Sometimes I feel like knitting has a sense of humour, and it’s not necessarily a good one -or maybe it is a good one, it’s just sort of mean.
I started La Joie du Printemps mittens a few days ago. I didn’t swatch. I admit it. I think mittens are wee, and that means that I don’t mind ripping back if it turns out I don’t like what I’m getting, and that means that I was very graceful when indeed I didn’t like what I was getting. No cursing, no bad behaviour, just me and the mitten going back to the start. I measured the gauge and instead of the 10sts to the inch I was supposed to be getting, it was 8, and I can see how that would give me a mitten bigger than I wanted, so back we went.
I ripped it into nothingness, hunted up a set of 2mm needles and began again. Going down a needle size usually smartens things right up – and at such tiny tolerances, .25 of a millimetre is usually enough to get a 2 stitch per inch change with fine fingering weight… at least in Stephanieland, which is where I’m knitting, so it’s all that matters.
I began again, and charged along, ignoring entirely that the mitten was still coming out too big. I told myself that it had to be smaller, that there’s a big difference between 2.25 and 2mm, and every time my brain tried to tell me that for whatever reason, this mitten was still big, I slapped that intelligent part of my brain down and kept on knitting.
At Knit Night, my friends said the mitten was too big. There were varying opinions on how big was too big, or what I should do about the bigness, but not one of them said that it was totally fine. (Actually, Megan said it was fine, but Megan is notoriously anti-rip. She’ll do almost anything to avoid ripping- and apparently this means she can forgive mittens excessive bigness.) Dr. Steph said that when a mitten comes out too big, sometimes she knits a liner mitten, and the too big mitten becomes a shell. (I know that if you’re in a more temperate part of the world you might not see the advantages of double wool mittens, but this is Canada, and the sense of it is inarguable.) Someone else said that they would look for a big handed friend, or look for a male family member who wouldn’t be emasculated by the rather feminine combination of these colours and this pattern. I participated in the conversation, but I didn’t buy in. I ignored how big it looked when my friends slipped the mitten on, and told them they had really small hands.
At home, the voice in my head wondered out loud if maybe the mittens were really too big, but I gave my common sense a smack upside the head and told it that if I was getting 8 stitches to the inch at 2.25mm, then I was absolutely getting less at 2mm, and that meant the mittens were definitely smaller even if the didn’t look smaller, and by the way, shut up.
I could have definitively won the conversation by getting out a measuring tape at that point, but I suppose part of me was protecting another part of me from shattering my delusions.
Last night I was knitting on the mitten, and I put it down beside me and examined it for the 47th time, wondering if perhaps it wasn’t a little on the large side, when Joe happened to mention that it was sort of a girly mitten for a man. I assured him that it wasn’t his Christmas present and that they were for me, and he gave me the weirdest look, like "how big do you think you are honey?" and even then I didn’t take it to heart. I was tired, I was crabby and seriously there are rules in knitting. If you go down a needle size then the knitting will be smaller. This is the way it works. I’ve been knitting for a long time and it’s absolute. Bigger needles makes the work bigger, smaller needles make the work smaller and I really don’t care if this mitten doesn’t look smaller because I KNOW THE RULE. I went down a needle size and these mittens are smaller. I went to bed early.
I got up this morning and ignored the mitten for a while, but it lurked at me. Just now I decided to sit down and knit for a minute, and somehow I was suddenly able to face it. The mitten is too big. Really too big. I measured the gauge, and unbelievably, its gauge is 8 stitches to the inch, the same as before I went down a needle size. I drank a coffee and glowered at it with sheer rage, infuriated by the audacity of its largeness.
How can that happen? How can you go down a needle size and still have the same gauge? It occurred to me that maybe I didn’t go down a needle size. Maybe I accidentally used another set of 2.25mm needles. I whipped out a needle gauge and measured. Nope. 2mm.
I poured another coffee and stared at the mitten. This is something about knitting I’ve never understood, and it always puts me over the edge. The way it can mock at the rules and always be a surprise and just when you think you’ve got an rule figured out, it turns out that knitting doesn’t give a crap what you think you know – its got an exception to your crappy little rule because really, there are days when knitting just likes to smack you around and keep you humble, because we all just think that knitting’s inanimate, but that’s not possible because it can’t be that this is all just random, and really you’d think that we could find out a way to dominate this bloody thing because we’re bigger and smarter and faster than yarn and …
Something occurred to me. I went over to the table and picked up the 2.25 mm needles I used the first time. I slipped one into the gauge.
I’ve deleted my concluding paragraph 4 times because it keeps coming out with unladylike language. Feel free to imagine how I ended this.
The Village Idiot