Guernsey

A little over two years ago I was told that I was going to be an aunt six months later. This was amazing news and it made me very happy. Around the same time I was walking around a store, waiting for a friend, and I looked through a knitting pattern book. Inside the book was a sweater called the Guernsey sweater. Me and my friend have both read the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an excellent book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. We both loved it. When I stood there in the store it was obvious to me that I needed to knit a Guernsey sweater for my friend’s little baby, my niece.

The baby arrived, a sweet little darling, whom I love to knit for (I see it as my duty as a responsible aunt to make sure my niece has many warm sweaters). I didn’t want her to be too small when she got the Guernsey sweater because she would grow out of i immediately and that would be a bummer. So, this Christmas it was finally the time.

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This is Mini-Bean’s Guernsey sweater by Camilla Skorup, knit in Drops Baby Merino from Garnstudio, color 16 Red.

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It’s said that all the fishermen families had different patterns on their sweaters, so that if you found a body at sea you would know who he was even if he had been in the water for too long. I know that the same system was used on the Swedish West coast and it shows pragmatism, a realistic view of life and also respect for the sea. It was a hard life and I like that knitting got to be involved in making it easier, apart from keeping the fishermen warm of course. Perhaps the sweater pattern system didn’t make life in general easier, but at least it was easier to identify a body through the pattern of the sweater instead of searching for a dog tag that could easily have disappeared in the sea.

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I’m very happy with the result but not at all with the pattern. First of all, it’s too big. That is not necessarily a problem since a two year old is still growing fast but if I settle down on knitting a sweater for a two year old I want it to fit an average two year old, not a three and a half year old. I suspected it would be very big on my niece and I was right, on the pictures she wears the sleeves rolled up, a long way, which means they might be in the way when she plays. I’m not sure but I also suspects it ends somewhere at level with her knees. But yes, this is a minor problem after all, except that it took me a much longer time to knit than I thought.

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The sweater is knit from the front bottom, up past the shoulders and ends at the back bottom, all in one piece. Then you pick up stitches over the shoulders and knit the sleeves straight out from there. Since you leave on shoulder seem open so you can later put in buttons, you only have the stitches from one shoulder on your needle when you are picking stitches for the back top.

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Ideally you pick up stitches so that the back is straight behind the front since your back is normally sort of behind your front and your belly. I’m pretty sure though that if I had followed the pattern I would have ended up with a sweater where the back was indeed attached to the front over one shoulder but was then sort of lying next to the front instead of behind it. This is not how my niece looks like and therefore I’m quite happy I followed logic and my own sense of human anatomy.

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That wasn’t the only problem with the pattern. It doesn’t state for how long you should knit in pattern for each size and it doesn’t show the entire front pattern either. I had to look at the picture of the sweater and count from that to know what I was supposed to knit. That was obviously doable since I ended up with a perfectly decent sweater but it took much more energy and confusion than was necessary and made me suspicious of the pattern. It didn’t feel trustworthy. It sort of spoiled the whole knitting experience, having to guess like that.  Gurnsey-7

The sleeves were also a bit of a guessing game even though not as much as the front.

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Besides the corrections for mistakes in the pattern I modified two things. First, the pattern stated that there was a garter stitch edge before the ribbing of the cuffs on the sleeves and body. I’m not really a fan of that so I made the cuff in only ribbing and a bit longer instead. I think it turned out well.

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The second modification was that the pattern suggested push buttons but I have bad experience with push buttons on knitted garments so I changed it to regular buttons. The pattern suggested three buttons but I took four instead, so the neck wouldn’t roll down. I wanted a rustic look and chose wood buttons but I couldn’t resist the little heart shaped ones with little flowers on them. I’m not sure the fishermen would have put heart shaped buttons on their sweaters but I consider this my personal change of the fisherman sweater pattern to show that this sweater is worn by someone in my family.

Despite the problems with the pattern I like the result and my niece look so darn cute in it I could just eat it. Now, what to knit her for her birthday?