Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My brother's $500 sweater, Part 2 of 3

To read Part 1 of this sweater saga, click here.

After finding the pattern, the next step is to knit a swatch.  This means to knit in the pattern, about a 4-inch or larger square, so you can compare your stitching gauge to that of the pattern writer.  If the author knits big, and you knit small, you could end up with a cute tiny sweater that does not at all fit your intended recipient.  Already challenged by knitting for someone on the opposite coast, and having to rely on measurements alone, I wanted to do my best to be sure the finished product actually fit the guy.

One swatch is not bad.  Takes an hour or so--I knit wider swatches to be sure the edges don't distort the measurement (yes, I can be a bit OCD at times).  When I visited my brother last year, I brought the pattern and let him feel the swatch.  Apparently I knit tight, or my yarn was thin, because I had to go from needle size 8 to 11 to get the right gauge (measured by number of stitches per inch).  My brother confirmed my fear--the swatch was a bit flimsy.  An Irish fisherman's sweater should keep out the cold of rain and seawater, by God, or at least keep an ex-cop warm in winter.

OK, time to look at other yarns.  Buying a sample skein for $8 isn't bad.  It's when you buy 8 different brands and have them shipped to you from all over the country that it starts to add does all the swatch knitting:

As you look at the number of swatches and add them up, you come to the same conclusion I did, which was that I  could have been done with 1/3 of the sweater by now!  Frustratingly, none of the swatches came out quite right.  The Cascade 220 yarn, which every knitter I know RAVES about being the BEST yarn EVER, was too thin.  The others were too smooth, too thick, too bumpy, too yellow, too white, etc.  I felt like Goldilocks stuck in a house with no "just right" chairs in sight.  The gauge was off by a stitch, which doesn't seem like much, but when multiplied over the hundreds of stitches in a sweater, could have me knitting a tent or a tank top for my brother instead of the intended sweater.

I was back to researching patterns again.  If I couldn't find yarn to match the gauge, perhaps I could find a sweater pattern that required a gauge matching one of these swatches?  This had all started in October last year.  It was now March, and Stitches West 2010 was coming to town! Here was my opportunity to do more yarn and pattern searching.  I found another V-neck cable sweater pattern (the book is displayed in the linked blog post), for $30, rounding out my purchases to date to about $150.  Oh yeah, did I mention I'd already bought enough of the ill-fated Cascade 220 yarn to make the sweater, before realizing the gauge was too thin?  Oh well, I only have one, WAIT, I have TWO.  But the other one lives in Florida and does not need or want a sweater.  Phew!

To read Part 3, click here.

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