.

My friend who's a dog trainer happened to be over when I was fitting Chivo and he was kind enough to give me his two cents. He said that the dog sweaters you buy in the store have almost no "under-carriage" if you will, and that all I needed to do was to cut out basically the whole tummy section so it would not only be more flattering on Chivo but also be practical when it comes to the potty department. The part I needed to unravel started at the cast-on so simply frogging that section was out and I was not invested enough in the project to undo all the seams and reknit the entire under-panel (plus, I was on a strict deadline to finish by Feb 1st.) I laid the sweater on my coffee table, took a good hard look at it, and then I got an idea. Steek the shape I want, and cut it.

Before and after

Before and after

Not only did this allow me to not have to rip anything out but I also got a way sleeker shape than the original pattern which had no curved shaping and 90-degree corners at the part where the back meets the underpanel (which at the time I didn't actually realize was supposed to happen.) So basically, it worked out better than the original.

A steek in action.

A steek in action.

So after I've cut the whole thing apart, and was feeling quite smug I must say, I read the instructions for the neck. Then, it hit me. I had seamed the stupid thing wrong and that's what caused all this unshapely, maternity-doggiewear, drama. Had I just read the instructions more thoroughly, I could have simply ripped out the seam, redid it, and been done with the whole thing. I wouldn't have my cool curved edge but I would have saved myself some time. Oh well. Lesson learned, read the damn instructions all the way through instead of thinking you're smarter than the pattern because typically, you're not. Another fair life lesson applicable to many non-knitting related situations.

He's got the model pout DOWN. The yarn I used in this sweater is a nice little tweed from Classic Elite called Portland Tweed which is now sadly discontinued. I haven't gotten around to photographing Chivo and I together in our matching sweaters because I'm not trying to break the internet but hopefully this will suffice for now:

Also, this:

He just LOVES it, can't you tell?