Sometimes it takes two

I am home again, and we really did have the loveliest time. The only thing that wasn’t quite right was that we couldn’t have Pato and the Worlds Top Knitwear Model with us for this trip, but if there’s anything that I’ve learned in the last 18 months it’s that things are seldom perfect, so I embraced what good it had to give me regardless.

Speaking of learning, I just had a really epic knitting fail. The biggest one in a long time. Behold: Two sleeves that I knit for Ken’s sweater.

(I know they look a bit rugged, but the yarn is Holst Garn Supersoft (held double)  and it’s a bit stiff and raggedy looking before it’s washed and blooms into something lovely, haloed, soft and even.)  Those sleeves also don’t exist anymore, because they were too narrow for Ken’s arms.  I’m knitting “Oshima for Him” and despite the absolutely admirable act of knitting a swatch and washing it, and then knitting another swatch and washing that before I settled on needles and was rather sure I had gauge, the things came out completely inappropriate for his arms. Ken is not a big guy, but his arms are more than twigs sprouting from his chest, and those just weren’t wide enough.

The amazing thing is that I knew this. I knew it from the moment I cast on.  I looked at the little cuff and said “That’s not big enough” but I had done my math and wanted so badly to trust it that I kept on going.  It nagged at me so badly through the whole first sleeve that before I knit the sleeve cap I actually took the sleeve off the needles, washed it, let it dry and then jammed it on Ken’s arm before I went any further, and then smooshed it around on his arm so that I could say it fit and keep lying to myself.  Then I knit the whole other sleeve, and the whole time my inner knitter was screaming at me.

Now, I often say that your inner knitter? They’re the voice of reason. They’re the one that’s not super invested in progress, and doesn’t hope for things or give any sort of a snot about your deadlines.  That voice, the one that says “something is definitely not right here” is the voice of your knitterly experience and it’s exactly like waking up in the night and wondering if you should get up to pee. If you just went to the damn bathroom the first time you thought “I wonder…” you’d be back in bed in no time with less time lost to considering it.  It’s like that and I know perfectly well that if I’d have listened to that voice the very first time I wouldn’t have two sleeves to pull back, I’d have merely yanked a cuff and have two correct sleeves right now. I have no explanation for why I let it go on so long, except that sometimes hope springs eternal, and sometimes you really just want to knit, and sometimes lying to yourself on a sunny day while you lie on a dock is exactly what you need and it takes the shock of two whole wrong sleeves to snap you out of it, which is exactly what happened.

I’ve reknit the first one the next size up.  My inner knitter is now smugly silent.

61 thoughts on “Sometimes it takes two

  1. The most annoying thing about the Inner Knitter is that it’s almost always right, especially if I don’t listen.

    Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt (far too many times).

    It could be worse – you could have completely finished the sweater before the light dawned.

    • It really helps to know I’m not the only one who does this. It’s an especially difficult question in winter, when the discomfort of being cold comes a lot closer to the discomfort of just thinking about whether or not to just get up and pee.

  2. I’ve just done this very thing. I knit a little fox (Little Cotton Rabbits pattern) and then a little dress for the little fox, knowing the whole time it would be too short, but I so wanted it to be done and adorning the little fox. I thought, I can block it to fit, but of course … well, it’s too short. Deadly adorable, though, and I haven’t the heart to rip it back. Looks like I’m knitting a little fox some knickers.

      • Thanks, Doreen. Sadly, the adorable little dress has a zigzag ruffle edge already. I toyed w the idea of a wee petticoat …
        I suppose the right thing to do would be to rip back the bodice and waist decreases and add a pattern repeat. But, but, but …

        • That MOMENT of looking at The Situation and weighing whether we can go forward (pleaseyesplease!) and actually be satisfied, or whether we never will be and so Have To Go Back…man, we all know that sensation, am I right?!?

  3. I try to trust the swatch but really, a sleeve tells the truth. It will be glorious!
    Also, I am really enjoying this return to blogging! Thank you!

