Allez! yarn success. . .design fail

Warning! Lengthy post, probably only of interest to knitters!
One day in March, when I was still in residential rehab, I returned to my bed from a hard morning’s physio to find two packages. Both were promisingly squishy and clearly contained yarn. How exciting! I opened the first package. It came from one of my correspondents, Séverine, in France and its contents are above – a hand-dyed sampler from Renaissance Dyeing’s Troubador Range. How lovely! I pawed and cooed over the yarn for quite some time. So springy! So sheepy! The colours so rich and so unmistabkably naturally dyed! How I loved this yarn! Then I opened the second package. This one came from my friend Anne, and contained skeins of hand-dyed yarn in different shades of woad from . . . the troubador range at Renaissance Dyeing. Two kind people had separately sent me the same marvelous yarn, on the same day! Spooky!

I had discussed British sheep breeds and the virtues of WOAD several times with Anne, so it made sense for her to be sending me a thoughtful woolly gift, and I imagine Séverine had a good sense of the kind of traditional, sheepy yarn I like from reading this blog. In any case, I was incredibly excited to receive two batches of the same amazing yarn on the same day! I loved it. The yarn comes from Poll Dorset sheep, who are raised on the Italian border, close to Renaissance Dyeing’s headquarters in the Pyrénées. It has a wonderful hand, a quite unique elasticity, and it knits up really, really evenly.

As soon as I’d swatched with it, I knew that the yarn wanted to be a jersey, of the old-fashioned sporting variety. It was so fabulously stretchy and would so obviously wear well. I did a little more swatching – the colours complemented each other perfectly – and my only other criterion for the design was that the garment I made would have to feature a selection from all of the yarn that Anne and Séverine sent me. There was less than 25g of each colour in Séverine’s sampler, and Anne’s package contained 100g each of a pale blue and a teal shade. Could I design a garment using these colours and that amount of yarn? I sketched a t-shirt style jersey, and swatched up a simple, sporty colourwork design. . .

Diamonds! How pleasing! With literally one round to remember, this surely had to be the simplest, most addictive colourwork pattern in the world! My swatches looked so satisfying. I could make a whole garment out of Anne and Séverine’s yarn – it would have a pale blue body, a yoke featuring the diamond pattern and contrasting teal-coloured set-in sleeves. So I began knitting, and managed, as I’d hoped, to squeeze a whole body out of the one 100g pale blue skein, at which point the garment started to really remind me of a cycling jersey and everything fell into place . . . the yarn came from the Pyrénées, I was knitting it while enjoying the the Tour de France. . . the tour was celebrating a centenary in the Pyrénées this year . . . it all seemed to fit. The name of the jersey, would, I decided, be ALLEZ! I worked the yoke (fun!), cut the armhole steeks and knit a pair of short-row set in sleeves – it was all looking very tasty. But then things started to go awry. . .

. . .please to examine, for the last time, my nice, neat shoulder with my nice, neat picked-up sleeve stitches and my nice, neat neck edging just waiting to be knitted neatly. Ah me. It was not to be.

First, Bruce, who had been showing an unhealthy interest in my handiwork, contrived, when I popped into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, to pull the sweater off the sofa where I had been knitting it, pull the circular out of the neck edging, unravel the stitches in several places, and give the whole thing a good ol’ chew for good measure. Naughty puppy!

I managed to get the damn thing from him and to fix things as best I could, but the neck edging at the front of the sweater now looks, to be frank, as if it has been chewed by a dog.


(This picture was taken when I later caught him sticking his head up the chimney, but you get the general idea)

So although my beauteous, even neck edging was no longer beauteous – or even – everything else was still OK . . .wasn’t it? I blocked the sweater. It looked fine. Then I tried it on for the first time, and I showed Tom. “Very nice,” he said, “but what’s going on there with the sleeves?”

With me inside the jersey, the picked up stitches around the steeks had decided not to hold, and both sleeve seams had completely given way! HORRORS!

Dear Knitters, if you are ever in doubt about the stickiness of your yarn, or about whether or not a steek will hold. . . take heed: use a good reinforcement method like a crocheted steek for crissakes, or you will end up in my sorry situation. Working with Shetland yarn has clearly made me totally blasé where steeks are concerned. . . I just cut up my knitting without bothering to reinforce things, and by the time I have blocked and tried on the garment, everything has already, happily stuck together. But Poll Dorset yarn clearly does not behave like a Shetland. . . Poll Dorset yarn is stretchy and a wee bit slippery and its trimmed steeks have a tendency to. . . UNRAVEL!

