Nothing to see here

Well, that sorted itself out rather nicely, didn’t it? I’m not feeling at all doomed at present. (This should be said cheerfully, so that the foreshadowing of another crisis I don’t see coming is as entertaining as possible.) A lovely knitter who had the yarn (Hi Brenda!) has sold me her big fat skein, and it is en route from her house to mine. She got it in the mail straightaway, and I’m still knitting what I’ve got, so unless there’s a customs thing as the yarn tries to cross the border… I should be okay. (We will recall that last time, I believe it was customs that exploded my whole plan, so I think that’s a good sign. Usually it’s a new emergency each time, and I’ve already done that one, so either this will be smooth sailing, or the fates are going to have to start getting really creative.)

I’m charging along at a good pace over here too, I spent the weekend teaching this past weekend at The Stitchery in Rhode Island, and had just the loveliest time, with the bonus of lots of time on planes and in the airport, and now I’ve just about got the middle of the blanket done, which means it’s time to start planning the border.  Someone asked me the other day how much planning of these blankets I do before I start knitting, and the answer is “rather less than you would hope.”  I do knit a swatch, and I do choose the stitch patterns I’m pretty sure I’ll use, or improvise them, if I can’t find what I like, and I do make charts (I use Stitchmastery these days.) I don’t come up with the exact way that those elements are going to go together – that part’s more… let’s call it loose.  When it comes to picking up the stitches all the way around the centre part, I don’t fake it. It’s way too important to get right, so I use the standard formula for figuring out how many to pick up.

I take my (washed and blocked) swatch, and measure my stitch and row gauge.

In this case, I’ve got six stitches to the inch, and 9 rows. To figure out how many stitches I’m going to pick up along the side, I turn that into a fraction (stitches/rows) which is 6/9, and then reduce the fraction, the simplest I can make this one is 2/3. That means that I’ll pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows. Got it? I know the regular advice is to pick up 3/4 or 4/5 or 2/3, but my stitch and row gauge are different with every blanket and stitch pattern, and so I do the math. I get a much tidier result and it only takes a minute.  Then I give it a go along the side of the swatch to see if it works, before I pick up hundreds of them.**

Lo and behold, it did work.  That’s the perfect ratio, that edge lies there as flat as my first catastrophic go at vegan pancakes.  I don’t need to do any stitches along the cast on and bound off edges, because I’ll pick up stitches at a 1:1 ratio there – like always. (That’s the rule. 1:1 for stitches on top of stitches, and stitches/rows for along the sides.) Sometime when it comes up we’ll talk about what I do with a diagonal, but in the meantime, voila.

This blanket is going just fine.*

**Stop it. Don’t be superstitious.

**Please note that this system, diligently measuring, trying it on the swatch… all of that, is a system that I’ve settled on after a few blankets where I picked up 47465 stitches around the edges of the thing, and then realized after a few heartrendingly long rounds that it wasn’t right, and had to rip the whole thing out amid a flood of tears and whiskey while missing a deadline.  I’m pretty proud that I’ve given up and started doing the swatch and math after only 45 years of knitting, disappointment and sloth.

54 thoughts on “Nothing to see here

  1. Sigh of relief — so glad you are getting the yarn, even if it has to come through customs. I ask for a receipt for everything I purchase, and although it annoys some clerks I explain I need the receipt “to prove I don’t spend all my money on yarn.”

  2. I’m with you here. I never swatch – usually it’s blankets or scarves, or baby things that will fit eventually since babies grow, or mittens that stretch and have a small circumference so a little bit off is only 1/2″ or so. However, I am now embarking on a fingering weight sweater, and I am swatching like mad. I’ve been knitting for about the same number of years…. maybe it just takes that long to figure it out!

  3. Thanks for the math lesson Stephanie – that is really helpful! I was hoping your yarn isn’t coming Canada Post too. The strike could be a problem.

  4. I’m so happy you will have the rest of the yarn you need. Eventually, depending on postal shenanigans. 🙂 Thank you so much for explaining how you decide your pick up number! That helps me a lot.

  5. Very nice. Lucky baby! I was up against a baby blanket deadline recently and can sympathize . I’m ashamed to admit that I was hoping that a woman who was very pregnant and really wanted to deliver would hold off just a little longer. I’m pretty sure she is a crocheter and not a knitter and doesn’t read your blog so my secret is safe.

  6. That was a great lesson on the numbers, thanks! So glad you had a great time last weekend! I did too, I got to go to Toronto for the first time and I loved seeing it after feeling like I know it thru your eyes after following this blog for years. It is a beautiful city and I hope to go back when I am spend more time. We loved the St. Lawrence Market, amazing food! Thanks for all your inspirations!

  7. That’s the method I’ve been using for picking up stitches for button bands and edgings for ages, and I’ve always wondered why more people didn’t do it that way. Thanks for the validation that I’ve been doing it the smart way all along!

