Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Best Laid Plans - Mary Glendinning

The other day I was at The Fiber Factory and Susan, one of the owners, told me that a student of mine had come in with a problem with a sweater she had been working on. This sweater has been the bane of her existence for some time. Originally she had come in and worked with Lori, a wonderful knitter and instructor in the store. Later she joined a class of mine and we continued to work on the sweater.  We did all the usual things before she started - we measured her, picked out yarn, knit a gauge swatch, figured out the cast on, all the usual "safeguards".

However, when she came back and talked to Susan the sweater was way too big.  They rechecked the gauge and found that her gauge had changed significantly during knitting.  So how can this be?  Well, unfortunately it can be....  One of my favorite quotes from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book "At Knit's End" is as follows:

I know this will come as a shock to some of you, knitting is a bit of a gamble.  it is possible that you can knit a swatch, wash and measure it, carefully calculate your gauge, absolutely study a pattern, execute it with patience and perfection...and still end up with something unexpected.  This element of risk is what keeps the more adventurous of us knitting.    -- I will try to stay connected to my cheerful  sense of adventure the next time an absolutely perfect sweater grows by 3 ft the first time I wear it.

It is difficult for many knitters to understand that knitting is not a precision sport.  Sometimes things happen that we least expect or cannot predict.  No matter how experienced or talented a knitter, these things happen.  Yarn is a funny thing.  It can grow while we are knitting, or after the garment is complete.  Different yarns have different properties, and, try as we might, we may not have all of them figured out.  So, along with our students or customers, we are surprised when something like this happens.   It is frustrating for the knitter to be sure.  None of us want to see this happen and we do everything we can to make sure it doesn't.  But even after we have taken all the steps, knit a gauge swatch, wash it, block it, let it hang to see if it will stretch, we cannot totally predict results.  So many other factors like tension and the  way you knit have a direct impact on the finished product.

Yes, we hope we figured out our knitters problem with her ever growing sweater.  But as Stephanie says
"knitting is a bit of a gamble".

Do you have any growing or shrinking sweater stories?  We'd love to hear them.

Mary Glendinning

No comments: