Saturday, February 20, 2016

A PSA Regarding Knitting Needles and Cake

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck. ― Dalai Lama XIV
So, I've been trying to make something out of this yarn for a while now. I spent a bunch of time waiting for a pattern book to arrive in the library for it, and while I waited, I did a bunch of daydreaming and re-designing of the pattern in my head. Once I had the pattern in hand, though, my gut told me that it wasn't quite right.

I searched for another pattern, and finally settled on Svetlana Volkova's Bloomsbury. I did what a good garment-knitter does: I knit a bunch of swatches to make sure I got the right gauge. I usually only need to knit one, because I either get the right gauge right away, or I re-work the pattern to work with the gauge I am getting. I finally settled on the latter: I just couldn't get the right gauge, even though I used larger and larger needles. I dared not go any larger for fear that the whole thing would turn into a floppy mess. So... I did some re-calculations and decided to use the instructions for a larger size in order to get a sweater that would fit me.

And then, I went out to a yarn store and bought new needles. That's where it kinda went wrong.

See the needles below? Those are the needles I knit the final deciding swatch with:

But the needles were old aluminum ones that I almost never used because it's a size 10 needle, and I knit very few projects with that size. The cord was driving me crazy: it's so stiff that it was making it impossible to knit this sweater in the round. Since they were the only set I had in that size, I decided to treat myself to some better needles... nice wooden ones with a flexible cord. They're so great, so easy to knit with, perfect for knitting this sweater...

Gauge Rule #1: You should always knit your project with the needles you knit your gauge swatch with. This is because all needles are ever-so-slightly different, even if they are the same size.

Gauge Rule #2: If you decide to change needles before you start your project, you should re-swatch and check to see that you are still getting the same gauge, even if they are the same size as the needles you swatched with before.



I didn't do that. I cast on with my nifty new needles and sailed along, right down to the point where I separated the stitches for the sleeves, and was just starting to knit the body.

And then I said, "Hmm... I wonder if my gauge is still the same?"

Guess what that answer was. Sigh.

So, I made a cake. Earl Grey Chocolate Cake, moist and delicious and perfect with a cup of tea:

I had a piece, then I went back to my sweater. I put the work-in-progress on some spare yarn and tried it on. Yeah... it was really big around my bust. I measured the gauge again and realized that it was going to be about five inches too large in the bust. Gah.

Luckily, the instructions at the bust were to cast on a bunch of extra stitches. I did some math, and decided I could potentially save the whole thing if I cast on only six stitches at each armpit, instead of the prescribed sixteen. All being well, that would give me about an inch and a half of spare space around the bust... nice and comfy, not too big, not too small. 

I was a bit worried that, since I started with a larger size, the shoulders and arms would be too large, but I think it's going to be ok. I usually have to fiddle with those parts of the pattern since I'm so broad in the shoulders and my upper arms are larger than what most patterns account for. This debacle, along the resulting adjustment, means that I may have inadvertently fiddled my way into a perfect-fitting sweater.

Well, that's the hope.

Here's what it looks like right now, panda added for scale:

This is the back. It sure is pretty, even if it's a bit of a nerve-wracking knit:

So, let this be a warning to you all:

1) Swatch for your projects.
2) Re-swatch if you decide to use different needles, EVEN IF THEY ARE THE SAME SIZE.
3) Cake is important. Make it and enjoy in moderation.

That is all. As you were, everyone.

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