I just can’t bring myself to show you a close up of how utterly shite my sleeve seams look now. . .but you can click and enlarge the following image if you really want to see. . .

. . . matters were urgent – I was in danger of having no yoke or sleeves at all – so I patched things up as best I could. With their hideous, poky repair-stitches in place of the nice, neat short rows, those seams now make me very, very sad. The garment had gone from having a gorgeous, neat finish, to having the worst finish of anything I have knit ever. You can see the Bruce-damaged crappy neck edging, too, in this next shot. . . Not at all satisfactory!

In fact, the more I looked at it, the more unpleasing things I noticed about the garment. First, I should have started the diamond pattern in a darker colour to give a greater contrast with the pale blue of the body. Second, because of the tailored effect of the set-in sleeves, I should have begun the colourwork an inch or two below the underarms rather than, as with other yoked constructions , right at the underarms themselves. Mandy has the right idea here, in the diamond-patterned vest she has also recently finished.

Here is a pic from the other day to illustrate the jersey’s third and most significant problem. The colours of the yoke are a lot darker than that of the body, and the fact that the pattern starts quite high up gives it a curious visual effect when worn: the top of my torso seems to lengthen and recede, with the consequence that my meagre bosom appears more prominent than usual, and in completely the wrong position. See what I mean? If the jersey gives me, who have no boobs, a whole new set where they shouldn’t be, just imagine what it would do to someone with a normally proportioned pair. The mind boggles.

Waist boobz! AIGHIGH!

(The less said about this unfortunately suggestive shot the better . . . )

The most one can say about this top, then is that it looks OK in a slightly blurry shot from behind and the best words for it are, sadly, DESIGN FAIL. Hey ho.

I do wonder whether, in a sense, I was trying too hard – I loved what Anne and Séverine had sent me so much, that most of all, I wanted the garment to be a showcase for their gift. Perhaps if I had started at a different place, I would have had different ideas. . . Anyway, as you might imagine, I am not going to make a pattern for Allez!, though I do love the yarn and diamond pattern inordinately, and think they might perhaps work very well together on a hat. And I have learnt three important lessons from simply making this sweater: 1) keep your knitting away from Bruce 2) always reinforce your steeks 3) never design anything featuring waist boobz.

Thankyou, Anne and Séverine, for the wonderful yarn! I will try to design a hat that will do it justice!

101 thoughts on “Allez! yarn success. . .design fail

  1. Oh, Kate. Be glad that your “waist boobs” were just a design flaw and not the nasty act of Mother Nature for us old gals who nursed too many children. Some of us just wear 38Longs these days…and have to hoist them up to sit where they hopefully don’t look like a design flaw!

  2. Well I love the sweater despite what you say (!). The mistakes are hard to see from the perspective of anyone else who hasn’t been staring at it intently for weeks. I think it’s a beautiful design.

  3. Aww, its a sad story. But I must admit that both Bruce’s “caught” face and “waist boobz” made me laugh. Better luck next time!

    Also – while this particular iteration of Allez didn’t work out so well, I really like the concept and a lot of the design features. Do you think you might rework the design into something a little more cohesive in future? Or are you completely sick of it?

  4. This post makes me feel inordinately better about some of my knitting disasters. Can’t say I don’t agree with you about the “waist boobz” but that diamond pattern is gorgeous and the wool looks amazing enough for me to consider snapping some up. Good luck with the hat!

  5. Oh god. I feel guilty giggling at your misfortunes, but this post has made me laugh like a drain. Allez! is lovely from a distance…perhaps it can be your go-to outfit for those occasions you find yourself greeting friends via semaphore?

  6. Waist boobz! Guilty dog face! Suggestive buildings! You’ve made me cry with laughter. So glad you’re philosophical about the endeavour – thanks for sharing your less successful work as well as your successful. Good luck with the next one…

  7. Ugh, I hate it when you spend so long making something and it doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. I think you’re being too hard on the finished product though! I still think it looks pretty great.

  8. I see what you mean about the waist boobs, and I ADORE your sense of humor about it, but I think the design could be saved if you’re not totally disgusted with it. The ‘before’ picture of the collar and sleeves gives me a little shiver, it would be sad to lose the perfection of that combination.

    (Also, how do dogs manage to look so freaking adorable when you and they both know they’ve done something wrong? Amazing.)

  9. I was going in favour of the top up until you pointed out the waist boobs. Indeed! :D But learning from our mistakes is the best sort of learning, isn’t it?

