15 November 2010

Desperately seeking sweater.

If you make things, you know the moment you find the right materials. Maybe it's a chunk of purple heartwood that begs to be carved. Maybe it's an amazing length of batik fabric that wants to be a quilt. In my case, it's an armload of brown wool. Not just any brown, mind you. This is that not-quite-chocolate-but almost-coffee shade that just screams of rustic-y goodness.

It's laughing at me.

I know this yarn is destined to be a sweater. I know it, the yarn knows it; the guy down the block who's never even seen a knitting needle would recognize that this is its fate. The yarn still refuses to cooperate.

After repeated hints from my dad that he would really like to have a warm vest for the winter, I picked up this brown yarn. Ooo, soft. And cheap! It came home with me, and I engaged in subtle trickery to learn Dad's chest measurement.

"Hey, Dad. Hold up your arms."

I found a simple but attractive pattern and cast on for a gauge swatch. Hmm? What is a gauge swatch? It's the knitter's equivalent of "Measure twice, cut once." You cast on X number of stitches, knit in pattern for X number of rows, and you should have a four-inch square. This tells you that you will most likely get a garment that fits the intended wearer, rather than one that will only work for a hippopotamus with six-foot arms.

After the casting on and knitting, I wound up with a two-inch square. Hmm. Okay, I obviously need to go up a needle size. I dug through the needle stash and came up with a larger set. Cast on, knit, and... Wowee. A THREE-inch square. Several attempts later, I finally hit upon the correct size needles. I made two swatches, just in case. Armed with all necessary materials, I consulted the pattern. Cast on 98 stitches. Really? Only 98? Going on the assumption that the designer has a pretty good idea of how this is supposed to turn out, I cast on the 98 stitches.

Two inches of ribbing later, I was feeling pretty good about the future vest. The wool was nice and soft, and it looked good. Time to start the pattern stitches. This is where I learned that "easy" doesn't always mean "fast". While the pattern itself was a snap to master, it basically takes two rows of knitting to equal one row of pattern. My simple vest was going to take twice as long as I'd planned. Not good news for The Procraftinator. I soldiered on.

After what surely amounted to five hundred rows (give or take) of knitting, I held up the vest back to check my progress. Okay, something's wrong here. This thing is not only still really short, it looks about as wide as Junior. I pulled the piece off of the needles and spread it on the table for a measurement.

It was five inches too narrow. I boggled. I swore. I headed to the kitchen to consult the emergency chocolate can.

Rather than take a chance that Dad might suddenly lose forty pounds by Christmas, I unraveled the vest. I never liked that pattern, anyway. The collar looks funny. Too bulky, too. I'll just fire up the computer and see what kind of patterns I can find online.

"Search returned 152,978 matches for men's knit vest."

Yeesh. I'm gonna need more chocolate.


Kitten With a Whiplash said...

I know it's frustrating, but if the universe is still functioning the way I set it up, it just means a much better pattern will come along.

Here's the really good news - of those 152,978 search hits, at least 3 will be dead links! That narrows it down some.

Sue said...

When we were first married I knit a sweater for Rob. The gauge was perfect and all the measurements were right on with the directions, but it turned out so big we could both fit into it. Sometimes a pattern just isn't right.

You'll find the perfect pattern for your Dad and he'll be so pleased.

Mags said...

Hee, hee...don't you hate gauge swatches, they lie!!!!
You'll get the job done and your Dad will be thrilled. Finding the perfect pattern...decisions, decisions..good luck!

Lourie said...

I would need gallons of chocolate! Good luck.

Judy said...

You'll get it, just hang in there.

Molly said...

I hate swatches! I feel I could have a sleeve knitted in the time they take, if my educated guesses would just work for once! Meantime I'm playing it safe----knitting a scarf. Pictures soon! Good luck finding the perfect vest for Dad...Actually, I probably have some, probably Aran design. Let me know if you want me to go on an archaeological dig through my patterns.....

Word verification is "moodshte!" Apt, no?