  4. Proudest knitting averted disaster: I was working on a beautiful Elizabeth Zimmerman bottom-up sweater with some color work for a friend during lockdown. I had his measurements, but I couldn’t have him try it on, and my Inner Knitter kept saying ‘he’s taller than this’. When at last he pulled it over his head the sleeves AND body were too short. And I was low on the yarn I used for the body. So, I snipped a stitch above the color-work, took the bottom off, added a stripe in the color, fused it using Kitchener stitch, and then did it again below the color work. Snipped and frogged cuffs and lower sleeves and re-knit with mimicked color-work and stripes. It was just long enough. My inner knitter was also smug.

  5. Swatches lie. Even washed swatches lie.

    Somebody wrote that in a book I read. Can’t quite recall the writer’s name at the moment. Think it was Knitter?

    • I didn’t truly know the truth about lying swatches till last month. It was horrifying and I suddenly knew what “Knitter” was talking about. How can swatches be such dirty, stinking liars?!

  6. The more I sew and knit, the more I think it’s all a crap shoot. Swatches and patterns mean well, but sometimes they do lie. Even with ordering ready-to-wear from a catalog: I measure; check the measurements against the size chart; account for ease; and order accordingly. The package arrives. I try it on. And I either swim in the garment or it is ridiculously small. Or the proportions are so, um, unique, that I go back to the sewing table and try again. At least I don’t have to pay return shipping on homemade mistakes.

    And yes on the pee thing. Glad to know I’m not the only person who does that.

    And yes on the inner knitter whose patience has been a little thin lately, especially after last night’s tinking episode. Did I really think that dropped stitch would raise up its little loop and magically ladder back up to the needles?

    I needed to get that all off my chest. Thanks.

    • The length of time it takes to decide to go to the bathroom is directly related to the distance you must travel…. in a trailer this summer visiting family, I waited hours because it meant creaking open the loud trailer door, then walking across the property in moonlight and creeping into the back door of their cottage, hoping to wake no one. Agony!

      • Some things most definitely require a proper toilet.

        But if you’re out in the countryside with no lights (or security cams) in the yard — well then, I say the world is your urinal!

        I do feel for you, though — my worst time of this was when a teen at summer camp, and the toilets were well down a path from the bunks. I swear it took me hours to decide to get up and go!

        And I too am so glad to see Stephanie blogging again!

        • A funny story: I work for the MT State Forester’s office, and some years ago a co-worker and I were going to a retirement party up a highway I’d never driven on before. Midway I really needed to pee, so I started looking for a convenience store or somewhere I could stop to pee. None appeared. Just as I started to get desperate, we came upon a USFS campground, so I pulled thinking there would be a composting toilet like I’d used in other campgrounds. Not there. I couldn’t wait any more, so I looked for a bushy area, squatted, held my pants as far as I could, and peed. Just as I finished I heard voices and realized whoever was coming would see me with my pants pulled down if I didn’t hurry. I’ve never pulled on pasts so fast. I pretended to be looking at a bush, and soon as they had gone by, hightailed it back to the car. I’ve avoided that highway ever since. My body doesn’t give me enough warning that I dare.

  7. I’m one of those terrible knitters you NEVER knit a swatch (gasp). Then again, I resist knitting a sweater for a designated recipient, working on the assumption that it’s bound to fit someone sometime. That way I get to enjoy the journey and the result without the stress . Luckily for me, they usually end up with a happy family member..

  8. My inner knitter got more and more smug the more I read. (While relieved that you’ve already replaced one of those darn sleeves.

    So, yes. That yarn I worked on today is going to run out. Yes that cowl is going to be shorter than I like. Yes I could have cast on fewer stitches.

    Too bad, it’s going to be what it’s going to be and someone who is not a knitter and not picky and has no idea that it should be any way other than what it is is going to love it just peachy fine.

  9. Knitting time is knitting time, so it’s all fine by me (as long as there isn’t a deadline). But then I find I don’t mind swatching too much – I’m currently making a blanket, and I did some swatches with different size needles to see what texture I liked best.

    (I have missed the Blog!)

      • You nailed it! It’s often that inner rebellion of “I know what I’m doing, leave me alone”. OR occasionally, it’s “yeah, you might be right but this is what I have to work on and it can be frogged.” LOL

  10. And sometimes a project is just bound and determined to kick you ass (or take you to the cleaners, for the more polite)!

    I’m just finishing putting a zipper into a pullover, something I’ve done without incident on other sweaters, for the THIRD time!!! I measured, I did all the maths, I eyeballed— and that sucker was still adamantly wavey!!! I’ve got it now, but sheesh…sometimes it’s not even about “do you/can you know how to do X” but are you teeth-grindingly determined enough to recalibrate and persevere?!?

  11. I absolutely just did this with a sweater I’m knitting for myself. At least it was only one sleeve. But still…WHY DON’T WE LISTEN??

  12. Maybe flip the skirt to the inside, pick up purl bumps, make a petticoat that is already attached. As lacy and long as you wish, fancy at the hem?

  13. I attended (that word still doesn’t feel right in this world of Zoom seminars and presentations) a class\presentation about garment sizing recently and learned that standard garment measurements, including the ones used by the Knitting Council (not sure if that is the correct organization name) were designed in the 50s. Body shapes and proportions have changed significantly since then, and the presenter said that one of the common issues is that sleeves using those standards are too tight. It was a huge AHA! moment for me because it explained why sweaters I have knit to pattern and gauge have had sleeves which are too narrow (when my arms aren’t particularly big) and why sweaters I have knit based on upper arm measurement when I didn’t get gauge fit fabulously.

  14. I always find that I knit sleeves too tight, despite careful measurement of a sweater that fits, swatching, getting gauge, etc. And I realized last time that the reason is: when I’m swatching and measuring gauge, I’m doing it on a flat surface and measuring the straight distance. But then when I take that flat surface and turn it into a tube to make a sleeve, I think the inner circumference is actually a little shorter than the width of the swatch laid flat, because the outer surface is being stretched and is providing some elasticity and compression. So I need to remember to add a few stitches to account for this!

    Your lakeside family retreat sounds so restorative–I hope it was just what you needed, Stephanie! And so lovely to have you “back”. (I know you didn’t actually go anywhere…)

  15. The absolute correctness of the pee thing made me smile. I ignored my inner knitter last night snd decided the wonky spot in the yoke if my almost completed bottom up yoke sweater was wrong and it would block right out. I had to ignore her because I evacuated NOLA with 3 T shirts and a pair of pants (and yarn and my partially completed sweater – we were in a hurry but I have my priorities). Let me tell you, it is too cold at night in NC for a T shirt right now. Well, I washed and blocked the sweater this morning and the weirdness blocked right out! Sometimes the universe decides it has been a rough week and cuts you some slack…

    • Why do I ever think I can actual type a coherent sentence on my phone. “and decided the wonky spot in the yoke of my almost completed” is what I meant to say.

      • And I put a period instead of a question mark this time. I think I left a portion of my mind at home in New Orleans when we evacuated. I had trouble figuring out how to insert my credit card in the slot the other day when I was trying to buy peaches. I have inserted credit cards into slots roughly a billion times in my life and how to do it just completely escaped me!

  16. So true. All of it. My inner knitter has spoken to me many times, clearly and plainly, in the same urgent tone, but was rebuffed in the excitement of progress.
    Listening to the IK rather than the mathematics is a next-level faith that only comes with time and humility.
    With YOU though .. what’s that about? Aren’t you and your IK on speaking terms? 🙂

  17. You ripped out two sleeves? That’s what I needed to hear. I have been procrastinating all afternoon about ripping out an almost finished cap. Somehow my provisional stitches for a Kitchener joining got on the needle all wrong, or, honestly, the wrong row of stitches got on the needle. I’ve done some Kitchener stitching with moderate success, but I can only do it under ideal circumstances — ABSOLUTELY NO INTERRUPTIONS, NO ONE RINGING THE DOORBELL, NO PHONE CALLS, (NO TRIPS TO THE OUTHOUSE).