  10. Lovely, lovely post! Thank you for letting us have such a good laugh at your expense. I especially like the pictures of Bruce and the ‘suggestive’ shot. But I learned SO much from it. I was thinking in knitting terms, but also actually in terms of making light of our ‘failures’. The yarn looks yummy and I’m looking forward to seeing the hat some time.

  11. Very funny – and much appreciated. I think your critique was spot on. Nonetheless, I think the diamond pattern and the look of the knit is lovely. I, too, learned a lot from your post. I think I’ll order (me) some of the wool right now. I have recently gone on a yarn diet (owing to my overstuffed larder) but since it’s from France, it’s exempt from my US embargo.

  12. Even with the pupster and steeking incidents, it’s still a gorgeous garment. P.S. Having read of Yorkshire Tea here, I asked a friend to bring some back to me. Woo! Waiting for the weather to cool down a bit…

  13. Oh dear! I still think the jumper looks pretty fine. However, I appreciate how the problems must be very frustrating for a knitting maestro like yourself!

    I must say: This post is not just of interest to knitters. Anyone with a dog is bound to be entertained — in a way. Only yesterday I was making some stupidly fiddly beads, working on a surface that Dexy (dog) cannot reach (much to his annoyance). The phone went, I was out of the room for 10 seconds, but returned to find Dexy galloping around triumphantly, with an integral piece of the latest bead in his mouth! How? I have no idea. And the only way to get it back was to lure him with liver. Treats for being a bad wee beast — Not right! Grrrrrr!

  14. You have made me laugh and laugh this morning, which I really needed to do. I like your perspective on all these setbacks, photographs, deconstructive puppies etc.
    Thanks Kate.

  15. We all have unfortunate design fail stories, or knitting fail stories if we’re not designers.

    But you’ve taken the big step of exposing yours to the world. Thank you for your braveness, hopefully others can learn from your mistakes!

  16. Love love love, both Bruce and your horrifying brush with waist boobz and bad steeks. Talk about a learning experience….

  17. I will point out the obvious that you are a knitter, a good one at that, so anything less than perfect is not what you wanted. And waist boobs are always less than desireable. We can’t all be a great success all of the time, right? I’m currently knitting the top of a sweater… for the third time. It happens. The sleeve seams and waist boobs would be invisible under a blazer, and most people really won’t notice the neckline, so it’s not a total wash!

  18. you know, i had a similar problem with my halloween costume, when i appliqued the S logo on my superman shirt on just a little too low and it makes my small but in a normal high position boobs looks like they are halfway down my belly. who wants a shirt that gives one droopy waist boobs! it’s SO annoying! i would wear that shirt all the time if i had placed the logo correctly!

  19. When our puppy Rudy first entered our house, the first thing he did was run over to a ball of yarn on the floor beside my knitting chair and chomp it. Point made: we set up a puppy gate to keep him out of the front living room/knitting room, as luckily the floor plan left the rest of the house accessible to him. Seven years later, that gate is still there, as he is too short to leap it but not too old to chew what he shouldn’t. Your Bruce, however, will soon be able to jump a gate, so you’ll need to find a different solution.

  20. ..I love the design but would choose different colours. So please could you try it indifferent colours/yarn ?..or I’ll have to try my own version. Supposed to be tidying my yarn stash but I keep getting distracted and moving yarns into “I’llmake somethingfromthose” heaps instead of them getting into storage boxes I bought…
    Yarn addiction is a positive thing I tell people!

  21. What a lovely post. I think that a little bit of FAIL in the creative process is very important, even though it feels RUBBISH at the time.

    I love me some FAIL, like the brioche vest debacle of last Summer – – or the unfortunate giant SQUARE silk (?wtf was I thinking?) hat of January 2008 – – or indeed the ridiculous giant foolery of a selbu modern that I completed last year in your presence, and in which several small squirrels may happily have boated down a river.

    Although it is very disappointing at the time, the funny stories (and the epic LEARNING) which result from these experiences do compliment and nourish the *success* stories of making, and they are as much a part of the process as the joy of fine finishing, i-cord edging, and perfectly tensioned strands. Like you, I take great comfort from finding the funny side – which shines through in this post, with its waist boobz and snap of Bruce’s guilty wee chimney-climbing face.

    It is very useful to learn of the slippery quality of poleworth, however my clunky, bomb-proof construction methodologies (for shelves, bread and knitwear alike) mean that I could never daringly steek with the wild, off-piste unscaffolded approach that you describe.

    Thanks for sharing the story of Allez with us. x

  22. I think your best bet is to shoot Bruce – or give him to me – I’ll sort him out:)
    You made me laugh, Kate – a great post – sorry your sweater didn’t work the way you wanted it but it was lovely all the same.

  23. Kate, I think it looks lovely.. probably the diamond pattern could be brought down a little bit to avoid so called waist boobs.. but I would absolutely knit this if there was a pattern.. and Bryce is such a naughty puppy but adorable there is no doubt :))

  24. I’ve been working up to steeking (if I could remember which of my many knitting magazines had a very clear explanation of how to do it!!) ….. but maybe I’ll just wait a little bit longer. Sorry you had to learn the hard way that knitting and puppies don’t mix …. but it could have been worse – my spaniel got hold of my pin cushion – as I didn’t know if she had eaten any pins, she had to go to the vets – where they fed her cotton wool sandwiches! Fortunately the x-rays showd that she hadn’t swallowed any pins – but then the painful part was the bill!!

  25. Oh no…. all I can offer is some puppy-knitting advice, which might work. Or not, I think it depends on the puppy. We gave ours a sock to play with; it became his Very Own Sock, and gets replaced every now and again, but he really does seem to prefer it to my knitting. He’s been known to drop the sock on top of my knitting when he wants a game, but never touches the knitting.

  26. Oh, I can’t stop giggling about Bruce’s face and the boobs. Isn’t is wonderfully freeing to be able to laugh off our mistakes? I mean, if it’s going to be a fail, best that it’s a funny fail!

  27. OMG! What a story! I am familiar with the results of the doggy kind! However, the sweater does look really pretty!

  28. I think you are being quite hard on yourself, I think it looks great. It fits you, unlike anything I have ever made myself (from a pattern, I might add, not self-designed). Gorgeous dog, he’s fairly growing.

  29. What a brilliant post! Horror and hilarity in equal measure. I feel your pain. Though my disasters have all been of my own making – no puppy here to blame, just me. Your post did remind me that when the middle daughter was a toddler she’d delight in grabbing balls of yarn and wiping her snotty nose on them. Fortunately she’s eight now, and that phase seems to have passed. Thanks for sharing the none Bruce-related elements of the fail. It was really interesting to read about your issues with the design, and I can see what you mean about the migrating boobs (but only once this was pointed out), but I must echo many others above: to the untrained and less gimlet eyed knitter, Allez is lovely, and that hem and the beautiful BB (Before Bruce) shots are divine – the kind of knitting I would dearly love to be capable of.

  30. I loved your jumper, until you pointed out the boobs thing and now I can’t help noticing. I love the contrast of colours, and the diamonds being restricted to only part of the garment.
    Are you doing a book of your knitting patterns? I think you should. I like your designs much better than anything the current knitwear designers are churning out. I haven’t been able to buy the Rowan mag for a few years now. It seemed to lose its way.
    P x x x

  31. Oh Kate, you made me chuckle with your waist boobz. I have to say, I think the colours and pattern are absolutely amazing. Pity you can’t salvage some part of this garment as it would be a shame to consign it to the depths of your wardrobe, which I fear you’re about to do.

    And I feel your pain with the unraveling steek. I’ve only ever cut into two sweaters – both were crocheted steeks and both were using 100% wool. One fell apart (Rowan Yorkshire Tweed) and one worked out just fine (Rowan RYC Soft Lux – now sadly discontinued). And I hasten to add that I used the same yarn for the steeeks themselves (Rowan Pure Wool 4ply). So I’m beginning to wonder if the only way forward is to test swatch the steek beforehand – or else, live life on the edge!

  32. oh my – I do really feel for you with the steek issue but oh my God it was almost worth it for the laughs this post will give! Am crying at waist boobs here! :D

  33. I laughed out loud at the suggestive shot!

    Sorry, but hearing that you, who are a real knitter, sometimes, probably rarely, makes mistakes, gives those of us who are mere dabblers great heart! Thank you as ever for sharing.

    Just how are you going to train beloved Bruce that dogs and wool just do not mix?

    I paint, and I have a cat. I now also have floors that have interesting paw prints where I haven’t caught him in time.

  34. I’ve been thinking the diamonds would be perfect for a hat, too. Maybe we should not discuss it and then both come up with exactly the same design in a month or two.

  35. I hooted with laughter. A reaction sprung from deepest empathy. All of your negative observations about ‘Allez’ are spot on. It is uncanny how we set ourselves up when we want to make something really wonderful with a special skein or two. Grand aspirations slowly spiral down into deep seated conviction that a disaster is immiment and unavoidable. And it generally is. Bruce was just trying to help distract you from your own contributions to the unsatisfactory outcome.

