Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Svalbard Sweater: Five Photos and A Zillion Words are Worth, Um...

For what it's worth (and I suspect not much), I won this battle of erroneous cartridge stitch. I'm able to tell you about it from the comfort of my own home, which is where I am right now, as there's a blizzard outside and it's considered unsafe to be traveling later in the day. Yeah, you read that right. There's a half a foot of snow on top of a foot of compacted snow and ice. And we're not even at the bad point.

Anyway, enough about the most depressing weather ever, let's talk about how I've prevailed on the knitting front.

I emailed back and forth 16 times with the Brooklyn Tweed tech support (Christine). In case you're interested, she doesn't knit every BT pattern - though she can help you with all of them. She's simply bizarrely mathtastic. In the course of our discussions, and since I am the one who made the teensy error to take me completely out of phase, I determined some things (feel free to skip this if you're not intending to make this sweater... It's technical.):
  • Cartridge stitch is a 4 stitch + 1 stitch repeat wherein two stockinette columns separate three stitches that are done in a kind of moss pattern. Generally that pattern is KKKP etc. on the right side and KKPK etc. on the wrong side.To complicate things, though the pattern isn't tricky unless you fuck it up, the columns of stockinette are in a different spot on the right side of the fabric, than on the wrong side of the fabric. When it goes wrong, the errors are SO visible it's ridiculous. Alas, it's hard to see until you're 2 rows into the wrongness. 
  • Actually, now that I've spent hours deconstructing the stitch pattern, I can tell you that the wrong side will always advise you if the right side is correct. And the right side will do the same for the wrong side. But it takes a while to figure out what's going on.
  • Think of each stitch in parallel with the one below. The first stitch is in rib (with the one below), the second in garter (with the one below), the third in rib and the fourth in garter.  Consider also, by way of ensuring that you have things right, that every rib column produces that long line of stockinette either on the right side or on the wrong side. The columns are always separated by one stitch of garter.
  • In order to figure out where I was - so that I could move forward - this advice, from Christine, was critical: You have a center knit column on both the wrong and right sides - this knit column is always the center stitch of the knit 3 in the pattern. On either side of the knit 3 is a purl 1. So when you come to work a row after increasing, if you focus on the knit column and figure that is the 2nd stitch of a knit 3, you can work backwards from there.
What you need to understand is that I made an error, early on in the process, that isn't very visible but has had implications for the stitch pattern.

You can actually see it in this photo (and I'm only disclosing this for science):

Near the heart of stockinette stitch (at the centre of the piece), on the left side of the photo, two columns went out of phase. I knew something was up (because, after this point, in order to get it to work, I had to revisit cartridge stitch every row and base it on the mirror image of what I had done on the other side - aka working from the centre point outwards), but I didn't realize what had happened until I was hours on the other side of the error. And seriously, I don't think you would have noticed it if I hadn't pointed it out because I didn't notice it and I'm a freak about these things!

But let's get back to the place where the problem really clarified itself - at the point where that flat piece, above, gets bigger and wider and the side bits of cartridge stitch fold over into sleeves...

First I had to decide on my course of action: I could unknit those 2 set up rows (350ish stitches), which are the hardest ones to tink because there's also set-up to reverse engineer. I could scrap the whole thing (which was my first choice, but seemed rash). I could scrap it and start again (this was at the bottom of the options, popularity-wise). Or - and this I came up with at the last minute - I could knit the next row (the one after the 2 set up rows) as my newly set-up sleeves were error free, and then with each of the 71 stitches on the back section of the sweater (where the problem was), I could undo the two stitches below the one I was working, to aright the cartridge stitch.

Yeah, I'd have to rework 213 stitches, but I didn't have to take the whole thing back to the studs.

So that's what I did. But easier said than done.

I had to make a chart showing what cartridge stitch should be on my back panel:

Don't try to detangle it, it's a working document - which is to say, if you didn't make it, you likely won't understand what it means. I will tell you that the first row of the set up, which the pattern refers to as the "Pick up for Fronts" row is the bottom row on my chart and one reads it from right to left. The second row, the one the pattern calls the Set Up row (in the middle) is read from left to right (as it's a wrong side row). The top row, again read from right to left, is the one I had to work as I went. I mean, that's the row I was on. As I worked each stitch in the top row, I undid the two stitches below (if required) to aright the pattern.

But it wasn't that easy. This only dealt with the back portion. I also had sleeves at this point, being past the set up...

Those I charted differently, because I've made no errors in that part of the pattern:

What happens here, is that you read from right to left, bottom to top, stopping in the middle to shift to the pattern chart for the back body when you get to that spot. (The blue highlighting is the reminder to do this).

Oh, but it wasn't that easy either.

Cuz row 3 is a "chevron increase row". This means, I also had to work increases in the stitches bordered by the sleeves and the back - the underarm gusset which is worked simultaneously.

That's why I wrote myself an order of operations for just row 3:

And now, perhaps you can understand why my brain hurts.

Mind you, I think the problem's fixed:

Now here's hoping I don't make another mistake...

Thoughts or feelings?


  1. Thought: I think you have a whole lot more patience than I do (I would have ripped to the beginning and forgotten all about the pattern). Feeling: Jealous that you are at home!

    Also, that sweater is looking good.

  2. I actually think I might be insane. Honestly - I can't believe I bothered to put the hours into fixing this - much less the hour to write about it?!?! And every row continues to take as much focus as the last. It's sort of torturous (but in the most interesting way) because you're really knitting everything all at once. Each row is like 2 fronts, two underarms and a back.

  3. Is it okay if I'm laughing? I mean, seriously, this could be a comedy routine if I didn't also get how tragic your hours were. . . . so you have my mucho sympathy, but I'm still kinda laughing. Hope that's okay . . . .

    1. This is one of the more ridiculous project-saves I've ever done. Honestly, I could have started again and got to the same point (almost) in the time I spent mentally revisiting and charting out this fix. It could be a comedy skit for an extremely specific audience :-)

  4. I've just learned to make my own knitting charts -- I feel your pain. I really really dislike fixing my errors -- it takes forever, doesn't! Congratulations on your tenacity! I think 213 stitches to fix is doable!

    1. I hate the errors! But if you don't figure out how to fix them, you'll never knit anything of substance cuz there is no way to use 1000 yards of fabric without making some mistakes. It was fewer than 213 in the end because only 45 of the 71 stitches needed undoing and redoing. Only 135 stitches. Like a picnic :-)

  5. In awe of your perseverance. It's going to look great when you've finished. Stay warm!

    1. I really hope this thing doesn't look like a sack on me or I may have to burn it in the end :-) And thank you for your lovely support!

  6. It's a very cool pattern. I'm not sure i would have had the patience to fix this issue, but I admire your tenacity.

    1. Thanks Farah! And it's so lovely to see you back at blogging! Glad to read that all is well with you. xo

  7. I'm about to start this - my most challenging knit to date but I fell in deep, deep love with the pattern and the yarn. I am scared to cast on at the moment as I can't work out where I'm meant to start the sleeve chart and I so want it to be perfect! How is yours looking now?

    1. I have to take a photo of the finished item - thank you for reminding me! It all worked out well. Give it a go, Mils. You'll do fine and there's lots of support with Brooklyn Tweed and the posts and Ravelry info that's out there.