How to Start a Sweater
1. Determine sweater of choice. Trash the stash while looking for yarn to go with it. Tell the children it is not a mess, but a “reorganization”. (Pretend that the five bags of wool that won’t go back in the closet are out because I need them.)
2. Make a Neo Citran, Knit swatch. (That’s a lie. Start sweater, call it a swatch.) The sweater has a hem (That’s also a lie. it has ribbing but I don’t care for it.) and hems need to be knit at a tighter gauge than the rest of the sweater to keep it from flaring. The sweater needs to be at a gauge of 24 stitches to the inch…the hem needs to be less than that.
3. Notice immediately that this sweater is too big. Understand, thanks to many long years of screwing up knitting with incredible variation and surprising inventiveness, that my gauge is off and this sweater will definitely be too big.
4. Measure the gauge. Curse as I discover that I have 20 stitches to 10 cm instead of 24. (Or less…since this is the hem.)
5. Decide that I like it that way, and that I don’t want the stitches any tighter. Make an educated decision to knit a smaller size, and to cast on 10 fewer stitches.
6. Rip back.
7. Cast on 215 stitches instead of 225. Knit two rows. Think “That still looks like a lot”. Do a quick bit of mental math. Remember that I can’t do mental math and get a calculator. 5 stitches to the inch – 215 stitches = 43 inches. I have a 37 inch chest.
8. Rip back. Take more Neo Citran.
9. Decide to cast on 110 stitches (thus removing another inch.) and go down another needle size after all. Worry briefly about what I will do about the shaping when my numbers are so far off and decide (sometime around when my good buddy pheniramine maleate kicked in) that I will worry about that later.
10. Knit for a while. Wonder how it is that I can be knitting a sweater on smaller needles than before, with fewer stitches than before and still be getting a sweater that is way, way too big.
11. Measure gauge again and discover that despite all of this, I am now getting 22 stitches to 10 cm (instead of the 24 I was aiming for.)
Curse violently and loudly. Consider setting a match to the whole thing and then remember how bad burning wool smells.
11. Take the sweater off the needles and pull it up over my hips. Confirm that it is way too big. Way too. Wonder absently, since I am drinking so much neo citran, and because I have taken a lot of measures to make this sweater smaller…. if I am shrinking.
12. Decide that I don’t give a crap and I will just have a big sweater. It might be cold at Rhinebeck. I may have to layer. I’ll put this sweater on over…..I don’t know. 12 other sweaters. I keep knitting.
13. I purl a turning row and change to the larger needles. (I realize that this will make the sweater bigger, but it turns out that I would rather have a sweater the size of the last Dell Recall than rip back again.) I continue knitting.
14. When I am about ready to begin the first little bit of colourwork, I pull out my measuring tape to make sure that I have knit enough. Absently, I also measure my gauge. Imagine my shock when I have 24 stitches to 10cm.
15. Sit in stunned silence and try to figure out how my gauge went down when my needle size went up. I examine things closely and notice that the sweater does indeed look smaller now.
16. Realize with stunned horror that I must have the wrong needles. Instead of the sweater getting bigger after the row, it is smaller. This is the opposite of what I was trying to do with the hem.
17. Realize with further horror that I have 225 stitches instead of either the 215 I believed I cast on originally, or the 210 that I cast on after that. Feel burning bitter irony, since 225 was the number that the pattern suggested I cast on in the first place.
18. Measure the circular that I started with and the circular that I’m using now…discover that (you aren’t hardly going to believe this) that they are THE SAME SIZE. Two distinctly different gauges over the same number of stitches using the same type of needle.
I don’t know squat about knitting.
Sedating antihistamines do not go with knitting calculations.
I will never, ever believe that gauge is my friend.
Now, completely by accident, I have the right gauge, over the right number of stitches and I have to rip back anyway because the freaking hem is all wrong, even though it was knit on the same size needles.
All suggestions as to how to proceed accepted. (Including the wool burning one. I’m too stuffed up to smell it.)