On Reading the Instructions

BFL Handspun Yarn

My forehead is metaphorically bruised from banging my head against an invisible wall for many hours on end.  Have you seen Kerri Blumer’s Swivel Pullover yet? Stunning. Utterly scrumptious. It is the sexiest application of cables I have ever seen on a raglan sweater and I knew the moment I laid eyes on it that  I had to make my fingers understand how such beauty and joy could be brought into the world.

Even more exciting? I’m knitting it from my own handspun:

BFL Handspun Yarn
This is my undyed BFL, handspun as energized singles…which was another lesson in reading instructions more carefully, but that’s a story for another day.

Here’s the thing about me and sweaters: I’ve knit exactly three sweaters before–one pieced, on bottom-up, one a drunken monstrosity of my own ignorant design efforts. I grasp the basic theory of how a top-down raglan pullover works, but that is something entirely different from having made one. And working from a 10-point, single-spaced, dense text in bad lighting after a long day of installing fencing for the garden is not the best environment for really comprehending the sort of “do this…and at the same time this…and at these different intervals” instructions that sweater-making demands.

I make fun of people for not reading instructions. Mercilessly, if we’re being honest. Seriously, I think half of the people I invite to things have an innate inability to check the date or time on an invitation, given all of the “when should I show up?” conversations I have for nearly everything I ever host. Sweater instructions make me have sympathy for them. Sort of. Which is why I think my new policy for making sweaters is going to be this:

  1. Read the pattern all the way through for general understanding, highlighting size-specific instructions. (Bad lighting, wine, lack of sleep, minor distractions okay)
  2. Read all of the instructions for the first section and write down any necessary notes for keeping track of increases, etc. at different intervals. (Wine and lack of sleep okay. Avoid minor distractions and bad lighting.)
  3. Sleep on these notes. (If you are well-rested and have most of the day ahead of you, it’s okay to just take an hour to do something else before coming back to it. Probably.)
  4. Review notes against pattern to make sure what you think you’re doing will give you the stitch count the pattern calls for. (Threaten to stab anyone who interrupts you. Choose coffee over wine.)
  5. If there are discrepancies, return to step 2 and repeat from there until you have no discrepancies. Bug someone else who has made the sweater if you do this three times without coming up with the right answer.
  6. Cast on.

In this sweater, I jumped straight from step 2 to step 6. If you need me, I’ll be frogging and banging my head against the wall as I cry bitter tears of ineptitude into my vodka…