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Torrent

I think I need to keep the details of this new project on the QT for now, but -

Are these colors spectacular, or are they spectacular?

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VOLUME 1, NUMBER 5

So, Sweaters That Fit, Part II. The current popularity of handknitting is certainly a good thing - wild demand encourages available patterns, instruction and materials to get better all the time. We have so many choices - technique and styling are no longer region- or function-bound; rare fibers and closely-guarded secrets of method and technique are available to any of us. There's a downside, though: as the industry of handknitting supply grows, swallowing intuition and knowledge with shortcuts and workarounds, the knitting itself becomes less and less personal. As we move away from custom-knitting the same utility garment over and over for one or two people whose measurements we know intimately, and more towards the "new" knitting - graded patterns with line-by-line instructions - understanding your knitting, making it to suit you personally, becomes more useful than ever.

Could you possibly help with an idiot's guide to the math of yarn
substitution?

For example, I have a pattern specifying a yarn which knits up at 4"=22 sts/30 rows, but I want to knit it at a gauge of 4"=16 sts/22 rows. Obviously it won't be anything like the same garment, but it's the shape I'm after and I think it would work well in a more robust fabric.

My haphazard guess as far as it goes is this: if the pattern specifies 'cast on 120 sts', for example, this should measure 22", so in my substituted yarn I would cast on 88 st. And if is this is right – where do I go from here? Do I just do the same kind of math to calculate how many rows I should knit before starting the shaping? And what about the shaping itself? If the patterns specifies a decrease every four rows, should I do it every three, over fewer rows? And what about the decreases themselves? Will I need fewer of them if I have thicker yarn, or maybe a different kind of decrease?

Please help! This has been worrying me for ages and if I had a walk-though tutorial I'd be much more confident about making yarn substitutions – and maybe even trying to design something myself.

Philippa

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I believe in the power of the swatch and swatch faithfully but have been thrown off by row gauge. What should I do if my stitch gauge in right on but my row gauge is off? It seems reasonable to think that a different size needle might fix the row gauge problem but end up throwing my stitch gauge off. What I've been doing is going through the pattern, working the math (i.e. work 18 rows means knit 3 inches according to the pattern's row gauge) and then rewriting the pattern based on my row gauge. Is there a less complicated way to go about this?

Emily in VT
aka E to the M

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I would like to knit the Soleil tank from Knitty, but am having issues figuring out what to do to ensure a good fit. I measured myself and length and the strap length are the same size (2nd size option), but the bottom and waist are a different size (4th size option). And I'm sure that there will be a size issue since I am a 38F cup size.

Basically, how does one go about adjusting a pattern to ensure a good fit all over, but especially in the bust and waist?

Reagan

(The discussion that follows is relevant whenever knitters want to modify a pattern - whether by substituting yarns/gauge or changing the shape lines. It's also useful when doing the math for a garment from scratch.)

When changing the yarn and/or gauge called for in a given pattern, take Philippa's lead and consider first what that'll mean for the finished look of the garment. Hopefully, the designer has put some thought into what kind of yarn and gauge would work best for that particular pattern -

if the instructions call for fingering-weight alpaca at a very fine gauge, it's because the sweater is intended to cling and drape.






Maybe a many-plied cotton in a gauge tighter than normal for worsted weight yarns is used because it makes the stitches really pop.






And so forth. I'm all for experimenting with gauges and yarns and in general personalizing patterns, but do think about whether it'll change the essential character of the garment, and whether you'll like that change or not.

Before beginning anything, of course, be like Emily and make a swatch. Yes, it might be true that over time you'll be able to predict gauge by looking at the yarn. Yes, it's true that some plans, like top-downs, can be tried on as you knit. Yes, it's true that swatching can be a major pain. It's also true that nothing is more useful to creativity: the numbers are absolutely necessary when trying to draft a structured garment or try a unique construction, and it's invaluable in deciding how to show off a given yarn. A generous swatch will show you the way that particular fiber at that particular gauge in that particular stitch moves, drapes, feels against the skin - probably not things you want to discover the efficacy of halfway into a pet project. Wash and block your swatches the same way you'll wash and block your finished project - there's no other way to get an accurate picture.

This isn't to say that I swatch for everything, all the time, but I do think it's important when you're trying something new or making heavy adjustments. Everyone's had the experience of trying to fudge a quarter stitch - and winding up with a sweater three inches too big. It matters, people!

