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December 07, 2005

reconstructing willow - review of past knitting

top left to bottom right: still new and much loved; photographed recently, all worn out; clumpy big wool tufts and the fuzzy halo, bulky yarn's best friends!
purly started reviewing her knits from the past and i like this idea very much. so today, i am going to share my feelings of willow, the sweater that i knitted at the beginning of this year.

in case you are wondering, knitting life is not always peaches and creams at whispering pine. i have my own stumbles. hate to rant on such a merry moment of the year, but i must do so now. why? the weather is getting colder, many of you are probably feeling the urge to knit a bulky, cozy cardigan so you can look even more stylish apres-ski or whatever you choose to do stylishly. as such, i feel at least you need to hear from me first before you do.

so willow, i loved it so much when i was planning on making it, i got the yarn (100% full retailed price, mistake #1) and i started working on it almost immediately. the process was also much loved, those cream color, unspun wool intertwined with variegated ribbons could not be any more lovelier to a fiber ho' like myself. knitting on US15 needles meant instant FO gratification. i finished this knit in less than three weekends. i wore it almost immediately out to the public. and then, my love for it faded as fast as this past short winter that grazed alabama.

the unspun wool bloomed up very quickly upon wearing, thus the newness of the wool really disappeared before you had a chance to appreciate it. little fuzzy halo appeared every where. i suspect the amount the wool blooms is proportional to your body temperature. so, the longer you wear it, the fluffier this cardigan gets. very unpleasant indeed.

also, the big wool tuft only looked good until i washed it. all those snow flake like tufty stuff balls up and it really lost most of its original attraction. i think part of it was my fault, i washed it with wool-lite and rinsed it excessively. blamed it to my ignorance.

honestly, the whole fuzziness of the wool did not bother me as much as the shortness of the sleeves and the tightness around my arms. i knew the cardi was very form fitting and i sort of expected the sweater to relax and stretch, but, as you can see, it did not happen in my case. it just fuzzed.

the collar. it is really beautiful when you look at it, but in reality, it is way big. way impractically big. it does not hug so it has very little contribution to the warmth of your neck, but it does helluva job of adding on extra weight to the top of the shoulder. wearing this cardigan requires a lot of fudging and shuffling in order for it to look right. bleh. not my cup of tea.

but what to do then? i spent way too much money on this yarn, i can not just carelessly throw it away and i still love the color and the yarn. i can even learn to like the fluffiness. so, the plan is that i'm going to rip it apart and reconstruct it (thank goodness i always buy an extra skein of yarn!). i'll make it roomier, collar a bit smaller, and i will keep those lovely, lovely buttons as they are the only thing i love about this cardigan right now.

think twice, my dear readers, before you put hundreds of dollars on a bulky knit sweater. they look lovely on rowan models and all, but in real life, it's a different story. i'm sure mine may be a bit on the extreme end, and i do intend to make more bulky weight sweaters in the future. but before i do it again, i will definitely study the yarn a lot more and will try not to knit impulsively.

please feel free to share your thoughts on ribbon twist yarn, willow, or any other bulky knits. we can all use a little exchange of hate, or ideas.


That's too bad about your Willow. It looks so lovely in the picture where you are wearing it. I am looking forward to seeing your reconstruction. Such a good idea to work with it rather than just let it hide in the back of the closet.

It is a brilliant idea Blossom! In this age of waste and throw-away society it is brave of you to stop, think and come up with a great idea. Go for it!

Your willow is beautiful, I'm sure you'll do a good job modifying it, it's a gorgeous sweater, it'll be worth it. Can't wait to see it.

The first sweater I knit was out of bulky yarn. I loved the instant gratification and the color and still like the sweater itself, but I hate the pilling and fuzzies. I have to shave it every single time I wear it. It's a pretty casual design and I usually only wear it on the weekends, but I wish it didn't pill so much.

I thought I'd like a bulky sweater too...but in my case I bought some yarn for fairly inexpensively and like you say, it was a gratifying knit...but alas, I never finished it...I don't like it! It's too thick and chunky and I'm not the right shape for it...after that I decided nothing higher than 5.0 mm yarn for me! You can read what I learnt from that experience here.

Love the bulky sweater. I'll bet it's warm. Very chic, too!

Thanks for a very informative read. I like to know what happens to knitted items after they have been knit. I think bulky non-plied yarn tends to fuzz. I have a project's worth of bulky yarn for a zip cardi, but it will weigh 1 kg so I'm hesitating.

What a great idea, to review your past knits. You know, I find that Rowan Big Wool (very similar to the ribbon twist) behaves much the same way. I mad a hat out of it three weeks ago that is already looking shopworn. And I've only ever worn it around my apartment.

Thanks for this post, and for your Willow which inspired me to make mine. So far I like mine (haven't washed it yet) and might make another. The collar really makes the design but I agree those big collars can be rather awkward to wear. Like you I made my Willow on US 15s--I think Ribbon Twist and Big Wool look neater and hold their shape better when knit a little tighter. I made a larger size to compensate for my tighter gauge. I also knit the body in one piece to the armholes, and the sleeves in the round, to avoid bulky seams. I used a selvage stitch (slipped the first stitch purlwise) on the garter stitch front bands to make a neater edge. I agree with you the arms should be slim but not tight. I look forward to hearing what you do with your Willow now.

Me again. I'm remembering another change I made to my Willow. I knit the sleeves in the round. But that cuff pattern (with Big Wool Tuft) I knit as directed (back and forth). I then joined the sleeves and knit in the round to the armhole. The result is rather like a French cuff (on a shirt), although I don't turn the cuffs back. It gives the cuff a slight flare, which I like.

hi nan,thank you for your comments, they are extremely useful for my reconstruction of willow. i will definitely keep your notes handy. thanks.

I wonder if the yarn would now knit up differently since it has had an opportunity to bloom? At least now you don't need to worry much about the texture or thickness changing with wear, since that's already happened.

great post, blossom! very interesting read - sorry i don't have any good advice for you. looking forward to seeing the new and improved willow!

Your detailed review is really useful. And I think it's great you can salvage your sweater!

Great lesson learned - I had a similar experience - though I didn't get to the wearing part. I tried my FO on, and went immediately to the ball winder and started ripping!

The same thing happened to a poncho I made in Eskimo from Garnstudiqo, which is a bulky wool. But i didn't realise it was due to the bulky wool, I just assumed it was a low quality brand. Guess I'll have to think twice about future bulky knits.

Purly inspired me to review some past knits too a few weeks ago - it is a great idea that I plan to work in every month or so. Great information here, Blossom. I had a similar problem with a bulky scarf - it is still very warm, but the unspun fibers go in my mouth and eyes. yuck.Take care~

Thanks for all the Willow wash and wear info! I really want to make this sweater and am now considering different yarn, perhaps spin my own. I wonder if it would have behaved differently if washed in Eucalan?

I love that you're reviewing your past knits...it's nice to see how things wear over time. Thanks for the heads up!

gee - your willow was one of the main reasons i wanted to make that sweater for myself. now i have been pretty much convinced that it isnt a good idea. anyway, bulky cardigan on this 'not-as-swelte-as-blossom' girl...would not be a good thing.

it looks amazing on you!

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