Take Time to Save Time

It’s one of those things that’s true no matter how long you’ve been knitting: take time to save time, make a gauge swatch. And I usually do! But sometimes I think I can just eyeball things and know how they’ll turn out. And sometimes that actually works. But this time it didn’t.

My mother-in-law asked me to make her a hat like my handspun Norie, and I was very happy to oblige. I spun up some Polwarth:

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(Hello Yarn, in “Troll” – 2-ply)

And I got to work. The hat went quickly.

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(shown folded) (with random bit of tissue paper that I’m too lazy to edit out right now) (I’m blogging from my phone, on the road)

The hat looked really cute on my mother-in-law:

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But it came out way too big. At first I thought maybe it was just because she has a pretty small head, which i had not really accounted for (with my ginormous noggin, the hat fit me fine, though not particularly snuggly). But then I checked my gauge. The pattern calls for 6sts/inch; my gauge was 4.5sts/inch! If you know how gauge works, then you will understand – even tiny differences in gauge can make big differences in the final size of a project. The difference between 4.5 and 6 stitches per inch can add five inches to the size of a hat, y’all. And it did!

So now I’m frogging and reknitting, which is fine because it’s handspun, so it’s a joy to knit. But still y’all, lesson learned (maybe). Take time to save time! Knit a gauge swatch!

(Instead of going down a couple of needle sizes, I have simply modified the numbers in the pattern to work with the gauge I’m already getting. I love how basic math knowledge empowers a knitter to be the boss of her knitting!)

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I threw away a handknit

On purpose.

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And I’d never even worn it.

This was the first sweater I ever started (not the first one I ever finished, because I paused to make one for My Old Man before this one was done). I made it back in 2006. It’s the To Dye For pullover from Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook. I loved the looks of the pattern because of the bell sleeves and the split sides. I loved the looks of the yarn (Suri from KnitPicks). But the finished product left a lot to be desired. It really only had two flaws, but they were fatal:

  1. It made me look like a lump.
  2. I seamed the armholes too tight.

I could’ve undone and redone the armholes (though in this particular yarn that would’ve been a HUGE pain). But it simply wasn’t worth it for a sweater that was so entirely unflattering on me.

So why did I let it sit in my closet for over seven years? Oh, my typical reasons:

  1. I thought that some day I might turn into a waif and the sweater would suddenly look great on me.
  2. I thought I might frog the sweater and repurpose the yarn.
  3. I hate throwing things away.

I’m running out of places to store the handknits I actually like and wear, so I finally got over these obstacles. I decided not to bother trying to pass this thing off to anyone else – the sleeve seams are just too tight (at least for anyone for whom the body would fit) and the yarn just isn’t worth recycling. I didn’t enjoy knitting with it the first time, why would I (or anyone else) want to knit with it after it had been unknit?

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So I tossed it. This represents progress for me. I hate to throw things away because I always figure that I (or someone else) will have a use for them some day.

Of course the real progress would be if I could always keep in mind that I am not, in fact, a waif, and should never knit patterns just because they look great on waif-like models.

What about you? Ever thrown away a hand knit?

frogged :: Pi Are Boring (Pi Are Squared)

Last Christmas, I gave my mom a handknit shawl. Okay, actually I gave her a gift bag full of yarn and a few knits rows of a shawl. Tacky, I know.

I got to work on the shawl afterwards. My mom specifically wanted a black shawl, and it needed to be of a shape that would go around the back of her wheelchair but still come far enough around on the front to cover her arms. Because she wanted it for warmth, I wanted to go with a pattern and a yarn that wouldn’t be too lightweight. I decided to go with Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Pi Are Squared in Malabrigo Silky Wool (technically a DK, but I knit it at a fairly loose gauge on size 9s).

I had a couple of false starts with it – I couldn’t seem to stay focused on it, and then when I picked it back up I would invariably make some sort of mistake. I finally started again for real in July, and got a little farther than this picture shows. And yeah, now it’s almost Christmas again.

Dad, if you’re reading this, don’t tell Mom!

I have finally come to terms with the fact that I don’t have the heart to make this shawl. I could deal with miles of garter in black yarn if the end results were going to be stunning. But I realized I just didn’t think the end result would be stunning enough.

Enter Back Bay , a new pattern by Kirsten Kapur, as part of the Charles Collection by BHK Cooperative. I saw Kirsten wearing hers at Rhinebeck and it was stunning. I’ve become obsessed with it. I want one right now! It would be a perfect accessory for my wardrobe – totally versatile as a scarf or a stole. I love it!

It finally dawned on me that it would also be perfect for my mom. It’s cozy and stylish, plus long enough to meet her needs. With the lace and the cables, it’s got enough to keep me interested, even in black yarn.

I’ve got more than a month till Christmas, right? I can get this done by then, I think. But given that this is last year’s Christmas gift, I still have no idea what I’m giving her for this Christmas.

By the way, check out Kirsten’s recent blog post about Back Bay. There’s a KAL going on in the Charles Collection Ravelry group – and it’s not too late to join!