We'll just begin with this: I was completely smitten with Kate Davies' Carbeth pattern the first time I saw it. Long before "banging out a Carbeth" became a rallying cry in the knitting world, I was crushing over that distinctive shoulder line, the cropped and slightly boxy shape, and (I'll admit it) Kate standing there with her arms flung open wide in that brilliant Scottish winter setting.
I wanted one.
But I was concerned about the cropped thing. Could I pull that off? Once I decided to just suspend my judgement on that little point, I set to looking for yarn. Now, the pattern calls for a DK weight held double, and I happened to have this most lovely Madeline Tosh DK just sitting there, deep in the stash, waiting for its turn to shine.
I swatched. And I washed and dried my swatch (because Tosh DK is superwash, and superwash is always a bit of a crapshoot). I found my gauge, made some adjustments for the superwash, and set about to knitting.
The yarn was lovely to work with. It was going to be just glorious, I could tell!
It turns out . . . not all Carbeths are meant to be "banged-out." Including mine.
I could show you this photo (where the final sweater looks just fine; passable, even), and we could call it done. But I'm a Full Disclosure kind of gal, and this is a Full Disclosure kind of blog.
Ooooo. Ahhhhh. Isn't it lovely?
Not so much.
(Does this look like someone who is pleased with her sweater? Nope. No joy.)
Let's break it down.
- Remember that this is supposed to be a cropped sweater. I knit the body a half-inch longer than the pattern called for (because chicken), knowing that the superwash would stretch (according to my swatch) by about an inch and a half. That would mean my body length should be 10 inches. By the time I took this picture, the body was measuring 14 inches -- and growing longer by the moment.
- As I was posing for the photos, I had to do a lot of Positioning of the collar and the shoulders. Because they were also growing by the moment, and the whole sweater was in danger of falling off. The underarm had stretched down almost to my elbow (major batwing action), and I could barely keep the collar from slipping down off my shoulders (think Flashdance).
(This is where I wanted to insert a rather hilarious video of me adjusting and fussing with this sweater. But when I tried, I blew up this entire post and I had to re-start. So try to imagine it for yourselves. Sorry.)
Here's the main thing I learned from my Carbeth experience: There is barely any structure up top (no seams; the shoulders hold all the weight of the sweater), so it is highly sensitive to weight. The weight of the yarn - and the sweater itself - can make a huge difference in fit. My yarn (doubled) was super heavy -- and it pulled that sucker South in a hurry! (I did have an inkling about this as I tried the sweater on a various points during the knitting process. Every time I put it on, it was longer. I should've seen this coming much quicker than I did.)
If you're going to knit a Carbeth - and especially if you are going to add weight by lengthening the body - really consider the weight of your yarn. I would suggest using something light and lofty (Brooklyn Tweed's Quarry comes immediately to mind). I would avoid doubling DK yarns, too (unless using super light and lofty DK yarns - like the one Kate used for her original). And I would avoid superwash like the plague (because Problem Children).
Carbeth is a great pattern -- fast, fun to knit, and a great design. Just think carefully about your yarn!
You can't always get what you want.
But if you try real hard, you just might be able to prevent someone else from making the same mistake.