Saving The Bonsai Tunic, I

The original Bonsai Tunic

When I first seamed up and tried on the Bonsai Tunic, it was clear that something had gone Horribly Awry. It was huge on me. The photos I took made it look like a very pretty green lace tent. (One could imagine sitting inside it on a gorgeous forest slope, sheltering from the intense mountain sunlight, munching on trail mix and humming a few bars of Rocky Mountain High.) And it wasn't just that it was too big…unlike the original sample garment (which I had in the office), my tunic just fell from my shoulders and hung there, shapeless and stretchy. When I saw the photos, I wanted to delete them, or to beg our graphics people to spend hours photoshopping them—anything to avoid having to post them As Is.

However, my role as Knitting Daily Gal is not to shirk from Knitting Gone Bad, nor to pretend that everything that drops off my needles is perfect and lovely beyond compare. My role is to instruct, inform, and of course entertain. Well, surely here is an opportunity to do all three. So. Let's look at Saving The Bonsai as a learning opportunity.

The Big, Bad, Bonsai Tent

Sometimes, when something goes very wrong in one's knitting, the best thing to do is to set it aside for a bit. Distance is a great teacher; it is much easier to see mistakes when you are not quite so grumpy-faced about having made them. I banished the Bonsai to one of my plastic bins, and only got it out after a week or so when I could bear to look at it without cursing.

The first thing I checked was my old nemesis, Gauge. I measured here, I measured there…and found out that my gauge swatch lied. Things were fine on the back, which was the first piece I worked, but when I got to the front, all gauge heck seemed to break loose, especially from the ribbing upwards. I checked the instructions…and had one of those Uh-Oh moments. You're supposed to switch to smaller needles for the ribbing, and then keep using the smaller needles for the top front part. I never switched. The entire front was done on the larger needles.

This was particularly infuriating as I had been fairly clever about the whole sizing thing, or so I thought at the time. I'm big across my front, but not so big across the back, so in my Infinite Cleverness, I planned to knit a smaller size for the back than for the front, and thus have the whole garment fit better. I carefully measured across my upper back at bust level, and decided I could knit the 38" size for the back, and the 42" size for the front—since my full bust measures 43.5", this would give a nice bit of negative ease overall, allowing it to skim my curves attractively.

Or so I thought. All kinds of clever planning goes out the window if one refuses to read the instructions carefully and do simple things like "switch to smaller needles." The even more frustrating bit is that I did the needle switching perfectly on the back. It's just the front where, somehow, I got so caught up in Knitting Ecstasy, that I forgot about following the instructions.

The back of the Big Bad Bonsai Tent

Lesson Number One: Prepare for bouts of brain-out-the-window knitting ahead of time. Read through the instructions before you begin knitting, and HIGHLIGHT anything you are likely to miss whilst in the throes of knitting ecstasy, such as switching needle sizes. (Of course, then you do have to actually LOOK at the instructions now and then.)

Now that I had found the problem, I was faced with what to do about it. Ripping back and re-knitting the front on the proper-sized needles seemed like the honorable thing to do. However…I had already sewn the neckband and the side seams, and I just couldn't bear the dual-drudgery of ripping out the seams, and then doing all those bobbles up the front again. (I like bobbles, in general, I think it was just the thought of re-doing Those Particular Bobbles that was giving me a bit of a squigg).

Did I have a large-sized friend I could bequeath this to? Perhaps I could wear it at home, in the dark where no one could see, maybe over long-johns as a night-gown?

As some of you suggested, I considered just taking in the side seams, but when I pinned them in to see the effect, it pulled the front V-neck over to the sides so much that it didn't provide "adequate coverage," shall we say.

You see why this sat in The Knitting Meditation Bin for so long. It needed LOTS of meditating. I finally found the answer—in form of a humble swatch.

Next time: The Swatch Saves The Day (And The Bonsai!)

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Never mind the needles: What's on Sandi's FEET? Her nice warm newly finished pair of sockies, inside her new boots. We had our first snow this weekend, so suddenly finishing my sockly UFOs seems quite a bit more urgent that it did a few weeks back.

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