A River in Egypt

This June I will be fifty years old.  When I am fifty, I will have been knitting for forty-six years, and I have just done a classic dumb-knitter thing, and I want you to know that if you were hoping that sometime soon you would stop doing the same thing, you should probably give up.

I just finished the sweetest little sweater for Elliot.  It’s the Elwood sweater – re-jigged colour-wise to match all the hats I knit this Christmas.  Looks great, right?

toosmalldammit 2018-02-06 (1)

Wrong. It does not fit him, it is too small. I have to pull the whole thing out. I think I can just go back as far as the divide for the sleeves, work some more increases and carry on, but I have to pull out the sleeves, the collar and button band, the body from the divide… and here is the worst part.

It is my fault. It is completely my fault. It is entirely, 100% totally my fault in about ten ways, which I have listed below, so that the record is complete.

1. I didn’t do a swatch.  I can’t explain why not, I just let it go, like a passing and irrelevant thought.  A bubble I let float away on a breeze.

2. Once I decided not to do a gauge swatch, I also decided that even though the gauge for this sweater is 18 stitches to 10cm, and even though I have never, ever gotten that gauge with this yarn and a size 4mm needle – that this was indeed the needle I should use.

3. I made that decision, knowing that it would result in a fabric that I liked, but not a gauge that would work, and started knitting anyway – believing that it might still work, even though I absolutely knew it would not. I did not suspect it wouldn’t work. I knew it wouldn’t, and yet I hoped that this was the time that everything would change, for no reason what so ever, even though the world never, ever works that way.

4. I began knitting, and knew the gauge was wrong, and the sweater would be too small, but thought I might just do a few extra increases to make it work.

5. Then I didn’t do them. I didn’t forget either. I just decided to skip it because #3.

6. I had a feeling again, once I divided for the sleeves and body, that it wasn’t working out. As a matter of fact, I applied forty-six years of experience and knew it wasn’t working out, but I decided to ignore that feeling in the hopes that magic dust would settle on the sweater and a unicorn would spit on it and a knitting miracle that has never before happened to me would finally occur.

7. It did not, and despite that, I decided to knit the button band and the collar before the sleeves, just to make it harder to rip it out if the unicorn thing didn’t happen.

8. As I was knitting the first sleeve I knew it was too skinny. I knew my gauge was wrong. I knew all of those things and I felt pretty bad about knitting the sleeve, but I told myself that all of these problems were probably going to block right out, so I knit the second tiny stupid too small sleeve.

sweater wrong 2018-02-06

9. Then I wove in all the ends.

10. Then I blocked it, and it didn’t block out.You know why? Because nothing ever blocks out. Nothing ever has. The first time you think “oh dear… well, that will probably block right out” you should immediately rip back, because that isn’t a thing. That’s not what blocking does, and I know that, and I teach that, and I have written that down and I literally have a tee-shirt emphasizing this and I honestly can’t tell you what the hell was wrong with me from the word go on this sweater because despite points 1-10 this morning I texted Megan and asked her to give me Elliot’s measurements because you know… BABIES SHRINK ALL THE TIME, and when he was as big or bigger than he was the last time I asked I actually got upset and shocked that this sweater is too small.

The only redeeming thing I can possibly say about this episode is that at least I didn’t sew the buttons on. I hate me.

273 thoughts on “A River in Egypt

  1. At least Elliot’s your first grandbaby, this is simply prep for the next one. 🙂

    (I say this because it seems reasonable another one will come along eventually…not because I am in any positions to spill beans)

  2. Perhaps you should just tuck this one into the future grandbaby box, (it will fit said grandbaby at some stage) and start a new one for Elliot! Might be faster….. Good-luck.

  3. Sew the buttons on and donate to a responsible charity auction. Elliot will always have sweaters and an auction could provide another child with a beautiful sweater and help the charity to meet their needs.

    • Hear, hear! There are plenty of babies in our cold city (Toronto) who will never receive a hand knit sweater. I think you have way too much on your mind and just “went with it”. It is a beautiful little sweater!

  4. I agree that keeping this one is a goof idea. It’s a lot of work to take it all out. Put the buttons on it, and take a picture. Label that picture “Don’t be a knitting dumbass.” and put that picture in the knitting corner. It may save you the next time you think of making Mistake Number 1,

  5. I agree with the previous writers. You’ve got a great baby sweater there – just save it for the right baby and knit another for Eliot. Now I did the same thing with with a Christmas sweater for my daughter in cashmere and silk with fancy cables and i’ve got to get that away from her and reknit it all . She’s hanging on insisting she’ll lose enough weight for it to fit. Nobody else deserves this gorgeous sweater and i’ve Just got to get it right.

