Monday, November 17, 2014

Lessons in Humility: Gauge Edition

Just about a year ago, I started a stranded sweater for my husband (Streymoy from Knitty Winter 2013). I even posted photos of the swatches and the buttons on this here blog and promptly never wrote about it again. I was pretty excited about the project, as I already had the yarn in my stash and my husband liked the look of it. We decided between us that we'd prefer it as a pullover, rather than a cardigan, and I got started swatching.

My first swatch with the recommended needle size got me 15 stitches per 4 inches. Since the pattern gauge was meant to be 20 sts/4", I needed to go down at least a needle size. The next swatch got me 18 sts/4", which was closer to gauge, but not quite there. And here's where I got myself into trouble: I was really anxious to get started knitting, so I did some math and calculated that I could use the directions for the men's large size and have it fit with 2" or so of ease. My math was wrong. Terribly, comically wrong. Like 4" too big around the chest wrong. It was so frustrating! Even worse, it had taken me a solid two months to knit it wrong, and I was disgusted with it. I unraveled my work and set the yarn aside to taunt me at different times throughout the year.

I picked it up again this fall, determined to make a sweater that fit. I took a hard look at the swatches and the sleeves that I hadn't unraveled. I also took another look at the math and determined that my calculations had been off by .25 stitches per inch, which was just the difference between a sweater that would fit my husband and a sweater that would fit Rubeus Hagrid. Anyway, with this reevaluation of my mathing, I decided that following the directions for the men's medium size would end in a sweater that my husband could wear in public, not just in our frigid basement.

The two months of futile knitting last fall seems to have made this fall's knitting go really fast. The stranded charts were easy to memorize, and it felt like it took me no time at all to knit the body portion of the sweater. Once it was long enough, I had my husband try it on. It fit! I was so happy! I was less happy, though, at the prospect of having to re-knit the sleeves. As they were knit to stitch counts of the large size, I didn't want to try to calculate the adjustments necessary to make them work with the new body. It only took about a week to re-do the sleeves and join them to the body.

Now that I had one big garment on the needles, I marked off the steek stitches for the collar and began the raglan shoulder decreases. The designer did a fantastic job here by planning the decreases in such a way that it ended up a little more like a saddle shoulder than a true raglan, which I think made for a better-fitting neckline than most. Once I completed the shoulders and neck, it was time to prepare the steek stitches for cutting.

I'm not gonna lie: just the thought of cutting my knitting makes me want to pee my pants. What if I cut too far? What if I cut in the wrong place? What if the reinforcements don't hold? What if??? I was really sweating it. In the end, I followed Kate Davies' steeking instructions: I did the crochet reinforcements and cut that sweater right down the middle. I even stopped in the right place. The only thing I think I'll do differently if I ever do another short steek is that I'll bind off the stitches meant to be at the base of the collar, which I think will add a little strength. It's a small thing, I think, but one that could help the sweater's durability.

With the steek cut, I picked up stitches for the shawl collar. I made it a 1x1 rib to match the cuffs and bottom ribbing. I had originally followed Jared Flood's collar instructions from the Brownstone pullover, but it ended up with too much fabric at the back of the neck, so I undid it and reduced the number of short rows by half. This made the collar fit my husband much better. I finished it with an i-cord bind off, incorporating the buttonholes as I bound off. As soon as I added the buttons, I made my husband try it on. It fit! We were both pretty happy about it. As I hadn't washed and blocked it when I took the photos, you're seeing it fit more snugly than it does since it was washed. As it was a lot of sweater (bulky-weight yarn, stranded), I filled the tub of my washing machine with water & wool wash and let it soak. I briefly considered blotting it dry by hand, but changed my mind when I lifted it out of the washer and found it was really, really heavy wet. I decided the better plan would be to use the spin cycle (skipping the agitation) to remove most of the water from the sweater. Then I laid it out on the guest bed, getting it to its proper shape and size and let it dry for a few days.

Since I finished it, my husband has gotten to wear it a couple times and has told me how much he loves it, which makes me pretty happy. He's so knitworthy! There's yarn leftover from this project and I'm trying to decide if I want to make something for myself from it. I've found a couple patterns I like, but I haven't made up my mind yet. That decision may need a little time to percolate.

So, Friends, that's it for tonight. Until next time.


  1. It looks great, no wonder he loves it.

    1. Thanks! He was pretty excited while I was knitting it - he kept checking on its progress.