Swatches are for losers

Thank the knitting gods that I have smart friends, virtual and real-life.

1. You were all absolutely right: the chart as I had it doesn’t knit up nearly as nice (left) as when all left- and right-slanting decreases are reversed (right).


Not that it matters, because…

2. You were all absolutely right – yarnovers with sportweight yarn are wonderful for scarves, shawls, throws, but not the smartest idea for a pullover.

(the mistakes in this make me cringe)

Two reasons: first, this pattern results in very lacey fabric, which doesn’t match the inspiration and which won’t give me the look I want. Second, the fabric grows tremendously when blocked even without putting it under tension, making it very difficult to account for the stretch while planning the correct sizing. This type of math is a full-time job without a matching paycheck.

3. You were all absolutely right – it is the silhouette of the sweater that I’m after. The eyelets of the original are hardly noticeable and as I noted above, not trivial to reproduce without going completely bonkers.

So, I switched gears – done with lace, on with stockinette!

I draped a tape measure around my wrist and decided that a 14″ circumference at the cuff would give me nice bell-shaped sleeves. Because wide sleeves are fun, and long sleeves are fun, but wide and long sleeves are no fun at all (they get in the way of everything!), I decided that my sleeves would be 16 3/4″ long to armpit, which will hit right above my wrist bone, or whatever it’s called. I admit all of these choices were made on a whim.

From knitting and washing a stockinette swatch, I knew the fabric was going to grow after blocking, so I took that into account, made my calculations, and cast on.

I decided to knit a folded hem at the cuff, which mimics the bands of the inspiration sweater. I think I’m liking it so far:

Once I had completed a good, oh, 10″, I reached a nice stopping point (joining skeins) and decided to dip the lower three quarters of my knitting into water and block it, just to double check gauge.

According to my calculations, the 13″ cuff was supposed to expand to 14″, but immediately after its bath, it expanded to 17″. I didn’t exactly panic because this is a sleeve, a sleeve of a Kimono-inspired sweater, so a little wider is okay. But of course I was a bit ticked off.

The sleeve dried (not under tension), and lo and behold, it shrunk to something like 15.5″ at the cuff once dry! I’m no stranger to rapidly-changing gauge, so I said, okay, I guess I have to work with this. I readjusted my calculations, picked up where I left off, and started to work my way towards the sleeve cap.

I little while later, I decided to re-measure the gauge in the previously measured section and I found that it had changed once again. This time the cuff stayed the same width, but the row gauge changed. I don’t know why, but I guess from handing the fabric? I readjusted my calculations once again.

After all this, tell me – what is the purpose of a gauge swatch? A small one does more harm than good because it hardly ever translates accurately to a larger piece of fabric, and even a gauge swatch that’s about 15″ wide and 10″ long (the blocked portion of my sleeve) likes to change its mind every 10 rows.

Or is it this yarn? Don’t tell me it’s my little angel baby kitty bunny goodness foofoo yarn’s fault ;).

Because of many changes along the way (but no ripping – it’s a sleeve!), the sleeve shaping of this particular garment will be very… how should I put it… non-standard. I’m very optimistic, though, because there isn’t that much shaping – the sleeve decreases in a non-uniform, non-standard fashion from somewhere between 14-17″ at the cuff (depending during which stage of the blocking process the sleeve is measured), to what I hope will be 12.5″ before the sleeve cap. I guess I’ll have to see about that.

Just wait till I start freaking out when this same bullshit happens while I knit the body of the sweater, where precise fit is SO important.

Carole tagged me for the knitting spot meme. Carole, I must tell you that because I live in the tiniest of apartments (most would call my space a very spacious walk-in closet), my knitting is everywhere. Not just knitting, in fact – whatever the fixation of the moment happens to be, it overtakes everything. Anyway, we all have some voyeur tendencies, and as curious as I am to have a sneak peek at your house, so you at my.


