Kay is heading to Rhinebeck. She’ll be at the picnic tables at 2 pm on Saturday—would love to see you!

Eight Yarns, One Sweater: Abandon Ship?

Dear Kay,

Back in November, I was knee deep in the Eight Yarns, One Sweater project, taking on water and bailing hard. I’d like to say that I’ve never had a knitting project sink me. But like many poorly conceived journeys, this one was a Poseidon Adventure.

Come, take a deep breath with me, and we’ll dive deep into what happened with Eight Yarns, One Sweater.


No, these are not all the same weight. Yes, that’s fingering weight at Number 4 and mulespun (aka not spun much at all) at Number 8. Did I consider properly whether these two yarns should inhabit the same sweater? No, I was mostly focused on the gaiety of it all, the delightful spontaneity that happens when your stash is bloated enough to cough up eight kinds of beige yarn.

You can read the chronicle so far at Eight Yarns, One Sweater?Westward Ho!, Facing Goblins, and Ecru Swamp.

What follows are murky photos taken as my will was fading, the light was worse, and the whole project felt doomed, doomed I tell you.

This is the back piece, with the mulespun flurf yarn barely holding together enough to form the cables:


Here you see the finished front on top of the finished back. A sleeve, made of a two other yarns, is supposed to connect to these two totally different fabrics.


Here’s the side seam, with four different yarns unable to get a plan going. You can practically hear Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine egging them on.


I actually enjoy sewing up sweaters, when they are made out of one yarn. This was an exercise in letting go, Jesus take the wheel, vaya con dios, YOLO, offering it up, whatever. It went against every hard-earned seaming lesson I’d ever learned. I just kind of stitched until I ran out of stitches.


One of those rules I cling to is that it’ll all come out in the blocking. When I got a look at this sleeve situation, it was just too much. I lost my faith that it would all come out in the blocking. No blocking could achieve unity out of this mess:


I fudged and mooshed and stretched until two sleeves were connected to the body. It looked pretty bad.


Until I blocked it. I soaked this mother until it weighed about twelve pounds. I was going to will this sweater together.


It took about four months to dry. It’s why I stopped blogging last winter: I was waiting for this thing to dry. It was a race against time—this sweater would either dry or be devoured by black mold.


As happens, the mighty redemptive power of blocking smoothed out so much of the weirdness. Even the sleeve of doom looked plausible and by plausible I mean connected to the body in a permanent way. My dark shirt underneath highlights the difference in yarns; with a white shirt, it’s less noticeable.


I’m here to report that there indeed has to be a morning after, and that morning involves a really, really warm sweater.



Only when I look at this picture do I see that the left sleeve is longer than the right. Or maybe my left arm is longer than my right—who knew?

One nice thing about this sweater, other than the fact that I am basically wearing an entire sheep with sleeves, is that each of the eight yarns is loaded up with tender memories of yarn shopping fever: trips to Williamsburg and Martha’s Vineyard and Hot Springs, Arkansas; the intensely positive mojo of Clara Parkes’s Great White Bale project.

And it confirms the belief that if you really, really want something to work out, it will—as long as you’re willing to suck it up and swim like Shelley Winters.



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