Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Paying penance for sins against the Fair Isle gods

For give me Fair Isle gods, for I have sinned . . .

LotusPhoto.JPGSome of you may remember that I purchased a kit for the Dale of Norway Lotus sweater waaaay back at the beginning of the year. I had intended to knit that sweater during the spring and summer figuring that it would keep me occupied during my long “no buying yarn” months.


As all of you probably noticed, I did not knit the sweater over the summer. In fact, I didn’t even take the yarn out of the bag until this past weekend. What took me so long? Well, honestly, I was a bit fearful of starting the sweater because I did not want to swatch for it.

Normally I am a very dedicated and compulsive swatcher when it comes to working on pieces where size matters. (When size doesn’t matter, I pretend that I don’t know what the word swatch means.) I knit good-sized swatches, I wash them, block them, and then measure them. If a swatch is not up to snuff, I repeat the process.

Now that I have sung my own praises about my excellent swatching technique, I have a confession to make. I don’t swatch in the round—not even for pieces that will be ultimately knit in the round. I know the swatch police would like to arrest me for this practice, but they shouldn’t. I have learned, through experience, that my flat-knitting gauge does not differ from my in-the-round knitting gauge. So no problems! Usually.

Lotus is obviously a Fair Isle sweater and, like all Dale of Norway Fair Isle sweaters, is knit in the round. Now I may think that I’m the most perfect even stockinette knitter in the world, but I am not foolish enough to think that my gauge knitting Fair Isle flat is exactly the same as my gauge knitting Fair Isle in the round. On the contrary, I know without even trying that my gauge knitting Fair Isle flat will be drastically different from knitting it in the round. That’s why I didn’t start Lotus sooner—I didn’t want to swatch Fair Isle in the round.

But over the weekend I bit the bullet. I started swatching for Lotus. And I really, truly tried to swatch it in the round. I tried the long-float-across-the-back method and the knit-tube-to-cut-open method but both methods were so fiddly for me that I was sure that I wasn’t going to get an accurate gauge measurement anyway. Plus the swatches looked like crap. So the swatches were frogged and I knit the dang swatch flat. Shame on me.

I know that I was asking for trouble but I felt that the troubles that I was inflicting on myself for knitting the swatch flat would be equivalent to the troubles that would happen if I depended on the gauge from an ugly swatch produced by an overly fiddly method. And, I reasoned, at least if I knit the swatch flat, I wouldn’t be irritated making the swatch. I’m sure many of you would tell me that doing Fair Isle on the purl side is rather fiddly as well, but at least it’s a fiddliness that I have dealt with before and that I can manage without wanting to throw the knitting across the room.

So I knit the swatch flat. Initially the gauge was a bit tight, but a nice bath and overnight air drying caused the swatch to bloom to just the right size. I cast on with only minor anxiety.

I knit the bottom border. Hmmm. Seems a bit too wide. Oh well, you can’t really measure a narrow piece like that on the needles. La de da. After knitting the border, I measured the length of my needle—it’s supposedly a 40” Addi, but it’s really a 38.75” Addi. Cheaters. But at least that explains why the piece will fit on the needle when joined in the round. Perhaps the piece isn’t too wide after all. La de da. I started the Fair Isle bit. I knit and knit and knit. 270 stitches + 6 cutting stitches every round is a lot to knit.

LotusStart.JPGThen, for some reason, I felt compelled to measure my gauge. It is TOO BIG. Imagine that. It’s off by one lousy stitch over four inches, which is close, but as my junior high history teacher always said, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” One lousy stitch over 270 stitches is 1.5 inches. That’s 1.5 inches of extra ease on something that will already have about 3 inches of ease. Also, that gauge was measured before washing and blocking so the final gauge is probably off by more than one lousy stitch. Nope. It isn’t going to work.

It shall be frogged. I will go down a needle size. I will measure my gauge again and hope and pray that it will be right.

One shining point in my sad trip to the frog pond—I’ll be able to replace the ugly, curling mesh border pattern with a simple, sturdy, non-curling garter stitch border.

What does one do after she’s offended the Fair Isle gods? Go pay homage to the Cable gods, of course!



Valerie said...

Cat-free just for me? :)

The cabled sweater is looking great!

How are you having problems knitting a swatch in the round?

Rebekah said...

My junior high teacher would have added, "and atomic bombs"

I hate swatching in the round too. I did a flat swatch for my last fair isle and was completely unhappy, so I'll be looking for a new method come time to start my dad's vest in the next few weeks.

barbie said...

Just thinking about swatching fair isle in the round makes my brain hurt. I hope going down a needle size is all you need. (I'd rather frog and re-knit than do fiddly swatching, too. Yuck.)

Debby said...

That is one beautiful sweater, and hopefully still worth the trouble you are taking with that gauge. That's how it starts...the pink item calls you like the Sirens to knit it, and it's only at the point of no return when you realize what you're in for. But it is beautiful!

And the pink cable sweater! Must. finish. navy. CPH. and knit. pink. again.

amylovie said...

That color of pink is so Laura.


Karen said...

I refuse to swatch in the round. I try to avoid patterns that say to. I won't do it and you can't make me.

The cables are lovely.

Meredith said...

That will be beautiful! And the cables sweater is coming along nicely too. Do you always have something pink on the needles? ;)

Mintyfresh said...

ouch! knitting that much and discovering the gauge is off bites. however, the cables look incredibly satisfying.

Cordelia said...

Wow. Those cables are fantastic.
And the sweater will be very pretty.

Anonymous said...

What about making a swatchcap? It's the only method of swatching in the round that doesn't drive me NUTS. You can always frog it for the yarn, or donate it for charity if you don't want it. I hate swatching because I hate having useless things when I'm done.

And I love the pink cables! I think I need some pink yarn.

Rachel said...

Tell me you did not whip out that whole cable piece just as a diversion from fair isle. Tell me you've been working on it for ages. (If my brain cells had any life left in them they might be able to recall whether I've seen that cabled sweater before on your blog, but they don't.)

You know, it really doesn't matter about your gauge being off, because I bet that annoying curling on the lacy border would have driven you to eventually frogging anyway. Shame.

Me, I don't really swatch. I just knit something and then find someone that it will fit. Lazy but generous. :)

Jennifer said...

Ack swatching... It does save you in the long run though.

I love the cable sweater you're working on! Gorgeous.

Terby said...

I'm enamoured with the cable sweater, even with my preference for any color other than pink. I agree that a different edging will look a lot better with the other sweater.

s t a c i said...

I recently finished a fair-isle-in-the-round sweater, and swatched flat and got gauge. It came out fine, but only because the 100% wool yarn was SO forgiving. I only had to turn the steamer on in the other room, and the yarn went "Ahh. Relaxing now. Here's your gauge."


~drew emborsky~ said...

wow, the cable-gods must loooove you!!

Jeanne said...

I knit wrist cuffs to get gauge in the round. You can find my newest blog (literally two posts in) on blogspot. I got tired of paying for space on this my previous incarnation www.flitknits.com/myblog where you can link via the last post to my newer blog. Not nearly as many pretty pictures on either as you have!
~Jeanne from SnB

Dorothy said...

If it makes you feel any better, the Fair Isle gods have bitten me in the butt on more than one occasion. I usually don't do a gauge in the round either, but just forge ahead. I've made a few and have a good idea of what my gauge will be - but that doesn't always mean it works. I think on my next one I'm going to start with a sleeve and make that my gauge - and also conquer my other big bugaboo - getting the body done and letting it sit for a year or two before I do the sleeves!