Changing the Channel

Changing the Channel

Life is funny sometimes. Or closets? Maybe closets are funny sometimes. Not ten days ago, I was a person with a trusty charcoal shawl-collar cardigan nearly always by her side, and another (lighter, woolier) shawl-collar cardigan in progress. Then in the space of a few days, I went from two shawl collars to none — and somehow all of this is ultimately a happy tale.

My parents came to visit toward the end of the week before last. My mom wanted to see the sweaters I’d finished since she’d last been here, so we got into my little closet. As I was pulling things out, I was reminded that I’ve wanted to have her try on my Bellows. She’d had it on pretty much exactly two years ago, right after I finished it, and I’ve never gotten over how perfect it was on her — like I’d made it just for her. Some part of my brain is always wanting her to put it on again so I could confirm that, and then I would know that the Bellows dimensions were perfect should I ever knit her a sweater. I didn’t say any of this to her — only that I wanted to see it on her again — and sure enough, it slipped onto her just like Cinderella’s slipper. She started beaming, turning back and forth in front of the mirror, and joke asking “How much …?” and I had a hard time folding it up and putting it away.

That evening, we went our for dinner on the screened porch at our favorite restaurant and I loaned her the sweater, knowing it would be more comfortable to eat in than her jacket. Again that happiness on her face. As we were sitting there eating, I knew I couldn’t take it back from her — it was hers. As much as I minded that it was not brand-new or made specifically with her in mind, she apparently couldn’t have cared less. The next morning when she put it on to leave, my heart melted again — I was sad to see it go of course (my companion!), but so happy it was going with her and that she was so happy.

And then it hit me: What on earth am I going to wear now?!

But there was still my Channel in my near future, right? No worries. Once they were gone, I blocked the Channel pieces I had finished a few days earlier, and left them to dry over that weekend. For me, seaming is a daylight (and thus weekend) task, so I knew I’d have to let the pieces lay there on my table untouched through last week, and I dutifully set about swatching for the bands and collar (by which I mean starting one, measuring, starting over … with three different needles). By Tuesday evening, impatient to see how it would come together, I clipped the pieces to my shirt, and I knew almost instantaneously that it was a good thing I hadn’t gotten any farther with the bands. This would no longer be a shawl collar.

The sweater I’ve had in my sketches and my head all this time has been based on the photos and the sample I tried on three years ago, when I first decided to knit it. It hit me mid-hip, the sleeves were a tiny bit short, and the V of the neckline hit just below my bust. I made a mental note that the only thing I’d tinker with was the sleeve length and that I would move the top button placement up a bit — I like a shawl collar to be high and snug. As I started knitting, I made the decision to stick to the pattern dimensions so as not to require any tweaks to the length or shaping of the collar itself, since it’s a bit of a job. So rather than scrutinizing the schematic, as I usually do, I just followed the pattern as written. When it said to knit the body to 17″, I thought that seemed longer than the one I’d tried on, but longer wouldn’t be bad, so ok. What I failed to notice in my non-scrutiny is the depth of the V. So what I have on my worktable is gorgeous and useful … just a different sweater than the one I thought I was making. This sweater has a very deep V that hits right at my belly button, and the hemline falls below my crotch. In other words, it looks exactly like my modified-Vidje sketch, only with a different surface texture:

Changing the Channel

For me, these proportions call for a plain button band, not an elongated shawl collar, which feels like a disservice to Jared’s stunning pattern, but also the right thing to do for my garment. So all of a sudden, instead of filling the (now larger than anticipated) shawl-collar gap in my closet, this one is filling the gap Vidje was going to be meant for! And now that there are no shawl collars in my closet, the landscape of my queue is taking a completely different shape. Suddenly I have all kinds of options and considerations I had ruled out, some exciting rethinking to do, and a gorgeous-albeit-unintended sweater almost finished.

• Channel Cardigan pattern by Jared Flood in Clever Camel


PREVIOUSLY: All Channel posts

48 thoughts on “Changing the Channel

  1. This is such a good mod! I love the Channel cardigan but the extra length + shawl collar is a little too bathrobe-y. Way to try it on and see what it’s meant to be!

    Now, will you be knitting another Bellows?!

  2. It’s a wonderful look for you. Never sound apologetic when making alterations to knitting patterns. I don’t think any designer is concerned when a knitter takes something in a new direction. It’s a creative process and the pattern is just a jumping off point. In the 1990s I used to knit shop models of Alice Starmore patterns for my LYS (I got to keep the sweaters after they were 6 months on display), but I never really enjoyed slavishly following the instructions, even though the designs were stunning. It always felt like paint by numbers. So, I say more power to you for making changes to suit your personal style!

    • I essentially *never* stick to a pattern. For example, in this case I had already done away with the waist shaping, eyelets and belt, and had added pockets. But what I meant above is that this particular pattern is SO much about that exceptional collar. I still might knit that one of these days, who knows.

  3. I can’t remember the last time that I knit a pattern exactly as written but it’s been years. Although I think shawl collars have their place, a cardigan with a plain band will have more months of wear in it: a shawl collar provides more warmth than we typically want in the spring. And after all, this sweater is going to Paris, and you will want to wear a scarf. (Even if you don’t think so, once you get there and look at the people on the street, you will want to wear a scarf…it even happened to my totally style ignorant husband!)

    • I think this camel yarn/fabric might have more cross-seasonal compatibility than I realized. We’ll see how I feel about that as it starts to warm up around here — I find wool feels all wrong in the summer, no matter how freezing I might be in the over-air-conditioning. Hoping I feel differently about the camel. But if so, yeah, having left off the shawl will add to that extended usability.

