Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gauging The Situation

Wispy Cardigan by Hannah Fettig (Purchase on

One of the great things about making mistakes (she says, only vaguely believing it), is that you may inadvertently learn something that would otherwise have come to you along a much circuitous route. And by you, I mean me. Though I welcome you to come along.

Such is the case with the Wispy Cardigan (that I'm about to finish in a size small). It's an ingenious design which, I'm fairly sure, has a drafting issue in the sleeves and back shoulders. I say fairly sure because I have only slightly more knitting experience than your average polar bear, so I very much welcome any more informed perspectives. But you know how I love to immerse myself in the learning of these patterns (working with a teacher, having just done a knit shaping course online, and having read a bunch) and I suspect that what makes the cardi so intriguing is what's leading to the gap-iness across the back at the shoulders.

In addition to the gap mentioned above, and note that I got gauge on a pre-knitting swatch, the sleeves are way to wide and floppy for either my tastes or my arms. Were I ever to make this again - and the jury is out - I would def resize the sleeves substantively. Maybe I'd knit the extra small in sleeves moving to the small in the body. Note: Having taken the Craftsy course, I now know how to use gauge to resize arm circumference exactly - presuming I can verify the amount of built-in ease. So I could also get hyper mathy on this pattern's ass.

Or, I might just move on to the next knit objet, taking from this what I can and will.
Which brings me to the most useful thing I can and will take from this project - a thing I only learned now because I accidentally used the wrong needle size on a brief section of the sweater (the part after the ribbing on the back that also includes 2, almost imperceptible, triangular flaps produced by what they call "short rows")*

At this time - and possibly for a long time to come - my eye prefers the look of rather slim fingering weight yarns (i.e. 4 ply or sock weight) knit on rather slim needles (size US 4 or 3.25 mm). They are neither the slimmest of yarns nor the slimmest of needles, but when you put them both together they produce a slender, tight knit. Nothing bulky. Nothing "open".

I have nothing against bulk or open weave for those who like them. But given my shape and my style, they aren't optimal. Furthermore, both bulk and larger and/or more open stitches say, to me, "knit with love by hand". While I appear to love knitting by hand, somehow I don't want my garment to tell that tale.

This opens up the floor to my first of a few questions in this post: Do any of you have an optimal yarn weight / needle size combo, or one that you return to again and again? Sub question: Do you have feelings about bulk or open weave (or tight weave for that matter)?

If you've already followed the asterisk, above, down to the bottom of the page you will have noted that my knitting teacher was completely nonplussed by the needle size error and suggested (truly) that it would all come out in the wash. More specifically, she said that wet blocking would fix it. You may recall blocking from one of my previous posts - or, if a knitter, no doubt you are already very familiar with the practice.

Thing about this sweater is that, in order to try to tighten it up slightly, the proposed "blocking" technique is to throw it in the washer and dryer. Just writing that sentence made me nervous. Note: The wool/silk blend is made for socks and is apparently designed to be cleaned in this ultra-practical fashion.

This leads me to Question 2: Has anyone else used Chloe & Spud fine sock yarn and put it through the washer/dryer? If yes, did you remove it from the dryer when damp and block - and did it work as it's supposed to? Did anyone dry it full on and was there any shrink factor? If it went wonky, pls. advise! Or if you've worked with other yarn, designed to wash and dry, what has been your experience?

The way this sweater is knit, any blocking must occur after full assembly; there's not much assembly and it occurs mid-way through the project. Even were I to forgo putting it in the washer/dryer (if your advice came back that way), I don't know that regular wet blocking would work - and I'm damn sure it isn't going to slim up the wide sleeve circumference issue.

* Yes, this traumatizes me but my knowledgeable knitting teacher said it would block out and not be noticeable. I wonder if this counts when one intends to block by throwing the garment in the washer and dryer - as the yarn instructions advise is acceptable.


  1. I haven't worked with Chloe & Spud yet, but have you checked Ravelry for comments on this yarn? You could also look at the completed cardigans there - other people might have already had the same problem you did.