    Operating on the assumption that you will probably not wear it, I suggest removing the sleeves and refashioning it into a throw pillow, or a cushion for Jesus. The Renaissance colours really are lovely.

  36. Hmmm…..I find your design to be quite pleasing. A bit reminiscent of a little girl’s yoke on a modern woman’s sweater. Perhaps not what you were shooting for, but I find it sweet and attractive. And, sorry, but you have not seen waist-boobs. Working in Elder Care is an eye opener.
    I have never trusted steeks, no matter the yarn, and have ALWAYS reinforced my a sewing machine. I know, horrors! Seems criminal, wrong. However, there in lies security.
    I’m so happy that you are on the mend. I have really come to love the full roundness of your blog with your disclosures of the inner, evil thoughts while recovering. They have been helpful to me in balancing my own recovery, and imagine that others may find the same.

  37. Waist boobs be dammed! It’s a lovely piece of knitting. And gorgeous yarn. How wonderful to be able to design your own patterns. Great shots of Edinburgh!

  38. Lovin’ Bruce! What a sweetheart. I don’t quite see the damage he did. It’s a cute sweater. I like the diamonds and the colors.

  39. Oh, Bruce…sweaters are not for chewing!! (I have had similar problems with my cats, who are very into all things wooly. They will even unzip my bags to get at my woolen goodies. We have very careful methods of keeping woolens hidden away in unopenable-by-cat drawers in our household.)

    I still completely love the IDEA of the sweater, despite the flaws. But the destruction of the perfect finishing touches, whether by dog or failed steeks…oy, that’s rough! I wish you better luck with your next design in this yarn!

  40. I am with others who still love this jersey despite design imperfections and steeking issues, especially the COLOR combo and the diamond motif! I actually quite like the effect of transitioning more gradually from the pale blue into the darker colors – it’s almost like a beveled effect, with the cream functioning as the “angled” part of the bevel. Also love, love, love the narrow stripes at bottom and sleeve edges. But feel your pain on the dog- and unraveling-related horrors!

  41. thanks for sharing the adventures of allez with us – I completely empathise with you and adore the picture of Bruce (the naughty boy). It all seemed to be going so well, the colours, the packages and I think I may love it even more because of this yarny story

  42. Oh, I am laughing out loud! I’m so sorry! Having knit many things that did not turn out quite as I hoped my advice is:
    i) put it away for a year. You might be surprised how much you like it in a year’s time; or
    ii) send away to a charity shop. Someone out there will love it.

  43. Waist boobz I will not soon forget. It made me laugh so hard. I actually like the design overall. I really do. Perhaps just more subtle colors in the top portion would make it ‘balanced’ such as tonal blues and creams only?

  44. I love the yarn and the colors; the combination of blues is lovely, and the red really perks the diamond design up. I think you’re being way too hard on yourself. How about redesigning as a child’s sweater? Voila, waist boobz problem solved!

  45. Our puppy is doing exactly the same sorts of things: eating crayons! Putting big dirty sticks in the bathtub! Attempting to disembowel treasured precious dolls!

    But the cuteness and sweetness and lovability make it all worth it.

  46. Argh… indeed ! I wish I could show you how many things my Emma (GermanShepherd) pup totally mutilated. The list is very long, and pricey too. I’m positive this post you made completely honored your friends’ generous gifts…not to worry. I have yet to learn to steek, so I will heed your advice about the finishing the edges.

  47. Ah well, but you know how tempting, no utterly compelling it is to chew on yarn, and stick your head up a chimney, it just can’t be avoided. Thanks for sharing this- as in your other designs there are still a lot of lovely elements, and your analysis is an excellent read! I think (as in science) it’s nice to see the negative results as well as the positive. I haven’t done any steeks yet, but I see them looming in my future inevitably (kind of like the urge to put one’s head up a chimney). I’ll keep this post in mind…
    The yarn does look beautiful and I like how you worked with the limited amounts of each color, incorporating that into the design…

  48. Thank you for this gorgeous post, I think the sweater looks lovely and I probably wouldn’t have noticed any flaws if not pointed out! I am amazed what you can do with 300g of wool.
    This is such a wonderful, open and amusing showcase for the Poll Dorset. If you want a fresh unchewed supply for designing your hat, just let me know.


  49. I’ve just read this, and I can well understand how you feel, although many people will certainly tell you it still looks lovely and the colours are gorgeous, and the design is great – and I agree :) You obviously work to a very high standard and expect your knitwear to come out perfect, both technique-wise and aesthetic-wise.
    Honestly, I wouldn’t have noticed the boobs problem – still not sure if I’m seeing what you see, and usually I am picky about such things.
    I think the colour combination is cute, and apparently it was driven by the amounts you had available. If you had been able to choose freely, you would maybe have set it up differently.
    About the steeks – that’s evil. I still haven’t tried steeking myself, and I think I’ll be a bit paranoid about it even with Shetland yarn ;)
    Love your city photography… I miss Edinburgh and envy everyone who lives there!