My couch, witness of much knitting action – I sit in the middle third and the rest of it is covered with knitting, books, sketches, yarn, etc. I have a wicker basket to keep current WIPs, but if it’s a true work in progress, it lives on my couch. The lowest shelf of my bookshelf houses my knitting books, and often I sit on the floor right in front of it as I browse (my view is exactly as you see in this picture).

Should I tag some folks? Pretty new meme, so why not – Stephanie, Purly, and Angela – if you’d like to show us your knitting spots, we’d love to see them!

In other news, I finally have all the supplies to start my mom’s shawl, namely, the yarn and the needles. But that deserves a whole separate post (besides, I don’t think I’ll get a chance to start until this weekend).


14 thoughts on “Swatches are for losers

  1. KathyB

    Wow, your couch looks JUST LIKE my futon. Always the middle third, and the rest strewn with all the bits of necessary knitting detritus. 🙂

  2. yahaira

    Would knitting it from the top down change anything or would the random gauge changes be even more obvious? Actually, you’d probably be able to catch them faster if you block as you go.

    or maybe it’s the yarn’s fault. yep, it’s the yarn!

  3. Lorraine

    Just a thought on the pattern…if you still like the idea of diamonds, you could easily replicate the look with purled stitches. Just put the purls where the yo’s would be, and voila, a well-behaved diamond-patterned fabric.

  4. Kathy

    I was just going to say the same thing as Christine – it would be simple enough to make a diamond pattern that didn’t involve holes of any kind. The pattern would make the knitting more interesting, and the end result would look more like your inspiration.

  5. michele

    my very first knit had very small yarn-over eyelets, by mistake of course, but it works. just make your yarn-overs by wrapping the wrong way. it creates a hardly noticeable eyelet and my family loves that their toes don’t poke through the afghan.

  6. diana

    Yes, that lace pattern would make quite a revealing garment and not the look that you are going for. As for the gauge, I know you might not want to hear this, but it may be the yarn…

  7. Theresa

    They stole my idea: I’d recommend a knit and purl diamond pattern – a little texture would go a long way, and might (note, I said might) give the fabric a little more firmness re: changing gauge. And I think your swatches are useful for nailing down the stitch pattern . . . that you almost used.

  8. Stephanie

    Interesting business with this gauge stuff. And I thought it was just me. Glad to know that even the masters don’t always get what they need from a swatch. Thanks for the tag – I’ll work in it in the next day or two.

  9. Kenny

    Hi Kathy. I just love reading about your knitting experience. There is so many tips/tricks that I can pick up from your writing.

    I too recently knitted a sweater that has a non-constant gauge. Blocking is so important in some yarns. What yarn is it that you’re using?

    Out of curiosity, do you always make up your pattern as you go?

    It’s funny, your knitting spot just looks like mine. I have a blue couch, where I sit in the middle and have all the knitting and books on both sides. I also have that book Sweater Design made Simple. I sit in the middle and have the TV in front of me and I have a little book shelf right next to the TV with all my knitting books too.

    Rock on Gurl!

  10. Purly Whites

    Hey! Thanks for the tag. I’ll post where I knit sometime soon.

    Interesting that you are having gauge issues. I guess the yarn versus knitter on being the problem would best be decided if you normally have these sorts of gauge issues. If not, well then, I’d blame the yarn.

    But! I’m so glad you are sticking with a sweater of this type. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with.

  11. Faith Fiberflash

    It’s so cool that you’re sharing with us how to design an item. I really appreciate all the time you’re taking, as well as looking forward to the ensuing pattern!! =)

  12. Genny


    After going back to your inspiration photo, I agree with the above, it will need a texture of some description (well I think) purl bumps is great idea or beading or even after the fact embroidery (take the kimono theme to the extreme)

    well thats just my thoughts…

  13. thayer

    Just a side note–when I was at anthropologie a couple days ago, this sweater was on the sale rack. Might check your local store if you are interested.

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