  2. Oh, the joys of achieving gauge! To answer your first questions, I love knitting with bulky yarn because it goes fast, fast, fast! But I don’t like wearing bulky items because I end up getting lost in them given my size/shape. A happy medium for me is a size 4mm or 4.5mm needle – not too small, not too bulky and not to “handmade” looking. As for your second question, I have never used the yarn you’re asking about, but have thrown a couple 100% wool or alpaca items in the wash, always in a delicate cycle with not too much agitation, and when it comes to the dryer, checking in every five minutes. The aim was to shrink the item a bit and it worked for me but if you try this I would recommend the utmost vigilance (i.e. check in on the dryer like a total OCD person). Let us know how it all goes – that cardigan was on my “to make one day” list so I’m very curious.

  3. You have my empathy! I am still trying to finish knitting my first sweater. I started last winter! I will read your discoveries regarding knitting with interest!

  4. Kristin,
    I also prefer the look of sock weight knit items. I usually make socks because they are smaller and more portable. My problem is that I have a very loose gauge and usually need to go down to a US 1 or 0 to get the correct gauge! I have made alot of socks. Some of the "washable" yarn works great, others will felt even though they say it won't. Why don't you experiement with your gauge swatch? (Measure before and after washing and drying) I never put these things in the dryer, but then again I rarely use my dryer. Good luck.

  5. Those cardigans look like works of art.

    Sorry, no knitting experience I'm afraid. I can't wait to see your work.

  6. By "bulky" do you mean specifically bulky-weight yarns, or do you just mean anything larger than fingering weight?

    Personally, I like the look and weight of a good knitted sweater (as opposed to, say, a drapey, ultra-fine machine-knitted wool cardigan) and I just think of the two as totally separate things. I would never have the time or patience to make so many finely-knitted garments, especially when they are the one piece of ready-to-wear clothing that I have a very easy time finding and fitting.

    Personally, I think the "homemmade" thing is much more about things like yarn choice, skill and finishing techniques. And, I hate to say it and offend anyone, but also stitch/pattern choice. With some exceptions, I think too much garter stitch makes an item "homemade," as do most crocheted garments.

    But, ultimately, those are only my opinions, and I think the best thing about knitting is the fact that you can choose to do what you like and ditch what you don't, and customize your clothing to your own taste/shape. So keep on doing what you're doing... you seem to be on a roll and having a good time :D

  7. I'm definitely going to check out that pattern - your finished objects looks so cute in the photo!

    I've never actually gotten around to knitting something for myself (just for others), but I am quite fond of single-stranding bamboo DK-weight on Size 4s.

  8. I knit for the kids because the things I have made for myself take FOREVER and then I decide I don't like the fit/colour/style/etc. Yes, hopeless. Still I do binge knit for the kids and have found I prefer double knit weight and 4mm - 5.5mm needles. I just like the weight and feel of the finished item with this combo I think. I have done big hefty knit with finer fluffier yarns before with success but then the fluff got up my nose (literally).

    I have thrown many a kiddo hand knit in the washing machine, often by mistake, but never in the dryer. They survive the wash absolutely fine even on a normal cycle (cold) with normal detergent.

  9. Gauss: I'm going to read some reviews of the yarn. I won't be working with it again...

    Andrea: Thanks for the feedback. I did watch the sweater like a hawk. It never did shrink!

    Susan: They look better in that photo than my actual finished garment did...

    Ms. M: I've been thinking about your comment and what makes a garment look homemade. I'm revising my opinion about yarn weight, too. Just cuz something is slim, doesn't mean it's going to work out well (Wispy being an example). And I can find those knits easily. I'm going to make my next sweater an aran - with size 8 needles. Intrigued to see how I'll feel about it cuz it's supposed to be snug - and it's ribbed in the body.

    Laura: Those FOs weren't mine (belong to the designer...)

    Emily: Have you been "fitting your knits"? You might like knitting sweaters for yourself more if you felt the fit was more knowable. That's what I'm realizing.