  50. I love this jumper! Who would notice the seams when the diamond pattern and colours are so beautiful? I’m sure all the seams on everything I knit are wonky! Despite your reservations about the top, I wouldn’t hesitite to knit and wear this. Once again, I am in awe of your talents!

    My dog also steals my knitting. I’ve lost count of the things he’s found and unravelled. Good job they’re cute, eh?

  51. I don’t think it’s a design fail. You’ve already pointed out the things that could be improved. The design is very cute and with some changes it would be perfect. Don’t give up on it!

  52. Isn’t it refreshing to read about failures as well as successes – especially when told in such a lighthearted way. I get a bit bored with reading some blogs which constantly produce perfect crafts with apparent ease. I am not a great crafter but I am sure I am not the only one with a pile of mistakes and accidents hidden in the back of the wardrobe. We learn by our mistakes and by sharing them others learn too. Jings, that sounds like my mother talking but you get the gist.

    As regards Bruce – I still think you should give him to me………………:)

  53. From the photos here I don’t think there’s too much of a problem with the waist boobz – I mean it’s not like you’re meant to have them hoicked up under your chin a la Jennifer Ehle in Pride & Prejudice ;-) I’m definitely inspired to knit something similar – it’s just a shame/lucky I didn’t read this before I went to Knit Nation on Saturday – the Renaissance yarns booth was tempting enough as it was.

  54. The colours are fabulous, and perfectly set-off by the slightly murky afternoon skies! It’s great to see such lovely pictures and, even better, to see you strolling around the hill in order to pose for them (by the way, I’m also intrigued as to how you seem to have managed to avoid the glut of delightful tourists from whom we’re currently under attack. Was this merely editing? My own evening stroll, only two days before, was conducted to the background of an unidentifiable Spanish song sung – and I use the term loosely! – by a group of about thirty bin-bag-clad persons perched on the side of the War Memorial…)

  55. oh dear, it’s lucky I wasn’t drinking a cup of tea when I read this. I am at work though, so I’m chuckling quietly and trying not to garner even more funny looks than usual. Waist boobs. Hee. I have a sweater that does this as well, I just wear it around the house. Fortunately I am not much more blessed in the boob department than your good self, so it’s not TOO bad, but even so. At least I have a term for it now. Waist boobs. Sorry, going to have to go or I’m going to burst out laughing…

  56. Oh Kate! It still looks pretty darn good for all the misfortunes that befell it. I have never done a steek and the idea of cutting my knitting terrifies me. I can’t even take the needles out of my work to unravel a few rows without losing all of my stitches! Even with a puppy looking for trouble you still manage to work knitting magic!

  57. Hm, is it really just a coincidence that you chose the jersey for your outing to Calton Hill of all places – after all, it is a site packed with monuments that were designed to be fabulous and grand but turned out odd and weird. There seems to be some sort of ironic correlation…
    On the bright side: Even if you consider “allez!” a design failure you sure enough turned it into a storytelling success!

  58. Signing on to agree that your design “fail” would be a huge success to someone else, but I know the feeling…I recently knitted a Zimmerman bottom-up Aran-type saddle-shouldered cardigan for my sweetie (which of course involved lots of hours swatching cables and doing math); successfully steeked (after stabilizing with crochet – I’m still too anxious to just cut); picked up and knit a double-knit button band which took *forever*, and, when she put it on: FAIL. I had tried but failed to avoid the wide neckline which I could see from other ravelers’ attempts; it looked alright on me–though not my style–but too feminine on her (who is not feminine). She is sure if I just sew and cut another buttonhole at the top it will be fine, but I just haven’t had the emotional strength to deal with it yet, I’m utterly scarred. I’m now very nervous about knitting anything bottom-up; though with steeked garments it’s not like you can tell how it’s fitting either way, until you cut.

    Also re: waist boobz, I haz – I’m not that old and don’t have kids, they’ve just always been a little on the low side ;^) Which is the main reason I *know* I will look like a sack of potatoes in a Manu, though I am ***dying*** to knit one! I think if I were to adapt Allez for my body I would make the lower body darker (I know you were working with the amounts of that gorgeous yarn that you had on hand), and the top/shoulders lighter (I also have narrow-ish shoulders) – starting the diamonds lower is a good idea too. But I really wouldn’t have thought it a noticeable on you, had you not mentioned it…of course I have been watching some films from the 1930s, in which everyones’ breasts are a little lower because they’re not yet wearing bras. So perhaps you could just think of yourself inhabiting that era when you wear it (only in terms of the fashion, of course–not the fascism and other bad stuff).

