Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lessons From Swatching

I've been wanting to knit this sweater ever since I first saw it on Janet's website. It's the Set-in Sleeve Aran in Janet's book Aran Sweater Design.

Since I want my next project to be written in English and a pattern I can follow with no or minor modifications, it appeared to be time to knit this sweater.

I also wanted to knit another sweater with Knitpicks Andean Treasure, a heathery sport weight baby alpaca. It's soft, cuddly, and a pleasure to wear. Like cashmere only much less pricey.

I assumed this sweater pattern would be perfect for the Alpaca because:
  • The cables aren't intense. (Andean Treasure has mediocre to poor stitch definition.)
  • There is no ribbing (Andean Treasure ribbing is worthless.)
  • The pattern is drapy so I could knit with a loose enough gauge to get pattern gauge, 5 stitches/inch in sand stitch.

One of the lessons from FLAK is that for an Aran sweater (or any sweater with multiple and diverse stitch patterns), it pays to knit a large swatch.

I like to swatch from the center panel back to the side seam. This almost guarantees a perfect fitting sweater. Plus it gives opportunity to become acquainted with the stitches (Do I want to knit this stitch for an entire sweater? Does this stitch look OK in this yarn at this gauge?)and the fabric (Is it too loose? Too tight? Is the color OK for this stitch pattern?)

I got stitch gauge, 5 stitches/inch in sand stitch, with my first swatch on #4 needles. But the row gauge was way off, 9 rows/inch instead of the needed 7.5 rows/inch.

Remember, I want to be lazy and not have to calculate and plan. Row gauge matters in this pattern, so I tried a second swatch with a #5 needle. The stitch gauge remained at 5, but there were still too many rows.

I knit a third swatch on #6 needles. The fabric was too loose, there weren't enough stitches/inch, and there were still too many rows.

Then I noticed what could have spared me knitting the last two swatches if I had been paying attention instead of stubbornly trying to get the Andean Treasure to work with this pattern. To fit, I needed 10 inches from center to side seam. The swatches have 13 inches from center to side seam.

Note to myself: Just because you make gauge on the filler stitch doesn't mean the sweater is going to come out the size you want. Measure the whole swatch! That's why you knit it!

Instead of the cables popping they plopped and spread.

They plopped because the Andean Treasure is sport weight so the fabric was loose and they plopped because alpaca doesn't have good stitch definition. So with two good reasons to plop, the plopping was impressive. Three inches worth of spreading.

Using Andean Treasure for this pattern won't work. Now I need to decide if I'm going to find another pattern for the yarn or find another yarn for the sweater or knit something completely different.

No comments: