Early last Fall, I decided to knit a sweater for my daughter, Emma, for Christmas. Unlike my usual habit of making such decisions in December, I started planning in September, and thus was pretty much assured of success. I hit a small problem almost immediately – I could not choose a pattern! I have around a thousand sweater patterns in my favorites file, so it isn’t a problem of access or inspiration. I think part of it is that Emma has a very clear sense of what she likes and what she doesn’t; she is supremely stylish and particular. Since I wanted the present to be a surprise, I couldn’t consult with her.
Just as I was about to despair on finding the absolutely right, perfect sweater for Emma, I remembered the skirt pattern Intolerable Cruelty (yes, that is its name; I would advise you perhaps not to google for it). This skirt was designed by Ashley Moncrief and published in Knitty in 2006 (pre-Ravelry!!!). I remember looking at it at the time with Emma and both of us commenting that it was a great design.
I even had some yarn in my stash that I thought would work: Juniper Moon Farm Findley DK, a 50/50 blend of merino wool and mulberry silk in Grey. The silk blend would give the skirt a nice drape, I thought, and grey is definitely a good colour for Emma. I also didn’t want to use a hand-dyed yarn because I didn’t want to deal with dye variations and changing skeins. I had bought this yarn last year from Loop in an effort to expand my yarn repertoire to some less expensive yarns. Furthermore, because it was already in my stash, Kelly’s Rule of Creative Accounting meant it was free.
Intolerable Cruely has been knit many times over the year (there are over 250 projects on Ravelry). My general impression, looking over these projects, is that the skirt looks great on many different body types: it is good for tall, willowy figures like Emma as well as for very curvy figures. What I didn’t like about many of the projects, however, was the ruffle. In the pattern the ruffle is knit in the same yarn as the skirt; with many yarns this ends up looking just a bit clunky. I found myself thinking that a lighter-weight yarn would work much better. I dragged Doug to the yarn shop, along with the half-knitted skirt, to pick out a lighter yarn for the ruffle. We settled on this beautiful blue-grey shade of Kidsilk Haze.
I do think that the Kidsilk Haze gives a little life, not to mention lift, to the ruffle:
I was to hit two more problems while knitting this. The first is that Emma was 4706 miles away (as the crow flies). I really struggled with making this using guesswork for the size. I did have some basic measurements, but the whole process would have been a piece of cake if Emma were able to try it on every few inches. My confidence levels would have been considerably higher as well. I decided that Emma would need a size Small, but since my gauge was slightly bigger (23.5 stitches instead of 25), I knit the Extra Small to get a Small. Emma is very tall, however, so I used the directions for the Medium size with respect to length. I could have made it even longer, particularly the top portion, where the corseting is.
The second, much more serious problem, was that I had only knit about 10 inches of the skirt when I developed a flare-up of DeQuervaine’s tenosynovitis in my left wrist, and had to stop knitting altogether for over eight weeks. Even when I could start up again, I had to carefully curtail my knitting so as not to exacerbate my recovery. I finished the skirt, except for blocking, on the 23rd of December! (The girls arrived home on the 24th; how is that for timing?)
The skirt is knit top-down in the round. I usually find that elastic waists on hand-knit skirts are very clunky but I had no such problems here. The waistband is astonishingly flat and smooth and works perfectly.
Also, the shapings at the side of the skirt look really elegant in this yarn:
I am really happy with how this turned out. The yarn changed quite a bit on washing, becoming much softer and slinkier; the drape is excellent. The real stand-out feature of the skirt is the corseting up the back; the ribbon gives a great flirty kick to the design. Note that the ribbon can be changed to match your outfit.
This is a lovely, well-written pattern that has stood the test of time and which looks great on many different body types. It looks good on models of all ages and with a wide range of personal styles. Not only that, it is free!
Emma had arrived for Christmas with a carry-on bag and had none of her usual party clothes or shoes to model with this. Nevertheless, she managed to whip up something that looks great and Doug, as usual, did a good job with the camera. I am relieved that it turned out so well. This was really a case of of finishing off my knitting year with a bang!