  59. Waist boobz! I will be giggling about that all day. I am still in love with the colours in that sweater and I look forward to seeing them in their next incarnation.

  60. I guess design set-backs happen even to the best knitters. There is so much that could have worked really well: the colours, the texture, the diamonds, the shaping. What a knitting adventure though! Your narrative makes for as much drama and thrill as this year’s Tour!

  61. Well, have to say I agree with you about the waist boobz but I think you could rework it. The Allez cycling jersey concept is great. Perhaps do the colourwork around the waist so that you have higher boobs and any tummy you have (obviously, that is a generic you) recedes? It would work for me (I would very much like my tummy to recede). I love the colours together, and you did get some fabulous shots of Calton Hill out of it!

  62. Hey, knitting with Bruce could take off. There are two Retrievers here who could do with a few lessons in knitting etiquette! Love the humour, and the sweater’s still lovely.

  63. Kate, thanks for this funny post! The fact that you are able to laugh about the steeks and the pup are a true testament to the buoyancy of your spirit. Well done, all around! (And thank goodness for Bruce, yarn chewing, chimney soot, and all.)

  64. The sweater is beautiful, and waistboobz (and corresponding photo) are hilarious!

    You know how in the Tour de France, each team of cyclists, heck even the whole peloton, works together at times to pull their teammates up a hill or along a windswept road, rotating who’s at the front doing the hard work?

    I wonder if you might be convinced to extend the Tour theme a bit further….for you to be pulled along by the enthusiastic encouragement your peloton of commenters to (maybe after a bit of a rest) try another Allez! I think many of us would love to knit it. I know I would. (I would pay double if the pattern instructions were in the voices of Phil & Paul, too.)


    PS. Bruce is AWESOME. Is his name short for Robert The…

  65. Ha ha, you’re a hoot! In all fairness, while this isn’t the most beautiful thing you’ve ever designed, it’s not bad either. I think you’re being a little hard on yourself. You make such incredibly lovely things that when something comes out semi-incredible you are disappointed. Your sweater is still amazing!

  66. What a cute story! I still think it’s a sweet little top. Bruce’s interaction with this endeavour reminds me of the time that my childhood dog ate half of the sock I was knitting whilst I was using the loo. My mother, practically rolling on the floor with laughter when she caught the puppy at it, suggested that I, ahem, look for the missing piece in the back yard the next day. Suffice it to say that I chose instead to knit a new sock.

  67. As someone who has had 4 children, ‘waistboobs’ are an all too familiar phenomenon! At least you can blame the jumper – I’ve got no such excuse.

    However, I agree with many of the other commenters – you are being too hard on yourself. The pragmatic response, much used in my house for craft and cookery, is that “It was an experiment!”

    p.s. one of my friends who has dogs points out that it can be fatal to your knitting to make a dog toy out of yarn – they then assume that all yarn objects are fair game.

    Courage, ma brave!

  68. Oh Kate, what a wonderful way to use that wool ! I don’t quite agree with you on the failure. I see your points, but I do believe something can yet be done. What about an afterthought steek reinforcement, picking up stitches along the steeks and using those as a base for an i-cord trimming ? You could also alter the beginning of the pattern, either by duplicate-stitching another line of diamonds, or by snipping a thread, unraveling a round, knitting what you wish and then grafting. I’ve done grafting in colourwork before, to avoid a worst disaster, and it is quite feasible, and doesn’t show at all now. I’ll happily contribute more wool if you need it ;-).
    Allez Kate ! I love how gracefully (thoug a bit unfairly) you stated your disappointment, and I think it has a lot to do with what you described in the previous post ; falling short of great expectations is not necessarily a failure. Keep up the good work ! And many thanks for those lovely posts of yours.

  69. Sweet jesus you have a way with words, lady! Am trying to work, but images of waist boobz and that silly building (seriously — who did that?) are keeping me from concentrating on the very serious tasks at hand. You’ve made delicious lemonade out of lemons in this post. Whenever I goof in my knitting, I utter a few F-words and go to bed. Cheers.

  70. oh kate. i laughed out loud at this one. i’m sorry it turned out to be such a FAIL, so frustrating! but i’m glad your sense of humor is intact.


