Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Intarsia Gauge

I owed my grandson a birthday sweater. I actually knitted one but he has moved from baby patterns to older kid patterns. Sweater patterns have directions for the smallest size and then, in parenthesis, follow the numbers for the next 3 or 4 larger sizes. I am so used to counting over three spaces because he was wearing the biggest size on the baby pattern. So, clever person I am, I automatically counted over three spaces and made him a sweater that will fit him when he graduates from high school,
Undaunted, I ordered more yarn. I chose Red-Heart super saver, a great stand-by for a kid’s sweater and when I got the yarn, I proceeded to make swatches. The yarn felt sort of like brillo. I’m sure, if I had made a sweater from it, it would have stood up by itself. So I looked around and found the company now has a yarn called Red-Heart soft and it is pretty much the same price but it comes in very few colors. I ordered it. It felt good. Swatches were great. But, they didn’t work with the pattern. Why isn’t all worsted weight yarn the same gauge?
A word about pattern books; they are usually sponsored by a yarn company and all the patterns are knitted using that company’s yarn. This one was sponsored by Rowan, a lovely yarn. One skein of the required yarn, only 100 yards per skein, cost over $8.00. One skein of 240 yards of the Red-Heart was $2.89. I love my grandsons but kids tend to finger paint in whatever they are wearing. When they eat, most of what falls off the fork, lands on the sweater. The sleeves are used as napkins. $8.00 per skein (and the pattern called for 5 colors) was really not an option.
What to do? Figure out what the stitch and row count for the yarn I had would be by using a calculator. Simple. Of course, one has to know whether to multiply or divide and what numbers to use for either of these. I found several formulas in several books. I didn’t understand any of them. Above is a picture of the notebook pages I used trying to figure out my gauge.
I had just gotten a great book by Ann Budd called the knitter's handy book of sweater patterns and, since I’ve been using only top down in the round sweaters, I picked a pattern which is called drop shouldered and everything is rectangular or triangular so even I could sew the sleeves on.
I began knitting away and discovered that, though I had worked on stitch count, I hadn’t paid much attention to the row count. The pattern had a bunch of stripes on the bottom and then an intarsia chart above. The pattern I was using started with the back of the sweater and the front had to have 14 fewer rows. I measured and saw that the way I was going, the sweater was going to reach his knees. Eventually I realized I was making just too many changes at one time. So I decided to go with the pattern from the original book using just the math for the gauge changes. That means set in sleeves. O.K. I’m up for this.
I had already knitted all the stripes and realized I had to take out three sets of them, 18 rows. Actually did it and now I’m up to the dinosaur chart. Someday I want to be a “fine” knitter. I have realized it will require much “frogging”. That’s al right with me, whatever it takes.
When I actually complete this sweater, I have to do the whole process again for his younger brother’s sweater. I think I can use the pattern from the Budd book because all I have to do is put the Superman symbol on it. Oh, and his mom would like it to have a hood. But think of all I will have learned! If you hear a scream tonight, off in the distance, it’s me, trying to knit a dragon and come out with only 92 rows including an extra 14 rows before the neck shaping.
. . . Neck shaping?

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