Thursday, April 10, 2008
In Which the KG Takes Her Revenge. Again.
Two hours. That's how long it took me to produce this swatch.
Two hours, and three needle sizes, and a flip chart for the lace pattern. It's not as easy as it looks. Not only is this a "true" lace, in that every row is a pattern row--no resting on the wrong side--but it also incorporates an "eight stitch cable" that requires not one but two cable needles to execute. You have to slip one stitch to the front on one needle, slip six stitches to the back on another needle, knit one, then work the six back stitches in a knit and purl pattern, then finally knit the first stitch from the first cable needle. If you didn't quite get that, imagine my struggles to figure out how to execute it without using any cable needles. I did, eventually. It requires some interesting acrobatics that leave my wrists a bit sore, but it beats trying to hang onto all those different cable needles.
Imagine, then, how long it took to produce this:
Now double that, because I knitted it twice. Not for fun, you understand. In all that swatching (and I even washed my swatches and measured them after blocking), I came to the conclusion that I liked the yarn best knitted at a somewhat smaller gauge than the pattern called for. After a bit of quality time with my calculator, I decided that I could use my gauge and just knit one size up and end up with the right size. So I cast on for the L/XL and worked about 25 rows. 25 140-stitch rows. Of lace.
Now I'll admit that it never really looked right. From the first row, I was questioning the sizing. It looked big. But I checked the numbers and everything worked out. So I kept knitting. It continued to look big. I checked the numbers again. I checked my gauge. I was a little off--maybe one stitch over four inches. But with a gauge of 26-28 stitches to four inches, this didn't seem terribly important. By the time I was nearing the end of the first lace repeat, though, there was no denying that this thing was going to be huge. I stopped and measured again. And now I was getting the original gauge specified in the pattern, and was in fact knitting a 42.5" chest for my 35" bust. There was nothing to do but rip it all out.
I bit the bullet and ripped. Then I turned on American Idol and cast on again, this time using the S/M pattern. By the time Simon was slinging his final insult, I was feeling pretty good about my progress. I did notice that some of my stitches were not as tight as they should be and made a conscious effort to tighten things up a bit.
Which may be why, when I pulled it out again today, it looked a little...small. Yes indeed. I am now knitting a size XS. Instead of a 37.5" chest, I am knitting a 34.5" chest. I am a little miffed. I'm not a slave to gauge. I see it as a suggestion rather than an absolute. I don't worry too much about my knits growing or stretching a bit, because that is the nature of knitting. It stretches. It grows. It changes when exposed to water or steam or normal wear. So it doesn't matter all that much to me if I'm off by half a stitch over four inches or a couple inches in the finished product, which is why I generally don't swatch as...rigorously...as some knitters do. But this time I did swatch rigorously. I swatched and I washed and I blocked and I calculated, and the end result is just as screwed up as it could possibly be had I thrown caution to the wind and just started knitting.
So the obvious dilemma is this: I have now knitted this sweater in both the S/M and L/XL sizes, and there was eight inches difference between the two with the two entirely different gauges I seem to have gotten with the same yarn and same needles. So what do I do? Keep working on the current version and trust in the magic of blocking? Rip and re-knit the larger size, even though I know it will probably end up being way too big? Rip the thing and pretend I never saw this pattern? Throw myself on the mercy of the Knitting Goddess, who is clearly not done with me yet, and beg her forgiveness for ever daring to cast on in the first place? After the endless labor of Death By Cables and the unfinished disaster of the Retro Ribby Shrug, I could really use a win here. What do you think?