Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fit or Die

I appear to be incapable of knitting anything - even an unfitted, rectangular vest - without doing the math. And thank the knitting goddess, really. Cuz if I hadn't done a gauge swatch and an hour of recon, the Die Cut Vest would be unwearable, I'm pretty sure.

Quick detour: No, I haven't finished the Karner Wrap, the world's most boring and endless project. It seems I'll need to make this my project to knit when I'm working on other projects that I actually enjoy less. On the plus side, it's really gorgeous and I can see how it's going to be very useful. And chic. I don't think it much matters if it takes me another couple of months to finish the second half.

But back to the Die Cut Vest...
Die Cut Vest by Sara Morris
The most difficult thing about this vest is getting your head around the construction. It's knit along the vertical plane from centre front lace panel to centre front lace panel. (Well, there's a seam down the middle of the back, if you choose to follow the instructions, so technically you knit 2 halves and then join.) My point is that your vertical gauge affects your horizontal plane (width) and your horizontal gauge affects your vertical plane (length). It's a bit of a mind fuck.

What further adds to the challenge - if you don't get gauge - is that the pattern is written with a combo of length by row count and length by inches (remember, affecting width) instructions - so you can't just sub your own gauge into the equation, change the number of rows you work, and assume it's all going to be ok.

When you look at this vest, you might think - as I really, really wanted to: There's no shaping to speak of. It's perfect for winging it! 
Do not be fooled.

Reason Why You Shouldn't Wing It No. 1: Thing is, my gauge is VERY off. And from the looks of many versions I've seen, so is everyone else's. The pattern dictates 7.5 stitches and 10.25 rows per inch on a 3mm needle. Recognizing that I knit loosely, I swatched on a 2.75 mm needle and my gauge was still only 6 st and 9 rows, after blocking. That's crazy off - on a smaller needle.

In real terms, what this means is that my vest dimensions would be 6 inches wider and 4 inches longer than the pattern's had I just started knitting with my "predicted" smaller needle size. If I'd gone with the original (3 mm) needle, I can't imagine how bad the end product would have been?!

I should say that the fabric is very dense, even having only gone down one needle size. I'm loath to go down another, but it's really my best recourse. Cuz even if I go down another size, I can only hope that I'll nudge my (very off) gauge to 6.75 stitches and 9.75 rows per inch. Happily, that would allow me to achieve the exact length I want - 18.5 inches (2.5 inches longer than the pattern specifies). In terms of vertical gauge (determining width), I'd be able to cut 3 of those extra 6 inches of width. I'd deal with the remaining 3 inches by removing width from the centre back of the vest. In this case, that's as easy as cutting about 15 rows from each side of that centre seam. Gotta love less work!

Reason Why You Shouldn't Wing It No. 2: Here's the thing. I intend to make the size 32. The pattern specifies that this size refers to a full bust circumference of 32 inches. (Side Bar: As you know, I'm ok with lots of negative wearing ease, even when the garment is supposed to have none.) The ridiculous thing about this vest, however - and please review the totally confusing pattern schematic to confirm this for yourself - is that the size 32 actually knits up to a bust circumference of 41". The designer has added 9 inches of ease into the pattern and doesn't mention it anywhere??? If you want to know, you've got to dig around the schematic or read the instructions and devise a schematic of your own. I did devise my own schematic based on instructions because the one provided is really inadequate.

It's no wonder that most every Raveler's finished version (except for the one modeled in the relevant issue of Knit.Wear) looks like a sloppy, oversized mess. Even if you get gauge this thing is likely bigger than you'd want it to be. Add to that the predisposition of the average knitter to a) avoid swatching on unfitted items and b) consider only horizontal gauge when they do swatch and it's no surprise.

Stupidly, sometimes your unfitted garments require more fitting than the fitted ones.

Next up: I swatch for the second time, on the 2.5mm needle, hopefully to get gauge that will permit me to make this garment. Remember, I don't need even need to get pattern gauge. I just have to manage to gain .75 of a stitch per inch and .75 of a row per inch. This should be interesting... Oh, and wait till I tell you about the yarn I've chosen.

In the meanwhile, thoughts or feelings?

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like a bit of a badly written pattern tbh! But I have faith you can tackle it. I too cannot escape mathsing out any project I undertake. But it saves you in the long run! Be sure you don't go down to too tight a gauge. I did that and had to frog the whole thing when I admitted it was super uncomfortable to knit and the fabric was gross too...

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    1. It's not badly written but the tech diagram is useless. I think the gauge and needle size will be ok. I did remember your post about going to firm with the yarn as I was swatching though!

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  2. I really, really want to make this one so will follow the saga with interest...

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  3. Rather than force a small needle and a tight fabric for the "right" gauge. I'd use swatching to figure out what makes a pleasing fabric to -me-. Then since it's unfitted it'd be a piece of cake to simply recalculate how many stitches you need for the size you prefer. I know, I know, but you can use a calculator and it'd come out so much better :-).

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    1. Thing is that the lace section is a 12-stitch repeat. So I'd need to cut a min of 12 stitches - too many.

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  4. My head hurts...and I'm not the one knitting it!

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  5. I like how you break patterns down - fascinating reading. Since I don't have a head for numbers, most of your calculations go way over my head, but it's still interesting.

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    1. Thanks! Every time I start, I have no idea of how I'll figure out the math, but when I take it one step at a time, it seems to come together...

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  6. I'd be worried about the final fabric being too stiff/tight if you do down more to get gauge. I could see this being very unflattering if the knit didn't cling to the bust, then flow/drape down onto the abdomen.

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    1. Oh, I agree! I did go down and got the gauge I need. It may still be an ugly fit on me at the end, but I will have done my best.

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