I have said I don’t like to swatch because swatches lie. Reasonable knitters, knitters who knit really beautiful things, things that fit and don’t sag and aren’t too tight just gasped in horror. “Don’t swatch?” They all said as they retired to the fainting couch in their salons. That’s right. I said it. I’m proud of it. I do not swatch. (insert image of me sticking out my tongue)
But, but, but…I hear you say. How do you get anything that fits. Well that’s because I really prefer casting on for the back of a garment, knitting a large enough portion to get a good measurement and then compare it to the gauge recommended in the pattern. This way I’m pretty sure of getting something that will fit me the way I want it to and I’m half-way done. I do this because I have learned that sometimes those tiny gauge swatches lie. They are pretty and you could probably sew them together into some kind of a sampler afghan and have them handy at all times, just embroider the yarn, needle size and gauge on the back and you will never have to knit another swatch again. But I’ve been knitting for 52 years now and have always done it this way. I’m too old and crotchety to change now.
A prime example of why I do this is my current project. I needed a fancy top to wear to my company’s Christmas party which is now only five days away. I know, I know but I’m a hopeless optimist and I am quite sure I can get this done by then. Anyway, I knit swatches for a couple of different tops simply because I needed them in a hurry and didn’t have time to check gauge my usual way. So for the sweater I’m working on the pattern said 22 sts. and 30 rows on size 3.75mm needles. I swatched. I got 24 sts. so I recalibrated by switching to a size larger needle. I got 20 sts. and 30 rows on size 4mm. Damn! Swatch again and wash and block to see if I could block out the difference. On the larger needles after blocking I got 21 stitches so I thought I could live with it. It wouldn’t be that much tighter and if I knit the larger size it should come out all right.
So I’m knitting away making good progress. Last night I decide to remeasure since I was heading for the armhole shaping and I needed to make some adjustments. The gauge was spot on. 22 stitches and 30 rows. If I had decided to be really picky and go with the swatch I wouldn’t have knit this and I would still be trying to find a pattern that I could knit in five (!) days. So now I am almost finished the front. But I have a problem. A big one that really affects how I am going to adjust the lace panel in the back. I am really bad at math.
That’s right, I said it. There is a lace panel in the back of the sweater. I have adjusted the front waist shaping because they always make the torso too long for a short person like me. This pattern wants 24″ between waist and armhole shaping. I’m 17″. If I knit it 24″ long it would hang funny because it is supposed to be form-fitting. So I took out some of the plain rows of knitting between the bust increases to shorten it. Now I have to adjust the lace pattern accordingly to ensure that I get the best look. The pattern has the repeats calculated perfectly so that you finish the repeats right at the neckline. No unsightly sudden end half-way through the repeat. But for me, I know I’m going to have half a repeat somewhere. But where? Do I want to put it at the neckline where it will be kind of obvious because I have short hair or do I want to put it at the waist and hope no one looks at my butt.
I could if I was mathematical design my own lace pattern to insert in the back but this is where my lack of number sense lets me down. I blame high school. I dropped math in Grade 9 but somehow managed to still pass accounting. Now when I need to find a ratio I’m totally lost but I can balance a checkbook like nobody’s business. Not that I use a checkbook anymore, thank you on-line banking. But if I need anything more than basic math I look it up on-line, try to figure it out according to the instructions, get the wrong answer no matter how many times I do it, cry, then cheat and have one of the sites that calculates stuff for you do it. I do have to wonder how kids learn at school when you can just let the internet do it for you.
I also want to add sleeves to this thing which is a whole different set of calculations and decisions. Do I want them to be lacy? Do I want them 3/4 length? Full length? Do I want them to be slim fit or have a bit of ease? I’m kind of leaning toward a lacy sleeve about 3/4 length and slim fit. So now I have to calculate the repeats of the lace pattern to fit the sleeve and do I want to leave it the same size or make it smaller to fit the smaller width of the fabric? I hate winging things. I like to have it all figured out and written down but I don’t have time for that. I intend to wear it in 5 (!) days.
So now I’m going to have to take some precious time out and do a couple of swatches in the lace pattern to see how I can adjust it so it looks great on a sleeve. And I know that these swatches lie. Which, I suppose, is a bonus because forewarned is prepared or some such platitude. It’s times like this that I completely understand peoples point of view when they ask why I’m knitting something I can just go buy at the store. Quite frankly I’ve been wondering the same thing. I have no guarantees that once this thing is done that it will even look good on me. It’s a nice fabric, a great colour (sapphire) which always suits me, and a pretty sophisticated style so on paper it looks perfect. But there is always the simple fact that my body can be quite contrary at times and just decide that, even though the experts say that style is perfect for me, the sweater is going to look like a burlap sack no matter what I do. That’s when you will find me frantically tearing through the sale racks at H&M looking for something cheap and cheerful two hours before I have to be at the party. And people wonder why I hate going to these things.