    • I procrastinate. Still have not ripped out the now flawed cap. Put it in a bag and out of sight. Went this afternoon to a knit group that does a lot of knitting for charity. We have access to donated yarns, and it’s hard to resist. Of course I didn’t. It’s not as if I don’t have enough stash of my own. Came home with miles of red yarn — to make red scarves for a hospital women’s heart program, and a tiny bit of a variegated white that might be enough to make a wee sweater for a preemie.

      • I didn’t rip it out after all, and I think I have recovered and am now (almost) ready to tackle the joining by Kitchener Stitch, but again, only after I can be assured uninterrupted time. I am currently working on a slightly smaller versioin, and will work on the Kitchener Stitch at the same time.

        • I rescued the project, I really did. Did not rip out and start over. Worked out pretty good. Put it together with the Kitchener Stitch. Almost always have more stitcles on the last needle than the first, but only one or two, which can easily be taken up and hidden.

  18. I know it’s no fun to make mistakes, but I find it so encouraging that wonderful knitters like you make them too. I make astonishing cock ups all the time, so it’s nice to know I’m in good company.

    My gauge is much tighter in the round than it is on the flat, especially on dpns, so I have to watch sweaters and cardigans if I try to knit the sleeves on four needles (which is my favourite way to knit, especially sleeves) but mostly I just want to *knit*. I don’t want to do maths, on concentrate on charts or faffy shaping, I just want to quietly knock off rounds with minimal brain power.

  19. Oh, Stephanie, I’ve met that inner knitter! They’re always right; I don’t know why we ignore them for so long. But I’m glad you had a good time with family and friends. And now you get to enjoy that yarn you love so much, *again*! At least that’s what I tell myself.

  20. Ugh. This is probably a relative – drunken uncle or slightly snippy unfavorite cousin or someone – to my current punishment of standing screaming alone in hell. A few weeks ago I disobeyed beginner’s Rule # 2 or 3 – ALWAYS, always finish a row when interrupted, if atl possible.

    Halfway down the back of the top-down one-piece (except for sleeves) hooded sweater for me, – and I am by no means a little girl – someone interrupted me, and I said “Coming!”. Carefully putting the two circular needle ends together with a strong rubber band (I really don’t ever trust any of the manufactured tip protectors), I gently slid the work just an inch or two further to ensure its safety whilst awaiting my return. (No, the rubberband didn’t break – if only!!)

    Returning the next evening to my chair, I removed the rubber band, and took work to hand,.and BIG GULP! ONE END OF THE CORD HAD PULLED OUT OF THE NEEDLE END, sending half of the stitches into oblivion! This has never ever happened to me in about 70 years of knitting. (Did circular needles even exist then??)

    After toiling to capture some of the stitches onto a bright-color yarn scrap, I carefully took the bag-fullt to knitting group the next day, seeking solace. As I was showing off my unbelievable dilemma, I discovered that the other half of the stitches had mysteriously followed their leaders into the same freedom, but at the halfway mark where I had stopped the other night.

    Some thoughtful assistance from a few friends at least got that half onto the scrap yarn, as I swallowed my tears of frustration. So –

    – I am about finished with getting the first half onto a (new and firmly connected) circular needle. Since I had ended mid-row, I had to insert yet a 3rd needle to use to get to a row end. The next full row will also be ripped back, since there are now a few locations that clearly have a hole or twist where a stitch was dropped beyond immediate recovery or the (splitting!) yarn has done some straange art work on the area. Slowly, slowly wins the race – I hope. The yarn, bless it, is a lovely variegated part wool in shades of autumn browns and golds. Which autumn remains to be seen.

    Oh – did i mention that each row has about 400 stitches?????? Inner knitter, shut up!!

  21. Thank you for this blog post! The epic fails are better for your readers’ psyches than the successes. They make us all feel better about our own struggles! I’ve made mistakes that would turn your hair white!

  22. I’m getting a tiny bit better about listening to my inner knitter. So maybe if I tell myself that it is my inner knitter telling me to get up and get the peeing done, I will actually do that?

  23. Exactly, like when you measure the last piece of yarn and then it stops 5 stitches from the end :),what to do?
    Hubby has encouraged me to undo and take on harder and harder pattern( I love lacey ones). It feels good to ‘conquer’ them and give away or wear the results.
    Love your blogs.

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