Published on Wednesday February 21st, 2007


a pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

or, “don’t buy a zipper until you’ve cut your steek.”

But let’s begin with the steeking:


1) Weave a contrasting piece of waste yarn down the steek line to be darn sure it’s going in the right place.

2) Crochet a chain down either side of the stitch column to be cut.

3) Muster courage, and Ancient German Scissors; haply some Grandmamma Craft Juju doth linger in their blades.


4) Very. Carefully. Snip. And snip, and snip, and snip.

As you drag most of a worsted wool sweater all over town for months, it gets bulkier and bulkier. It fits into fewer and fewer of your knitting bags. Soon you’re lugging it about in one of the canvas grocery totes. It has grown so large and obstinate, so awkward to manipulate as you knit in the round, that it seems to have a certain indestructible life of its own. But when you vivisect it from stem to stern, how delicate the fabric feels! How vulnerable to the dangerous steel of the scissors!

At last, the steeking was done. I fired up the iron and dampened a dishtowel to steam the cut edges into submission. I pinned in the zipper. And this is where I should have stopped.


You sharp-eyed readers will already have stooped on the problem twitching in the tall grass: the 28″ zipper, which seemed so perfect pre-steeking, is no longer long enough. The darn front of the sweater GREW. Maybe it was the release of tension from the neighboring stitches after the cut. Maybe it was the steam ironing.


There’s a formula I need to learn:

when subject = craftsmanship and thought = “I can live with it”, action = force quit

Why did I think it wouldn’t be all that bad if the zipper was 3/4″ shy of the bottom and 1 1/2″ shy of the top? What possessed me to go ahead and hand sew half the cursed 28″ zipper in anyway?

This morning I came to my senses. I carefully measured the front against the back. Maybe the cut edge was just drooping and I could re-sew the 28″ zipper, carefully squinching the fabric back to its former shape along the way. The photo above makes it look like that’s the real problem, but it isn’t so. I needed a 30″ zipper.

Grumbling about Mr. Garter’s long torso, I drove all the way across town to the best place for zippers, the place I found the offending 28″ jobbie. I marched to the zipper section. Oh horrors. There were no brown 30″ zippers. The saleslady thought there probably never had been; it’s an unusual length and they mostly stock black or white ones. No, she didn’t advise buying the 36″ brown one and cutting it; this would only cause me grief with a molded-tooth dual separating zipper. I gnashed my own molded teeth. I thought about substituting an off-white color, but Mr. Garter had been so taken with the brown, and I’d bought a dark brown tweed yarn for the facing and neck lining to coordinate with it. I looked at all the options. I would have settled for a single-ended model, but they didn’t exist in the right length and color either. I even crawled in under the dangling zipper ends in the display to be certain no 30″ browns had fallen of their hooks and might be lying forgotten in the dark.

And just as I was about to admit defeat and drive home empty-handed, there it was, skulking behind some black zippers. 30″. Cloister brown. (This must be the dual separating sport zipper the Franciscan monks favor for their parkas.) It felt warm and pliable in my hand as I lovingly bore it to the cash register.

Mr. Garter’s Fishtrap Aran now has three zippers, hence today’s aphorism. Hopefully Goldilocks has got it just right this time. Now to unpick all my careful little stitches of last night. A six-year-old living a hundred years ago would have laughed at my slatternly basting job, I’m sure, but I was sewing the stitches as evenly and unobtrustively as I could and making sure they were sturdy enough to stand up to man-handling. The mens, they are not so gentle with the garments, after all. Ah well, I’m going to think of it as practice for the real zipper insertion, which will commence post haste.

18 Comments to “Aphorism”

  1. Katie Comment Says:

    You might discover that the length will change as you hubby tries the sweater on. I recently saw a blog post about this – http://www.grumperina.com/knitblog/archives/2007/02/hot_mess_at_the.htm

  2. carrie Comment Says:

    The sweater is beautiful and you are very, very brave. The ancient German scissors are beautiful too!

  3. Daphne Comment Says:

    Oh boy. Agreed, it’s gorgeous and agreed, let’s memorize that formula. (I’ll need it again myself and I’ll probably ignore it again. Oh life!)

  4. AmyH Comment Says:

    I was in pain just reading the beginning of your post. I’m so glad you found your zipper. Your sweater is gorgeous.

  5. stacey Comment Says:

    it is a beautiful sweater and deserves its rightful 30″ zipper! you were so lucky to find one!!! all the patience and “practice” will pay off – it will be stunning!

  6. Vicki Comment Says:

    So glad you found the right zipper – that must have been a real Eureka! moment to see it at the back of the rack! I love when that happens… This sweater is going to be absolutely gorgeous.

  7. Mr. Garter Comment Says:

    Mrs Garter, did I spy some comp sci shorthand up there?

    when subject = craftsmanship and thought = β€œI can live with it”, action = force quit

    wow!! It is a little LISP-like, which is even more impressive.

    You are being drawn to the dark side and you don’t even know it. mmwhahahha

  8. Katie Comment Says:

    I believe this zipper story is more like a conditional loop:P

  9. mamie Comment Says:

    what a wonderful piece, well worth all the zipper-seeking, bag-lugging around town. will we get pictures with model?

  10. Debby Comment Says:

    Sitting on edge of seat, holding breath and waiting for FO photo…good luck!!!

  11. gleek Comment Says:

    i love that the grandmama craft juju still lives in those blades πŸ™‚ you’re so close to finishing this!

  12. Katie Comment Says:

    Wow, that’s drama. Short zippers and hiding sippers and growing handknits! Scary! I’m glad that the new, appropriate zipper was discovered and I can’t wait to see it happily sewn into place. Good luck with the stitching.

  13. brooke Comment Says:

    You had me on the edge of my seat with this entry. I don’t know what’s more beautiful-the sweater or your writing. Can’t wait to see the finished Fishtrap.

  14. loribird Comment Says:

    Well, at least you’ll have zippers a-plenty for the next project… Do check out – it made my head hurt the first time I read it, but may clue you in to why there is such a difference in measurement pre-/post-steeking. (Cause it would generally suck to sew a zipper in twice!)

  15. loribird Comment Says:

    Oh crud. I tried to get all fancy with the html symbols… Well, you can get to grumperina’s post by clicking on most of my comment… hope it helps a bit (Feeling sheepish. Baa.)

  16. katie Comment Says:

    Hi, from a lurker…what a beautiful sweater! Oh, and I guess I should say manly. No man wants a beautiful sweater, unless it’s also manly. Anyway, do check out Grumperina’s zipper info. It appears that zippers are more aptly matched to the wearer than to the garment.

    Looking forward to the finished masterpiece!

  17. Emily Comment Says:

    Your Fishtrap is beautiful!! And I totally sympathize with your woes over both zippers and long torsoed men. I made an EZ seamless raglan for my hubby for Christmas and not wanting to spoil the surprise I simply measured a store bought sweater and did NOT measure him. I did not realized the store bought sweater was too small, nor did I realize I have a hubby whose arms are 20″ to the armhole and his torso is 18″-19″ to underarm (depending on comfort level). Had I known I’d become a knitter, I never would have married such a gangly man πŸ˜‰ Good luck! I look forward to seeing more of your finished sweaters!!

  18. vanessa Comment Says:

    oh wow! how did i missed this post. your sweater is so so gorgeous!!