Swatches Lie

Posted on Posted in Knit

I know we want to believe that. If we believe that swatches lie, then we don’t have to swatch. Or, if we do swatch and the swatch doesn’t tell us what we want to hear… well, it lies, anyway, we may do what we wish.

And here I am. With a Swatch. It isn’t telling me untruths. It is laying there, beautiful and blocked. Not smug, not chiding, just being knitting. And I hate it. But love it. I am so conflicted, I wish I could pour my angst into poetic verse and fling it into the universe. I wish my angst and longing to be cast into the abyss of swatchless abandon. Still, it is here, with me.

Dear Heavens, Heather! What has brought you to such melodramatic rants?

My Swatch! Haven’t you been listening?

Ok, so here’s the deal.

I have this great yarn. I am not going to torture you with details about my beloved yarn, because it was a special order thing and it isn’t really relevant. I say that because, you have a yarn you love and are so very excited about knitting up into some fabulous something and the issues are the same for you and for me. I found a pattern for my yarn.

I knit this yarn into a lovely (I mean, really lovely) swatch that makes my heart beat a little bit faster. I knit this swatch because I want to make my gorgeous yarn into a sweater that fits me. I washed and blocked my swatch. I waited (im)patiently for my swatch to dry and then I measured my gauge.

And so the melodrama.

My pattern calls for 4.25 stitches per inch. No bigs, you say. Right. I agree. Worsted weight, which my yarn is, manages this easily. Until I measure. I knit my swatch on size 8 needles and size 7 needles. When I pull out my handy-dandy Knit-Chek I measure my gauge at 8.5 sts over 2 inches… in both sections. What? What? Impossible. I can feel that the size 7 is a more firm (and my preference) than the size 8. Check. Re-check. Check again. Insert muttered curses. Think. My eyes are not able to discern the difference between the two.

I can see that the swatch pulls in where I knit with the smaller needle. Let’s measure the entire width. 24 stitches. 5.75 inches on the size 8, 5.5 inches on the size 7. Which translates to 4.1739 stitches per inch on the size 8 and 4.3636 stitches per inch on the size 7. Ok, so there is, indeed a measureable difference. And 1/4 of an inch over 5 inches becomes 2 inches in a 40 inch sweater. The difference between fitting and not fitting.

Next problem. Neither is 4.25 stitches per inch. There isn’t a size 7.5 needle. I was using wood. I could dig out other needles. I could try my gauge with metal (appropriate sizes are spoken for in other projects- don’t judge, I love this yarn and MUST start right away.) I could try my Karbonz (one of the two sizes is occupied, see previous aside.) I could pick another pattern.

Read the following with appropriate melodramatic whine attached. But I don’t want to!

Ok, let’s be reasonable. If I am thinking about what the pattern is calling for, 4.25 stitches per inch means that my 24 stitches will measure 5.647 inches to work out as prescribed. Maybe I should re-measure. Check my math.

Don’t look at me that way. I had my coffee this morning. I am thinking straight.

This is the problem with swatches. It isn’t an entire sweater. Elizabeth Zimmerman said to knit a hat before you knit the sweater to get gauge, familiarize yourself with the stitch pattern. This makes sense. If I was one to listen to good advice.

The other problem I have is me. I am built in that special way that is unique to me (as you are to you) and that Erika will probably have to deal with too.  I know what size I need to knit for the sweater to fit me in the shoulders and hips and still have adequate stretch across the, um, girls. This pattern that I would really love to knit has multiple sizes. One size is one inch smaller than I would normally knit, the other 3 inches larger. That’s a kicker. I could pick another pattern. Seriously, after all this work? I wonder about knitting the back in smaller size and fronts in larger size (it’s a cardigan) or I could make the button bands wider. Why don’t I just add short rows to create bust shaping- lace yoke. ugh. If I use the size 8 and the smaller size, I will probably be alright. If I liked that part of the swatch better. Which I don’t.

Alright, alright, already. I need to find a different pattern.

That’s what I get for swatching. Hopefully, it will eventually mean a sweater that fits, just right. Wish me luck.



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