Saturday, October 03, 2009

In the Black this Fall?

As President Obama announces that the recession is nearing the end we are far from being in the black. So where are we now? Nationwide unemployment is now at 10.7% and many industries are in a gloomy 3rd quarter assessment as more layoffs are eminent this fall. Manufacturing, publishing, banking, real estate, legal services — all sectors have been affected in varying degrees. In this economic climate it's difficult to make a fall forecast, but the changing leaves and cooler weather tell us autumn has already arrived. Fall is here, it's my favorite season.

I pulled out the black saddle shoulder sweater that I started last year. It's made from Berroco "Cuzco" (50 alpaca/50 wool) — soft and sturdy, always feels spongy like brioche bread. But working with black has proved more difficult than I thought. As I ponder my first black sweater I realize that there are parallels to our current state of the economy.

Running Cables
I have mixed feeling about cable work. In my opinion some people wear cables like old Speedo trunks — too busy, too low, too loose in the front. Carefully placed cables are flattering but over-application to one area makes one look "shlumpy." As I worked halfway down the chest I decided I hated it. The Saxon braid on the front was out of scale for my chest, sagging in the middle like an over-valued real estate. My freehand cables on the back collided hazardously like MBAs following the path of a jobless recovery. The recent economic wisdom seems to have been "look busy," but ersatz persistence only makes for unmanageable clutter.

Grey Looks Black in a Dark Room
At some point I inadvertently used half a ball of dark gray Malabrigo. That would've been great if I wanted a stripe over my beer gut, but this was no happy accident. Comparable to that, most who are still employed may not know how deep we've traveled into a recession. As Condé Naste folds four magazines this fall for lack of ad sales, people still act surprised at this falls new pink slips. "Someone may have a crappy job, but they at least still have a job for now..." advised a friend from the Wall Street Journal. In a rough economy a crappy job and a normal job bear little difference, just as gray and black are almost indistinguishable in a dark room.

Stocking Up on Your Stash
Dropped stitches, split yarn, purls where knits should be — most of all my yardage calculation was short by about 300 yards. When designing cables plan ahead and add 15% more yardage to your stash. Otherwise one can't guarantee buying the same dye lot when it's needed. Those who are re-entering the work force may have found that job descriptions and requirements have drastically changed. Some one who had managed a department for over 12 years may now require a management certificate to qualify for the same job they once had. It's getting obvious that many companies are reluctant to hire anyone over 30. Current job-hunting wisdom suggests deleting the college graduation date from your resume especially if you are turning 39 again. To remain competitive one may have to return to school to stock-up on new skills and put a current date on that dusty resume.

A Fresh Start
Taking a tip from financial pages, there was only one thing to do about my sweater — start over. This sweater is knit from the top down. On US #8 needles the gauge measures 4.25 stitches wide by 5 rows deep per inch. Notice the ambient hair from Stephanie's cat, Mr. Fu Man Chu.

The Shoulders
I started by making two shoulder panels (16 wide by 25 deep). The loops are held open and will eventually be worked into the sleeves. Now this is what I should have done in the first place, mark all edges with a crochet slip stitch in a contrasting color. Stitches will be picked up from the edges to create the back and the front panels. To pick up the correct amount of stitches over rows I picked up 4 stitches, skipping the 5th stitch. Therefore, over 25 rows I picked up I picked up a total 20 stitches.

Back Panel
Casting on 36 stitches, I knit a rectangle 8 rows deep. Next, I picked up from each shoulder panels at a grade (similar to a raglan construction). This slight grade presents a better fit. (RS) Working flat, I picked up 4 stitches (as before) from the right shoulder panel, turned, then worked across and picking up 4 stitches from the left panel (WS). I repeated working back and forth until I had a total of 76 stitches ending on the right panel.

Front Panel
Instead of continuing around, I cut the yarn and created a new point of origin at the front right shoulder. This makes it easier to manage increases and pattern. Now on the front, I picked up stitches straight across, there's no need to create a grade. (RS) Switching to circular needles, I started by picking up 4 stitches (as before) from the right shoulder panel for a total of 20 stitches. With waste yarn, I made a cut-away panel to picked up 36 stitches for the neck area, then picked up 20 from the the left shoulder panel, totaling 76 stitches on the front panel.

Working in the round I continued to the left shoulder, over the back, to the right panel ending at the new point of origin. The sleeve and body increase at different rates at each seam. The sleeve's cap increase at every other row. The body increase every at 4th row for (4X), then every 8 row (3X). There's more, but for now I'm putting this sweater aside with handwritten notes, markers and reminders.

So that's where I am with this saddle shoulder sweater, I have no idea where we really are in this economy. But I'll have a black sweater by winter.

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