Monday, November 26, 2012

Finishing the body, and a note about gauge


A couple smallish road trips will do wonders for getting your knitting done.  I had this on my lap during a snowstorm as we drove in the back streets of suburban Buffalo, NY, and with the flakes sprinkling down around the streetlamps and the cozy golden windows and holiday lights and the hot coffee and Andy Williams on the radio, all things conspired to put me in a soft and happy frame of mind. 

The body of this, my adaptation of Sidsel Hoivik’s “Candy Jacket” (pattern published only in print copy and Norwegian, but forthcoming in a new book, according to Sidsel herself.  Stay tuned and keep checking Ravelry) has so far been the easy part.  At the bottom edge of the granny square bodice, I single-crocheted a few rows, working the last through the front loops only, leaving the back loops free for picking up knit stitches.


I picked up one stitch for each crochet loop and hoped it would be close to the number of stitches needed to fit me.  Here’s where you really have to do a gauge swatch.  I can hear you all sighing; I know, gauge swatches are annoying—they take up time when you really just want to get to it, and what’s worse, they will totally lie to you.  I know.  Gauge swatches can lie like a rug.  But they’re the only chance you have, apart from wild guessing, at getting an end result that will fit you.  To do this, I knit a small sample in stockinette stitch, using the yarn I chose and the needle I hoped would work—in this case, Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool in Oatmeal and US 7—and then used a ruler on it to find out how many stitches I was getting per inch; 4.75.  [Don’t round up or down—that extra .75 of a stitch happens every inch, and if you multiply that by something like 40 inches, which is the distance around some part of most people, you’ll be either adding or subtracting 30 stitches in total, which will cause you big problems and make you hate your sweater in the end, and make you think you can’t knit, which is madness because of course you can, all you need to do is swatch and do the math!] 


Okay, so once I knew how many stitches I would get per inch if I used this yarn and that needle, and I knew how big around I was at the part of my body where this waist join would hit me when I wore the jacket, I knew how many stitches I would need to pick up here.  So I did that, and then just started working my way toward the hem, increasing at the sides every few rows to accommodate my own increasing circumference as you go down toward the hem, and to create the skirt shape.  After awhile, I added the simple eyelet pattern, switching at that point to working the increases at the front opening edges so as not to disrupt the pattern, and then at the end, a couple rows of stranded knitting to add the little beads of color.  [Remember, this is Sidsel’s original design—none of this is my own.  I’m just working by the seat of my pants in poor imitation.]


I steam-blocked it at this point, to give me an idea of how it would drape.  More sighs!  Well, I am hardly ever going to tell you not to block something, because it honestly makes a huge difference in your work.  Here’s this piece before:


Not too bad in this stitch pattern, a little bunchy maybe.  Some stitch patterns at this point will look like an egg carton.  Anyway, here it is after I blasted it with a steam iron:


See?  It matters.  Blocking is key.  If you’re going to spend all that time and money on a project, you want it to look its very best, and blocking is the way.  Steam blocking is nothing more than hovering the hot iron full of water over the project and letting the steam whoosh out over it.  I smooth it with my hand as I go—carefully, the steam is very hot—maybe pulling the piece into place here and there.  I’m not pressing the piece; the iron doesn’t really touch the yarn at all. 


Sleeves next!  Should I start at the cuff and work up, or pick up at the armholes and work down?  Hmm, a puzzle.