How the Mitten Saved the Sleeve

Let me begin by stating an empirical truth:  I like short, puffy sleeves.  I like designing them, knitting them, wearing them, and seeing them on other people.  To my mind, there is nothing more feminine or demure than a gathered sleeve cap, and paired with a lacy pattern and a short length for summer, they're knitting gold, baby. 

So there was no doubt in my mind about the way the sleeves for the Sommelier Cardigan needed to play out:  Short, Puffy, Sweet.  Naturally, since the design element was so clear in my mind, and no alternative ideas were even creeping up on it, what formed on my needles was nowhere near what I had planned.

To begin with, even though I measured precisely and calculated carefully, the math that I started with was (not surprisingly) Very Much Wrong.  I think there can be degrees of wrong in knitting: Kinda wrong, a little wrong, mostly wrong, you get the idea.  This sleeve was an extreme case from the word go.  Not that I let that bother me, you understand, equipped as I am with a powerful sense of denial.  I knit blithely on for seventeen rows of lace, never admitting that I had jacked up the whole plan the minute I stopped casting on and started knitting.  No Siree, nothing wrong here.  Nothing to worry about.

Until there was.  I began the armhole shaping after the lace border and immediately began to sense a disturbance in the Force. "It'll block larger", I lied to myself.  "There is no reason at all why I can't just stretch it."  Except, of course for the poor miserable knitters who would arrive at my door with pitchforks and torches, crying "THERE SHE IS!  GET HER!" once the pattern is published. 

That's the sucky thing about designing - you totally cannot fake anything, because you have basically promised your knitting brethren that you can be trusted to provide them with a pattern that will not drive them to the nuthatch.  At least, that's how I feel about it:  If you are brave enough to spend your precious knitting allowance on a project I dreamed up, then the least I owe you is my level best effort to make a pattern that can be followed to a successful conclusion.  This presumed oath of accuracy puts a lot of pressure on a designer: when I screw up my knitting, it's not just my personal goalpost that moves, it's yours, too. 

It was ultimately my allegiance to my fellow knitters which prevailed.  I admitted to myself that the sleeve was Bad Wrong, and had to be frogged.  My frustration was such that I actually put down my knitting (okay, I may have thrown it a little).  I reached without thinking for the nearest comfort, which is of course, more knitting.  In this case it was a sweet little mitten that I have been stealing moments of knitting time for.  Campbell's Mitten, with its lofty, fluffy Blue-Faced Leicester wool in shades of his favorite colors.  Thoughts of the process of making it so far danced in my mind:  Campbell hugging the fiber; me spinning the yarn; Lindsay measuring for me around his little hand.  The bliss of casting on with your own handspun is something I wish for every knitter.  There is just nothing like it.  I began to relax into the rhythm of kl, p1, kl.

And that's when the mitten saved the sleeve.  The relaxation triggered by the comforting action of knitting a mitten cuff brought clarity with it:  I don't have to knit the sleeve I thought I wanted.  I can keep knitting the sleeve that I have, and follow it to it's natural conclusion.  Even though I was trying for a gathered short sleeve, what I made was a svelte long one.  Better still, I could make it an elegant bracelet length.  Bracelet sleeves are delightful, classic, feminine, and even easy to block (unlike their short, puffy relatives).  Yes!  I could press on with the sleeve, exactly as it was, and create something even better than what I imagined.  There was nothing at all wrong with that little sleeve - the problem was the designer.

Thank you, dear little mitten.  You were there when I needed you most, and even if you get lost one day, as is often the case with mittens, you have already served a purpose even higher than keeping Cam's hand warm:  You saved my sleeve, my sanity, and most important, the composure of future knitters.  We who are about to knit salute you.