Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Math + Knitting = Pain

I recently finished a lovely summer sweater with flutter sleeves, called Summer Romance.  I plan on wearing it this week once I get my hands on some clear deodorant!  Here's the finished product:

I am very happy with how this turned out.  The yarn I used is elann's Luna, a DK-weight rayon/cotton blend.  It has beautiful drape and sheen, making this a very luxurious garment.  I barely had to block it at all---only at the top, to keep the curls on the neck and flutter sleeves reasonable (cotton curls like WHOA).  I was nervous when knitting this because the yarn had little give, and it was a wildly different fiber and weight than what the pattern recommended (a sport-weight alpaca).  Also the silky rayon fibers in the yarn split like nobody's business. Casting this on (and I did a tubular cast-on because apparently I am a masochist) nearly killed me.  But...it looks beautiful and fits like a dream.  I must say that I have been very lucky with knitting garments to size, even for other people.  But I have a feeling that my luck is about to run out.

Enter the owls sweater. I've had this pattern in my knitting queue for about 3 years now.  It used to be a free pattern, but due to severe copyright infringements, the designer is no longer offering it free (and I don't blame her after the shit she's had to deal with).  So I cast this on last night.  I'm using this lovely yarn that I got for a steal from Fabric.com called SMC Select Silk Wool.  I got it on clearance for $2.78 a ball, when this yarn normally retailed for about $10 a ball (still does at Jimmy Beans, Yarn Market, and Webs).  Maybe I'm setting myself up for failure at the get-go because this is not the recommended yarn for the pattern, which is Rowan Cocoon, or Rowan Purelife British Chunky.  Once I see the name "Rowan" attached to anything, I know it's too expensive for me.  But my yarn is bulky, as the pattern uses.  I should be ok.  Right?  Yeah.  It's not bulky.  The label says bulky, but the yarn --- though posh and lovely --- is pretty much worsted.  This explains the great yardage in a 50 gm ball (131 yards).  So I have to hold it doubled to get the bizarre pattern gauge, which is 13 stitches and 20 rows to 4 inches.  Believe it or not, I managed to actually get that gauge (yes, I actually knit a gauge swatch)...using 7mm needles, which don't exist in any of the US-made or US-distributed kits I own.  Swell.  I had a set of 7mm straight needles lying around from an epically failed attempt at some British pattern from the Simply Knitting mag called Damson Wine.  But no circulars.  Thank you, Denise Needles, for offering 7mm tips!  For $6.00, I now have a full complement of circular options.  This pattern is supposedly very fitted with negative ease.  I don't usually do negative ease, but versions of this pattern that I've seen that have positive ease look frumpy and lumpy.  Ok, I cast on the 40" size.  Here's me last night:  "Gah! This is too huge! I'm going to go down to the 38" size."  Cast on 38" size. "WTF, this is going to be too small."  Knit ribbing. "No...it looks fine. Wait. Do I have enough yarn?"  Goes to read pattern: "700 yards."  "Ok, I have @780 (using 1570 doubled), so I should be good."  Ribbing done, onto body. "Oh man, I don't know if I have enough yarn...and it still looks too big."  Knit 4 rounds.  "Jeez, now it looks too small."  Yeah.  So this pattern is going to be the death of me.  And I think the problems are largely with the pattern.

Here are the problems with this pattern:

1) the free version I have is about 3-4 tweaks away from the newest, $6.50 version. So the gauge, yardage, shaping, etc. are all a little...well...off, I'm afraid. For example, my version says that the 38" size uses 800 yards. But the pattern notes on Ravelry now say 700.  Mmm-k, which is it?

2) it's knit bottom up instead of top down.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue (I knit that Summer Romance bottom up).  But it's basically a raglan construction and it's really hard to tell how well it will fit when you start knitting it at the waistband. So I have to wait until I get to the owls part to tell if this thing is going to fit or not.

3) over 5500 people have knit some version of this sweater and committed their results to Ravelry. This is a good thing.  I don't think any one of them had the same experience as the other.  This is a bad thing. 

4) the most troubling thing is that nobody seems to be getting the right gauge with the recommended yarn on the recommended needle size.  So it's impossible to tell how much yarn I might actually need.  Another similar frustration is that many people just gave up on knitting this to gauge and just opted to knit something 2-3 sizes bigger (in as varied combinations of yarn, yardage, and needles as could be humanly possible) in order to get a garment that fits them.  This is not an option for me, as a) I could run out of yarn and b) the largest size on my pattern is 42".  The newer, not-free version has 2 sizes above that.  Sigh.

5) the neckline looks really weird on many sweaters.  I don't have the mental strength to look at 5500 projects, but the several hundred that I have looked at seem to have varying degrees of success with the neck.  Sometimes it looks perfect.  More often, it looks WAY too wide, almost like an off-the-shoulder neckline.  I can't do the Flashdance look; I need to wear a bra. So I'm concerned about this.  And there doesn't seem to be any mods or help with adjusting this, unless I knit it from the neck down.

6) this sweater generally does not look great on people with big boobs.  A few have done it and it looks good.  But again, they all seem to have veered wildly from the actual pattern to get it to look that way.

So I have a feeling that I'm going to be "winging" a lot on this sweater.  I toyed (and am still toying) with the idea of re-starting it, but from the neck down. A few people on Ravelry have posted that they adjusted the pattern to knit it this way.  Because for me, the biggest issue is the bust.  If it's too tight across the bust, then it doesn't matter if it fits everywhere else.  Ill-fitting sweaters are a no-no for me.  And knitting it top down will also give me a better idea about the yarn and if I'll have enough of it.  UGH, but that means doing math. I really don't want to have to do math to knit a sweater.

Hmm... decisions, decisions....

The bottom line is that I want to be able to look at a pattern, cast-on, knit it, and get a result that will fit; is that so much to ask?

No comments: