Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Multnomah Mystery - or maybe not

So, the hours got moved back, I got an extra hour of sleep (allegedly) and started a new project this weekend. I wanted to use the two skeins of sock yarn that have been languishing in my basket for a few months. They are JL Yarn from Salvia that I got cheap from someone destashing some of their yarn on Etsy.

I have a terrible weakness for variegated yarns. They look so beautiful all wound up in their skeins, tempting me with their rich colours and fascinating colour pairings. And yet... they are really difficult to work with, especially when you don't like how the colours play out in the fabric.

The main method I use for breaking up the cacophony of colours is to try to choose a stitch pattern that changes direction as you knit or crochet. Often, this involves lace patterns or dropping stitches or knitting chevrons... whatever the case, the idea is to make the eye move around so that you're not just looking at the colours all splodged together. Rather, you are forced to make sense of the structure at the same time.

This time, after looking through many pages of projects to try on Ravelry, I decided to knit the extremely popular Multnomah shawlette pattern. It is knit in garter stitch which increases outwards from the shoulders to create a triangular shape, and is then finished off in feather and fan lace at the bottom edge. I was intrigued by the way such a simple stitch as garter stitch seems to add a depth and texture to the yarn. Again, the increases cause the stitches to radiate outwards towards the shoulders, forcing the eye to move to follow the line of the garment. Fascinating.

So, I cast on the required amount of stitches and worked all of the increases until I reached the stitch count where you're supposed to start the lace section.

But it's so small.

I've looked through other people's projects and found that it's supposed to grow when you block it, but I don't think that's the case here. I haven't even used up all the yarn in the first skein, and each skein has roughly 200 metres. I'm even using needles a size larger than stated in the pattern because I just didn't have ones in the right size. So... what's going on?

I'd love to say that there is something mysterious and weird going on here, but I know exactly what the problem is. I didn't swatch. Alright? I just didn't do it.

For those who don't know what swatching is, it's where you knit up a square roughly 5 inches by 5 inches in the stitch that you'll be using most in the pattern, and then measure how many stitches per inch you are achieving. If you have more stitches per inch than the pattern requires, you try again at a larger-sized needle - less, and you try with a smaller one. It means that you make garments that fit and that you don't waste hours and hours of your time on something you'll never wear.

So yeah, I swatch... usually. I do it when I want to make a sweater that I know will fit around my bust, or a skirt that I don't want to cling to my belly. I do it basically for everything that I plan on wearing.

Except for shawls.

My reasoning was that, well... this thing is going to sit on my shoulders and nothing else. It'll fit, right?

Well, not if it turns out to be a handkerchief.

So... lesson learned. But I'm not ripping this out - I'm way too far gone for that. I'm just going to knit in garter stitch until I get a size that is comparable to the picture before I start the lace section. It's a darn good thing it's in garter stitch though. I don't think I'd take it so well if I had to figure out all sorts of math to make a lace pattern work. I think I just need to end up with a multiple of 18, and the designer has already listed the multiples on her project page in Ravelry.

I guess things never seem to work out as you mapped it out in your head, but apparently that makes you more adaptable and less prone to... well, extinction, according to Darwin. But that's a whole other subject...


YarnKettle said...

I knit one and it is small. Bigger than a kerchief, but still small. I even thought the same thing when I reached the correct spot to start the lace portion, I kept knitting in garter and started the lace (at the right multiple) when I had half the yarn used by weight.
I thought it would be Ok and it looks great, just not on me. So I am gifting it to someone for Christmas. I think she will love it. I have now started the same pattern with a sport weight alpaca and am loving it.

AdrieneJ said...

That is very comforting! I think it will be alright in the end, but I do love the thought of trying it in alpaca! Yum!