Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Long and Winding Coat Project Plan

This particular project plan was a convoluted one. It began when I saw this pattern, which is the Sylvi pattern, designed by Mari Muinonen, and got all "I LOVE THIS I MUST MAKE IT." So the Sylvi pattern got added to my project list for 2014.

My next step was a yarn purchase. When the Toronto Mary Maxim store at Yonge and Eglinton closed this past year because their rental costs became unmanageable, I managed to dry my tears and score the 1500 grams of Diamond Yarn Luxury Collection Llama Silk you see above for 50% off the regular price. I had imagined the coat in a flecked rust (I love the red but couldn't face the thought of all the Little Red Riding Hood jokes), so this yarn was just what I wanted in that regard, and it proved to be a lovely yarn to work with. The "hand wash only" care requirement for this yarn was definitely not a plus (who wants to hand wash a coat?), but I thought I could live with it as the coat isn't going to need washing very often.

Once I had the pattern and the yarn, I began knitting. I knitted a sleeve first. (When I need to know how the gauge of a yarn, I usually do a sleeve first as a sort of cheat gauge swatch. If I get the gauge wrong, I won't need to rip out much more than if I had done a swatch, and if the gauge turns out to be right I've got a few inches of sleeve done.) Then I knitted about half of one of the front pieces. Then, having worked happily away on this coat for perhaps four or five evenings, I woke up one morning and the first thought that came to mind was, "What was I thinking? This design is going to look like hell on me!"

The Sylvi design, gorgeous as it is, has a trapeze shape. I am, shall we say, mammarily blessed. My chest measurement is bigger than my hip measurement. My wearing a jacket that flares out from the largest section of my body is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. I then spent some evenings trying modify the pattern by adding waist shaping, but soon decided the best idea was simply to choose another coat pattern.

After much browsing of coat patterns on Ravelry, I narrowed my selections down to these two: the Bergère de France coat on the left, and the Winter Wonderland Coat by Michele Rose Orne on the right. Both are wonderful designs and I was torn between them for some days, but eventually I decided on the Winter Wonderland design. The Bergère de France design is so inimitably chic and French, but as I regretfully concluded, I am neither chic nor French. The Winter Wonderland Coat seemed a little more "me", and would probably also work better on my figure as it's less bulky above the waist.

And here's the final result. The gauge was a little strange. The pattern called for an Aran yarn knitted on 4.5mm needles. The Diamond Yarn Luxury Collection Llama Silk is a bulky weight, which should have knitted to a bigger gauge, and yet I had to use 5mm needles to get the right gauge. I also used much less yarn than the pattern called for. The pattern called for 2000 grams of yarn, while I used less than 1300 grams (there are more than two hanks left over) of the Diamond Yarn. I'm not complaining about this, as it means that my version of this coat weighs 35% less than the sample coat does.

I made a few modifications, as you can see. I wanted more coverage in the front, both for warmth and to make it easier to coordinate the coat with whatever I wear with it (the less you can see of the outfit underneath, the less well the coat has to match it). I ran the buttons all the way down the front instead of just buttoning the bodice. I also widened the button and buttonhole bands by two stitches as even in the picture the buttons look a little too big for their bands and I was using a slightly larger button than the pattern called for. I raised the neckline by something like five inches. I'm not thrilled with the way my shortened collar looks on the higher neckline, but it will do. And I'm very pleased with how the coat looks on me. Both the colour and the style suit me very well.

Lesson learned from this project is that from now on I'm going to make sure that my project plans have a better foundation than blind love of a pattern, because that has too often led to my knitting something that won't look right on me and/or that I have no use for. It's better that I take a more needs-based approach to project planning, (i.e., I decide I could use a hat and scarf to go with a new coat I just bought, or another easy care cardigan to wear around home), and to then look for the perfect pattern for that purpose.

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