  8. Just out of curiosity, what’s the best way to read your gauge over a pattern of stitches like you have here, with decreases and yarn overs? Do you simply measure the width of the swatch and divide that by how many stitches you cast on? Or do you try and physically count how many stitches there are per inch? What if you were bad, threw knitting a swatch to the wind, cast on your sweater, and were checking the gauge after knitting for a bit (Not that I would ever do something like that, not at all. ;-)?

  9. Wow! That is so pretty! Your problem of continuing to make the baby blanket underestimation comes under the category we all share: Things I can’t seem to learn from because the information is coated in teflon (it all just slides off) I have found that this condition is correlated with age- though that may be because when we are younger we are too busy flailing around with large powerful concepts such as getting to class on time. Hang in there Stephanie! It will be gorgeous!

  10. How do you do the corners? I have a project similar to this that I’m starting, and I think I have everything figured out (knock on wood) except how to make my border turn a corner. I’ve gone back through your blog and studied everything you’ve said about Elliot’s blanket, and the others that you’ve made, and I was experimenting with my swatch just like this last week!

    • You have to increase 2 stitches per corner. I usually do a “center” stitch with an increase before and after and the “center” stitch on the corner works it’s way outward always being the corner stitch.

    • And perhaps joining more than once to those stitches to “gather” extra fullness so a wider edge is flat instead of raised nor a ruffle.

    • There is one stitch at each of the corners. Mark each one. Increase 1 stitch each side of this stitch every other row. I also place a marker at each side of each corner to tell me where the regular pattern ends and the increases stitches begin.
      Incorporate the new stitches into the pattern when there are enough to have matching Yo’s and k2tog’s. You don’t want working the pattern to change the count.

  11. I love your knitting tutorials, and wish you did more! More than once I’ve said out loud “The Yarn Harlot taught me to…”

  12. I rarely swatch when I work, but that’s because I usually use construction techniques that preclude swatches just because I’m lazy and want to dive in right away. Thus, I do blankets or afghans that allow me to make them as big as I want and just stop when I’m done. For sweaters, I routinely start them in knit or crochet with a waistband, which means you can just start with a nice cable or something and stop when it’s big enough to go around the person’s waist or chest.

    Then, you graft it together and pick up stitches along one side, and knit a peplum. After that, you pick up stitches along the other edge and knit a yoke and sleeves. This is my absolutely favorite way to make a sweater — no casting on 300 stitches or calculating anything. Just start when you want and finish when it’s big enough. (I did this on a cardigan that I made for my mom that used the Carnaby skirt pattern from Knitty that turned out really nice.)

    At this point, I’ve got a good idea of about how much yarn it takes to make a sweater, so I rarely run out, and when it comes to afghans, the most swatching I will do is to make one square and weigh it, then measure it to figure out how many I need to cover the entire bed. I only do this if I work in squares, otherwise I will usually start in the middle and just spiral out until I’m done or ran out of yarn. 🙂

  13. yay for Brenda and you!

    yay for the refresher on the picking up stitches lesson! Debbi taught us this at a Strung Along retreat and it was so magical compared to what I’d been doing for button bands, etc. (like you – winging it and ending up with a too tight or too loose result).

    boo for me missing November Strung Along, though – who knows what magic I might miss?! 🙁

  14. So glad that you are knitting full-steam-ahead again! I was wondering if you were doing anymore Karmic Balancing giveaways. I’ve got little bags of yarn waiting to go to new homes (and not back into my stash closet), if you were. I sent you emails with all their pictures, but you’ve had a hectic month or three. Thanks & best wishes! Beth

  15. Please illuminate your method for pickingeup on a diagonal…. I will be faced with that in a few days. (I have a sort of. Plan, so really no pressure if you don’t get to it!)
    Beverly near Yosemite

  16. Very glad to hear the yarn you need is on the way. I always enjoy seeing you knit one of these blankets but am especially tickled this time as you’ve used the same stitch pattern for the central square as I used for my second baby’s blanket this summer (I didn’t add any more borders though). Thanks for the tip on picking up stitches. That’s going to be very, very handy from now on.

  17. I see you are using Stitchmastery these days. I’m using KnitVisualiser and have a ton of kvc files from it. Can they be read/converted in to Stitchmastery files?

  18. Will send Customs good vibrations on all wool in packages! We are all slow learners at something – you happen to be a whiz at knitting and don’t need to learn swatching – usually – and then the Karma Bus comes along. Lovely blankie for a lucky little one.

  19. So, maybe it wasn’t overkill earlier this week when I read a pattern that told me to pick up stitches using a certain ratio and I went back and measured my own swatch to see what was what! Thanks for sharing your method!

  20. Why does it take some of us so very long to pay attention and do things the right way? Whyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!

    Congrats on now waiting until year 46.


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