    • I knit a sock with k1p1 cuff ribbing and then started knit its companion with k2p2 cuff ribbing. I called a friend and said they don’t look the same. She said to give them a soak, let them dry, and they’ll be fine. After I did that and it wasn’t fine, I called her back with my OMG moment. A long laugh followed as did two more socks, one with k1p1 cuff and one with k2p2 cuff. I was lucky i bought so much yarn!

      Having the product vs process angst with sewing now. Really want the finished product and I want it to be right. I’m about 2 muslins away from that!

  6. This is when you remember that you love the process of knitting as much or even more than the products. If you choose to rip it back you just get to enjoy that knitting process all the longer. (and can I admit that I’ve been knitting quite a bit for 20 years, and on and off for 40, and it really does my heart good to know I’m not the only one who makes these kind of mistakes – – I hate swatching…and yet it bites me every time I don’t do it.)

  7. I think prepping this for another grandbaby is a great idea, unless you and all the others are in denial about another grandbaby being a potential thing.

    That said, early Happy Birthday, and do what you think is best. After all, you could just get more yarn and knit another sweater for Elliot that will match. Or get a whole lot of yarn and knit sweaters for *everyone* that will match those hats.

  8. Maybe you could just think of it as a very large swatch. Swatching the body, swatching the arms, swatching the cuffs, the collar, the button band. Now the swatch has given you the information you need for this project. But maybe next time, a slightly smaller swatch.

  9. Hahaha, oh that’s funny! I vote for this sweater belonging to a different baby!

    I am knitting my first sweater for my baby daughter. Just last week she crawled over and yanked my needle causing me to drop lots of stitches. (she is newly mobile….I wasn’t prepared.) I thought I fixed it but after finishing the row I realized I picked up another stitch so there is a random increase. I thought “Oh, it will block out.” Hahaha. I haven’t touched the sweater since. Probably my avenging conscience telling me to go fix the mistake.

    • It’s her own little addition to her jumper! Look at that stitch increase and let it remind you of when she had her first taste of knitting!

      • I am so glad you mentioned this! What a sweet way to look at it. I did fix it a bit but a few stitches still look wonky. So I won’t stress about it and just leave it for the reminder of the memory!

  10. Consider reworking that button band so the red stripe looks the same, even where the collar is rolled open.

    (I thought you might like something else to fixate on while your frog the sucker.)

  11. Would it be easier to donate this sweater and start a new one for him? Or would that involve buying more yarn instead of using up all the left overs?

    You have my sympathy (from someone who hit 50 several years ago). It’s actually a misunderstanding that “wisdom comes with age”. What actually comes with age is “I don’t care, I’m doing what I want to do and you can’t make me do it your way!”

    • Oh yes I completely agree with this! At 53, I am not necessarily any wiser than I was, but I really don’t care anymore what other people think . Very liberating, I might
      add :-)). But dear Stephanie, just so you know, I / we (the Blog) think you are terrific and thank you once again for showing us your awesome humanness. Now give that sweater to another baby and start a new one for Elliot!

  12. In May I will be 70….and have been knitting as long as I can remember 🙂 I think my Mum taught me. What I do remember is being caught reading at school during a ‘knitting’ lesson when I was about 7, until the teacher saw that I was knitting my dishcloth and reading…and just left me to it !!! 🙂

    • This is fabulous! I am 61, and because I am in “school” on Fridays, I knit during class (easy, and people mostly ignore it) but I’m trying to master the art of knitting while reading, because it makes the reading less painful (I’m a slow reader and the material is dense). I’m not very good at it yet – I’d rather be knitting than reading. But it sounds like you mastered it at 7!

  13. Surely you can find a tinier baby to wear the sweater.

    This just is reinforcing that, when I make my first sweater EVER (That I have yarn and pattern for, but am scared to start;) that I need to swatch.

  14. One Saturday afternoon, long before the shop owner retired and the shop closed, I was one of several knitters who were hanging out, knitting and yakking and greeting customers, old and new, who ventured in. Then. “RATS!” I said. “I can’t even count!” and I started to rip out several inches. “Happens to everyone,” the weekend assistant remarked. “I can’t believe I have a masters degree,” I said. “This is GARTER STITCH! And I couldn’t count to three. I’m amazed I’m let out of the house without a keeper!” The weekend assistant smiled. “Trust me,” she said. “You know I’m a psychiatrist in my day job, right? It happens to everyone, trust me.”