  4. Now this is fabulous! You have that designer’s eye I long for but, sadly, lack. What a terrific and flexible wardrobe piece!

  5. It’s a lovely pattern but I’m glad you’ve changed from the shawl collar. It seems like a shawl collar is too warm for Southern living even in air conditioning. I think they denote wooly warmth Up North.

    • Oh, I’m definitely not done with shawl collars! It gets good and cold here in the winter, and that collar on my Bellows got me through the last couple of frigid a/c summers. Plus I just love them! So cozy.

      It just wasn’t right for this particular sweater, as it is turning out.

  6. The best part of this post…you gave you beloved sweater to your mom! She’ll cherish that sweater forever as it’s a big hug from her daughter. And while they all take considerable time, there’ll be many more sweaters in your future! Have fun!

  7. The reason why I haven’t knit channel is because of the deep v neck. It’s not my style, and I’m not in the mental state these days to make the adjustments.

  8. Good move giving the sweater to your Mom. It’s hard to see someone you love love something you made and not let them have it. I just gave my best friend a sweater I knit for myself over a year ago but never felt it looked quite right on me. She slipped it on and it was perfection. I knew it would have a good home with her.

  9. Wow-your knitting details are stunning and really pop in the yarn! I finished a magnolia cafe sweater and also opted to not do the shawl collar. I often have issues with the collar not rolling right and slipping off the shoulders.

  10. I agree with you about the button band – it will look lovely on that sweater. And I clicked through to the pattern page (finally, meaning to each time you write about it) – Those models must be over 6 feet tall, because the sweater hits them where you likely thought it would hit you, not tunic length at all! Still, it is a lovely thing, and I have enjoyed watching it’s creation – can’t wait to see it finished! I am working on a much plainer v neck cardigan (set in sleeves, stockinette) that I intend to put a garter band on – still not sure if there will be buttons or not, or if it will be a wide, shawl like band… now you have me really thinking and wishing I had your sketching skills. :-) I have already decided to not wait until all pieces are finished to begin finishing – I will block the body and seam it to make sure it fits the way I want before I do the sleeves. So I will have all that sleeve time to think about the band. Or, to keep trying different bands, lol.

  11. Love the look of your Channel❣ Was so delightful to read your ability to “improvise, adapt, and overcome”.
    Thank you for such inspiration !!!
    Cheryl O.

  12. One thing I always admired you about and get inspired by your post is your ability to figure out how one particular pattern/sweater will or will not fit you, and how to tweak them so that they will work for your. I am slowly learning about that and start seeing my self-drafted/modified patterns starting to fit me or take the shape I had in mind, and it just makes the final products so much more useful!
    Thank you so much again!

  13. I’m curious, the “try on” photo in black and white seems to fit you differently then your actually cardigan picture. Did BT modify the length of their cardigan you originally tried on. I ask because I too want to make a Channel cardi, but I am only 5′ 2″ and after seeing your try on pic, I’m concerned it could hit me just above the knees!

    • I share Sheri’s curiosity… did you wind up knitting a different size from the sample you’d tried on (are the lengths changing that much between sizes??), or was there some other reason the sample didn’t wind up being representative of the fit of the sweater you wound up knitting? I’ve tried on a *lot* of BT samples and not noticed any discrepancies between sample and schematic measurements (for whichever size the sample was knit in), but I’ve never managed to get my hands on a Channel sample.

      • I don’t know how to explain it. Mine is intentionally wider — my stitch gauge is slightly larger, and I blocked it out even wider at the hem — but the lengths are pretty much all according to the pattern and schematic. My V is about 3/4″ deeper than the schematic and total length is about an inch longer. Whereas the sample I tried on is easily 4-5″ shorter than this (V and hem).


        I’ve had it happen before and I sometimes wonder if it’s sample knitters on a deadline leaving out a few inches in the body! But I truly have no idea how to explain it.

  14. You didn’t just give your Mom a used sweater, you gave her a wonderful story to tell, about a sweater who’s rightful place could not be denied, and a daughter who’s love for her mother overcame her pride and the need for a shawl collar. How many items in our closet have provenance like that? This sweater is waaay better than some new knit with no backstory. :)

  15. Isn’t it funny how sometimes it turns out that the things we knit for ourselves (and even love!) weren’t really for us? My mom ended up with a sweater, and a close friend with a shawl, that way. Sounds like your mom is a very happy and lucky woman :)

  16. Oh. My. God. You gave away your Bellows?! You mean, the Bellows that was the most perfect cardigan that kept me awake at nights dreaming of one of my own? You mean, the Bellows that was the inspiration for me to knit my own Karen Templer Copycat Bellows, not once, but TWICE? Wow. What a lovely story! No doubt your Bellows was one of those garments that was destined to touch many of us. :) I’d love to see photos of your mom wearing your Bellows–might cause me to make Bellows #3! And…

    I love your plan to forgo the shawl collar on the Channel cardigan–perfect!

    Now I have to go lie down…

  17. Your sweater is amazing. I am so happy to have followed along. After finishing a man-sized sea of fingering weight stockinette for a Longfellow for my husband I am so eager to start something amazing for ME. This. May. Be. That. One. Thing.
    And. Please describe those divine black pants. Please please please.

    • They’re actually not black pants — they’re my new raw denim jeans from Imogene+Willie that I’m trying to break in. They have not yet begun to fade …

  18. Still in awe of this Channel change. I look at the pictures and think “You are so right!”…and I wonder when I will feel the confidence to adapt away to fit just what I need and want. That is, after all, one of the reasons why we make instead of buy finished garments, no? So very well done, you.

    • p.s. You are double-rad for giving your go-to sweater to your mom! I know just the feeling you mean when you say it was always her sweater. Awesome.

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