  71. You made me laugh so hard! Thank you :) However, before I read your comments pointing out everything that was wrong with your design I though your sweater loooked beautiful and was lovely on you. After reading your post, my opinion hasn’t changed. I think this is more a lesson about how sometimes things don’t go as we have planned, but still yield happy surprises. If I had your figure, I would wear this sweater to shreds.

    As for Bruce, there is hope. My puppy was very interested in my knitting but quickly learned that it was not to be fooled with. He is a year old now and I can trust him enough to leave my knitting on the sofa when I need to leave the room and he will take my place and use it as a pillow, which is acceptable :)

    Keep up your beautiful work!

  72. Ok, first off: Welcome Bruce! You are a very naughty boy indeed! It’s very easy for me to scold the Bruces of this world because I am a big sister to one:) Next–I love what the Diamond Lil garment is doing to your boobs, in fact I immediately noticed them and thought ‘dayyummm’. Ohai, I’m back.

  73. HEY —-even the best of them out there [ you] have failures–but as someone expressed before me , you see all the non perfect parts and we see a neat little jersey on the hill——-I still like it despite all———–pat j

  74. Your sweater is so lovely, I cannot believe your criticism of it, although I know very well we are our own worst critics.
    The last sweater I made I lovingly packaged up and sent in a bubble wrap envelope, only to have the recipient open it with SCISSORS and cut it not too neatly in half.

  75. I think the jersey is lovely. Maybe not perfect in your eyes, but what a creative use of the many colors! And, the problems this project presented can be applied to future projects, so it’s not a total loss.

    I’m deathly afraid of steeks. To me, some of the attractions of knitting are the rippability/reusability of the yarn and that I can undo a mistake when I find one. Even though I rarely reuse the yarn, or always fix a mistake that I find, the potential is still there :)

  76. This post is cracking me up for the following reasons:
    1. Dog making guilty face
    2. Hysterical boob-drama and the boob-building photo
    3. You describing “flaws” in something that you DESIGNED, right out of your brain, that if I worked my whole life I could never knit even half as perfectly. :)

  77. I love the colors and the way the diamonds and solids play off one another. I would say it was not a total failure but needs further tweaking.

  78. Hillarious! Now I like those diamonds. But the hoops at the sleeve and base are just awsome. Perhaps you could knit a stripy dog-house for Bruce…

  79. It is, of course, a different standard, isn’t it? I’m fair isling a sampler now – my first ever item in FI, and would experience the greatest of happiness for it to look like yours. But, as an experienced FI’er, it must be a disappointment. And, as much as I hate to agree, because I still think it could be a fantastic design for sale, there is definitely a waist boobz issue with the current color and placement. Bruce, is adorable, and I don’t even like dogs. You have to forgive his enthusiasm….

  80. I was looking at getting the tristan pack from rrenaissance dying and she mentioned your post so i came to look – so sorry for the probs you had – it was such a gorgeous design
    i do have a big boosom so i will make sure to do something different with my pack of yarn ;) though i owuld love fir my shoulders to look more narrow

  81. For me, what you have done with my colours is so thrilling , it is always warming to see how people have carried on from where I have left off, for me that is what it is all about. But I must make a little correction here. I am at the moment trying to organise that this years clips gets from the shepherdess to the spinning mill and I do so wish they were both on the Italian border but alas the wool is raised in the Limoges area of France and because this years wool is too much to get into our old Trafic van it is proving very difficult to organise transport at a price which is not too silly. Anyone wanting to give a lift to a ton of raw wool?

  82. The sweater is still a charming idea, and you’ve done me a great service as I had been considering trying a vintage Fair Isle sweater pattern that some people on Ravelry are making. However it is fairly straight with a dark yoke and light body and could easily produce the dreaded waist boobz effect, so there may be a better pattern out there to start with. You’ve also given me the courage to try out a design idea of my own. I’ve been too uncertain to try it, but maybe I’ll swatch or even knit it up and see what happens. Hurray for experimentation!

  83. Kate, I would love, love, love to see you rework this idea , and address all the ‘shoulds’ which you so exasperatingly confronted in retrospection of making it. I love this ‘jersey’ ! In fact, that you were inspired from vintage style cycling jerseys makes it all that much more distinguishing, and yet also capturing your passion of the outdoors. ( I myself have since been considering designing knit cycling jerseys, really , as I am a dormant cyclist of olden days) Again, I’d love to see this worked up again, and patterned out, perhaps in J&S, or whatever. And Bruce is quite well-behaved grown-up now, as to not pull out your stitches. Anyway, just sayin’. :) ~Jen

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)