    • I am a tapestry weaver, not a knitter, but was once doing a design and was absolutely unable to tell the difference between doing one of something and doing two. Over and over.

  15. I disagree with everyone. I think that if Elliot truly wanted to be helpful he would shrink a bit to fit his lovely new sweater. He’s not too little to take one for the team!

    • Here I thought the whole ‘not fitting thing’ was going to be conveniently blamed on an unforeseen and extreme growth spurt on the ungrateful wee man’s part!!

  16. It will look fantastic on the NEXT baby to join the family. REALLY.
    And thanks for making me always feel like I’m not just a hopeless idiot when I have similar (okay, worse) knitting fantasies about gauge, fit, size, etc. It’s really a public service when you make a knitting miscalculation and share it!

  17. You really have a T-shirt? about blocking? and leave me alone, my friend has small hands and it is almost possible that these fingerless mitts will fit.

    • Oh yes…both Steph and Debbie were wearing then at Strung Along one year. They say “That sh*t will block right out”.

  18. Oh my! Thank heavens you are a lightening speed knitter and can have it redone in no time. Welcome (almost) to a great decade — the 50’s!

  19. Oh – just wait until you turn 60!!
    And surely little Elliot will have a sibling before you know it. You’re just getting prepared. There’s more yarn where that came from!!

  20. Forgive yourself generously, because from experience, I suspect you are still in the white noise of grief and your brain isn’t seeing things in the usual way. My husband wrote a poem that describes it well when his mother died.

    Steve Poppino

    the season of white noise
    snakes’ hissing in the mind
    forms icy mists
    subtle fangs unseen
    sever thought from act

    the heart concussed with pain
    shivering and stumbling
    slow as snails
    scans the ground for green shoots
    signaling a shift of season

  21. Cut yourself a little bit of slack, Steph. You have had a lot of crap to deal with recently. Don’t beat yourself up. Others have suggested finishing the sweater and keeping it for the next grand-baby or donating it. I would finish it and donate/give it away. Make Elliott a new sweater (one that does not have possible negative juju frogging and reknitting this sweater may contain). Maybe Elliott got into your head to say “I have enough of that colour Gammy let’s get more colour!”


  22. Agreeing with many others before me. Baby sweater too small for the intended baby? Of course, the best solution is to find a newer, smaller baby!

    I started knitting your Nouveau-ne about a year ago (at eight months pregnant), thinking “Oh it’s a quick little thing; I’ll surely have it done before the baby arrives”. As the Baby is now in 12 months clothes & the layette is still short a bonnet & one bootee….finding a new baby is really the only solution.

  23. I understand that you hate you. It even makes sense that you should. And you can, if you want, but the rest of us will just go on loving your perfectly imperfect you-ness. Sorry, we just have to.

  24. We love you. We know you make far less knitting mistakes than we do. That your house really is cleaner than ours and you always have Christmas cookies stashed in your house for when any children visit (that’s children of any age). Thanks for reminding us that we are all human and you are a wonderful human being.

  25. We have all made mistakes. Don’t frog it, save it for the next grandson or you could auction it off here and money can go towards your bike rally. Just a thought. Love the sweater. .

  26. Yes, give the sweater to a smaller baby and make Elliot a bigger one, rather than trying to pick this one apart. I only say that because I’ve had some bad experiences with trying to rip things back (yarn getting stuck on itself so it won’t rip back and the project ends up rolled in a ball in permanent time-out.) But then, you are the Harlot. May the knitting gods be with you.

  27. I think you should declare this sweater perfect, save it for a smaller baby and knit Version #2 (larger) for Elliot.

  28. I just knit myself a sweater that I made exactly according to the pattern. Not my measurements. I have been knitting for 30+ years and my size hasn’t changed in over 10. I submit myself for King of Denial.

  29. “A unicorn would spit on it” !!!! I’m most certainly laughing with you and not at you, because I’m finishing the hat from hell for the third time. This time I don’t care if it looks stupid, because I’m done, whether the hat is or not. (Just about passed a cappuccino out my nose when I read that, though.) Thank you for making me laugh rather than cry.

  30. I don’t understand why anyone would ever make this mistake. It makes no sense to knit something that is not matching gauge. That’s just insane!

