Unbelievable that I have not written about the bear sweater yet, but it seems like the perfect way to end the year.  I'm not even sure how to start writing about this project except to say that many years ago, I saw this picture, and fell in love.
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Love at first sight <3
Falling in love is never simple though, is it?  First, this pattern, the 7901 Polar Bear from the Dale of Norway pamphlet #79, is out of print.  There is one company that will sell the individual patterns from the book with the yarn needed to make it.  If you want the entire pamphlet, it comes up infrequently on eBay for astronomical sums.  
At first, I went the more "reasonable" rout and was given the kit with the bear sweater pattern for Christmas in 2010.  And then I let it sit.  The whole thing had seemed so unattainable when I saw the prices of the pamphlet on eBay, that to have the pattern and have the yarn was comfort enough.   
Here is where the story gets a little murky for me.  Clearly I had always intended to make this sweater for my husband.  We bought enough yarn back in 2010 to make the XL size.  He would mention the project periodically with interest.  And yet, I was still skeptical of his actual commitment to the sweater.  I think, understandably, a nut who falls in love with sweaters would also be defensive about other people loving them too.  
At any rate, after some needling on his part, I did start the sweater.  I knew it was going to be a long and involved process, so in the beginning, I took notes: 
December 2012 - Opened the long-ago purchased yarn and pattern.  Looked to see what substitute colors I had selected.  Felt regret.  Looked on Ravelry to see what needle sizes people were using given that the finished sweater will be too small for Eb.

12/21/12 - After looking at photos decided to do a tubular cast-on.  Knit the provisional part, knit the two purl rows, and then picked up the purls and knit two rows, then remembered it should be knit through the back loop.  Tried to convince myself I could do every other row, looked terrible.  Thought of taking it back a few rows and realized the whole thing had a twist and was a mobius!  Have never done that before [Ed. note: this can no longer be said].  Set it down.

12/26/12 - Took apart the twisted bottom part

12/27/12 - Very carefully did the tubular cast-on again.  Made sure to do the knit through the back loop, even on the first stitches.  Got almost through the ribbing.  Took out the provisional cast-on and very pleased.

12/28/12 - Finished the ribbing.  Increased around, switched to larger needles, started the color work.  I did remember that the colors shouldn't be twisted and that one will stand out more if carried on top, but not which one.  Tried to discover the answer on-line and came up with an answer but not the right one.  Also trying to ignore the join spot at the side.  Also trying to ignore the way that the first row of color work is swallowed by the ribbing.

12/29/12 - Took the color work only all apart.  Confirmed which way to hold the yarns to make the primary color pop.  Also decided to add extra stitches one on each side as "picture frames" to decrease the obvious jog.  Also added a purl row between ribbing and color work.  Finished pattern i and much pleased.  Need to check gauge.  

12/30/12 - Worked on the pattern ii.  Annoyingly it is spread over two charts, and one chart you work and then work in mirror image.  After three rows or four got to the point where I only have to glance at the charts instead of looking every step.  Second guessing the "picture frame."  For the majority of the body there is a side pattern that would mask the jog.  Eb says he doesn't think it is a problem.  May just have to agree and decrease away those stitches, not sure.
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Photo of the ill-fated oft mentioned purl row between the ribbing and the pattern.
4/18/13 - Took sweater apart again back to the ribbing.  Didn't like the purl row after ribbing or the false seam stitch. Re-visiting, it seems that two handed color knitting clicks a lot better then it used to [Ed. note: I had started continental purling at this point], the tension looks much more even.

4/20/13 - Sneaking suspicion gauge is off.  Do nothing.

4/21/13 - Work on sweater all morning, measure gauge.  Off by 4 inches around.  Decided to go down a needles size, and also make the regular size XL as husband is shrinking.

4/21/13  part 2 - Sweet husband says he will wear the sweater (for a few minutes) every day for a year to make up for all the trouble I'm having with it.

4/24/13 - Finished the ribbing again!  Doing joggless joins this round

4/29/13 - Refinished the snowflake band and started main part.  Worried over ripples in fabric.
What I think these notes show more than anything is that if you work on a project for an extended period of time, your skill level may change demonstrably over that period and you have to start over, a lot, to be happy with the finished project.  I really want to share that starting over is a major part of any major project for me.  Catching up to the place where you started over is fantastic, but I don't look at starting over as failure.  I rush through starting projects, I don't swatch just as much as the next knitter, but also, I know that by not swatching, I'm going to have to re-start, maybe several times.  
You will note that these entries jump from December to April.  The sweater was finished in November.  People have been asking me how long it took to make, and it really is impossible to say.  I made several afghans, many socks, and lots of other fun things this year.  All told, this would have probably been a 6 week project if I could have just sat down and worked on it.
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The Bear Sweater before the sleeve holes were cut open.
Also, this sweater involved a sewing machine steek.  It was terrifying and also very quick.  It came out more bulky than I would prefer, but also it was the first time I've tried something like that, so I'm willing to say that my next one will be better.  
In the end, I did buy the entire pamphlet off eBay, and for not as much as it is sometimes posted.  Not only do I love the bear sweater enough to own it properly, but also, it has a brother moose sweater pattern which might someday grace this space.  
That good sweet husband from April has been true to his word, and we are having a good time documenting this joint art project.  Please check out Eben and the Bear Sweater if you are so inclined for daily updates on their doings.  They are also famous on Facebook ;)
 


MIL
12/31/2013 10:00

This post really made me smile. I am amazed at your tenacity and attention to every detail, and are so willing to take your hard labored project apart for the sake of perfection!

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Nancy Ikeda
12/31/2013 12:36

Sarah, I am a friend of your mother-in-law. I have admired the sweater you made Eben from afar. I just read your blog and understand why he is wearing his sweater every day for a year. This is truly a creation of love & you are very talented. I look forward to seeing other creations in the future. Have a very Happy New Year.

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Lurline
12/31/2013 14:32

Thanks for writing this blog post about the bear sweater! We've been enjoying the daily photos, like I'm sure so many are. So far I've only knit one-color sweaters, so this project is an inspiration for me as a knitter, too.

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withmyneedles
12/31/2013 15:14

Thank you Lurline! Stranded color work takes some getting used to, but it uses graphs, which I just love for some reason.

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Jo Ellen
01/07/2014 09:37

This blog is fun, fun, fun. Thank you so much for the Christmas ornament. It is treasured and packed carefully with its brothers and sisters.

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