  31. OMG I get this completely, and I am sorry but your sentence about babies shrinking made me laugh out loud! I am sorry and I know that frustration, but thank you so much for the laugh- like out loud- at work!

  32. OMG! Funny and painful.

    We need to invent a new work (to go along with tink, WIP’s and so on) – to address blocking denial:

    blocking psychosis
    blocking blindness
    blocking fever

    It happens to all of us.

  33. You now get to pour twice as much love into the sweater. And re-fondle the yarn!

    Okay – I’m trying to be the optimist here.

  34. I recently ripped out half a fair isle hat because it seemed small. I read somewhere that I should trust my knitter instinct…

  35. Been there, done that, except the other way and could not figure out why I needed 10 more balls of yarn! And I kept knitting! Pit-y-a-ble-stupid-me. I have not frogged it yet. All sewn up with proper sleeves and huge body. Funny, but not!

  36. Mine is a similar story, except the sweater is for me. There is no way that sweater is going to cover my 38DDD boobs. My only consolation is that my granddaughter is 8 and eventually it will fit her, if only for a week. PS. I sewed on the buttons

  37. I just ripped out the shoulders and body of an adult man’s lopi sweater (knit in sockweight yarn) because it was too big. Not just too long, but too wide the entire way up. I guess I thought my husband was taller and wider than he actually is. I actually started it again, with smaller needles and the smallest size. I got to keep the sleeves, because they fit, inexplicably. It’s this sweater, if anyone’s interested: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/mens-kerbstone

  38. I’m really sorry that you have to frog the sweater, but I can’t tell you how happy I am that I am not the only one who does this. Thanks

  39. I have a lovely trunk shaped wooden box where I put the wee garments for my grandchild to come when someday my son finds the right girl. They are special things I knit for that little life I may never even meet. Perhaps a small box for your next grandchild would be a place to put this sweater to build future memories…..

  40. Find a child it fits. Totally not worth making yourself crazy frogging. Or better yet put it away for the next grandchild. I’m sure there will be more ;-D

  41. I made a sweater for a new born, it will probably fit for two minutes, I’ve been knitting for sixty years. No these mistakes follow us forever

  42. I applaud your faith in magic dust, unicorns, and miracles! And I am shocked-shocked-that the elves didn’t make this right!
    I had something block out once, but only because it was too big to start with and I’d been hoping for some “magic shrinkage”. The elves didn’t fix that one, either.

    This post is one of the reasons we love you so much!

  43. Oh, I don’t know. I keep having my daughter try on the sweater I’m making for her (age 7) figuring she’s bound to shrink sometime…right? Somehow the parts that fit fine at one point are magically too small now. I am in the middle of remaking sleeve two, but am going to have to do some crazy wide button bands to get it to fit in the middle. (Already steeked fair isle: there is no frogging…)

  44. Do you have more of that yarn to make Elliott a sweater out of? (Should we all check our stashes?) Because you just made the perfect gift for the next grand baby, or friend’s baby, and if you’re going to do the work anyway you might as well keep all that work you’ve done and do another. Because it’s a beautiful sweater and it would be a shame to lose it.

  45. I would rather scrub the inside of my toilet (with a paper towel, not brush) than knit a gauge swatch. This has bitten me so much in the ass, you would think I might fit into my jeans. [We’re just a few months apart in age, Stephanie, (though you have a decade more knitting experience)]

    Hang in there—I’m with those who say start a new sweater (though I can understand wanting to redo this one)

  46. I feel so much better about all of my questionable life choices right now. All knitting and non-knitting choices that I have made knowing full well that things wouldn’t work out as expected but went ahead and did the thing anyway.
    From buying that ugly pair of pants even after I’d tried them on and knew damn well that my arse didn’t fit inside them, to dating that guy (okay, maybe there was more than one guy) who I knew was bad news and not trustworthy, to parking my car on that corner that had a very clear “no parking” sign in front of it. I knew how all of these scenarios would work out and I did them anyway hoping that this time my bad decision would result in a joyful outcome.

  47. Oh Stephanie,
    Your have put lots of love into the sweater you have knitted for Elliott and he won’t be able to wear it. Sad, but so knitterley optimistic that all of us can relate to your angst with the outcome.
    If you have enough yarn then do your calculations and begin again.
    I appreciate the fact that you share your shortcomings with us – don’t beat yourself up – we are a WIP too.

  48. But it’s such an easy sweater to make! Go ahead, frog it and make another. Laugh all the while….
    Love this pattern. Made it myself a few times and haven’t been sick of it yet.