If you're trying to get gauge but seem to be off, take the swatch that comes closest to the required gauge and see if you can wet-block it to the right stitch and/or row count without sacrificing the look of the fabric - you'll be shocked at how much give knits have (and how much better thorough blocking can make handknitting look). If you're having row gauge issues, try blocking it to the required gauge or adjusting to the next needle size - often, a quarter millimeter won't make much of a difference in stitch gauge, but a huge difference in row gauge.

Okay, maybe there's just no way you're going to get gauge, or you've got gauge but need to adjust parts of the pattern. I'm assuming everyone knows this, but just to get it all down:

So, if 22 stitches = 4", you know that there are 5.5 stitches in every inch (22/4). Your new gauge is 16 stitches = 4", so there are 4 stitches in every inch (16/4). Now set it up this way with your different gauge:

Balance it out, and you'll find number you're looking for - the number of stitches needed in a given place at the old gauge. Here, just as Philippa said, it's more or less 87 (120*4/5.5).

That "more or less" shows you the second important relationship: that between the written instructions and the finished measuremens of the garment. Because of relatively large units (individual stitches) used in handknit fabrics, the written instructions in any given pattern will almost never produce something exactly to the measurements given in the schematic. A little fudging is almost always done to preserve design elements and work with those awkward building blocks (this is why instructions always* say "Block to measurements"). So, you have a decision to make - use the lengths and widths of the schematic/finished measurements as your target, or the extrapolated lengths/widths from the written instructions. I tend to think that rewriting the pattern to the schematic whenever you can is more accurate, but it's usually only a loss of a fraction of an inch either way. It's not a big deal, as long as you block to the finished measurements: to let you do so, round your calculated stitch counts in a way that makes the piece slightly smaller rather than larger. In our example above, the calculations say that we should cast on 87.272727 stitches. Obviously, we can't do that - I'd round down to 87 stitches, and make up the difference in blocking. Then, too, you'll occasionally need to fudge one or two stitches to maintain a pattern - a multiple of four for ribbing, for example. Don't stress too much about being exact - as long as it's only a few stitches overall either way (less than .5" worth, say), it's not a big deal.

Now, you need to figure out increases and decreases. Using the above, we know that the old row gauge gave 7.5 rows to the inch, and the new one 5.5. Say the pattern says to decrease about 1.5" worth of stitches evenly in the 4" worth of rows between the hem and the waist - either you'll be able to see this in the schematic, or you can read the instructions and count 9 stitches decreased at each edge over a total of 30 rows. With the new gauge, you'll want to decrease the same width over the same length - 6 stitches (9*4/5.5) over 22 rows (30*5.5/7.5). Divide those decreases as evenly as you can - the quotient of 6 into 22 is 3, remainder 4, or 6 "groups" of 3 rows with 4 rows left over. All you need to do is spread those 4 extra rows out among the groups to make 2 groups of 3 rows and 4 of 4 rows, otherwise written as "decrease 1 stitch every 3rd row two times, and then every 4th row 4 times."

Increases and bindoffs can be handled in the same way.

Changing a pattern with the same gauge is even easier - just establish the measurements you want using the guidelines given yesterday, and with the very first formula, calculate the new number of stitches or rows you need to make that measurement happen. For specific thoughts on shaping at the bust, check out this post.

Boo to droopy, dumpy, frumpy handknits - huzzah for ones that flatter and fit!

Comments

Those are great looking colors. So rich. Hmmm . . . I wonder what you're up to now.

Oh boy! I'm going to be waiting for this project to work up! Can't wait to see what you do with it...

I love the colors of the QT project. I can't wait to see what you do with them.

And thank you for another great Q/A. Sweaters That Fit are so much nicer than those that don't.

Yet another wonderful and informative post. I can't wait to put all this information to use.

Such an informative and interesting blog, you're one of my Top Ten. Very interesting-looking Future Project, too.

QT? I see greens, lots of greens, and some lovely browns, it is all kind of a forest, AND I see some Jamieson labels... aaawww it's going to be some colour-fest. QT? aaawww man.

Oh! the suspense! the colors are very, very nice - you look at them and there's no question that Eunny has an eye for great color combos. (you ARE going to send this bunch of yarn to me, no? :))

You are so brilliant Eunny! You're doing such a good job with your unraveling column. Not only are they informative, they're a lot of fun to read.

The new yarns are very pretty.

Oooh, pretty colors. These would make a beautiful fair isle sweater!

Those are lovely yarns. Mind posting what brand they are, because I'm quite minded to buy some? :)

Ye gads, woman - where did you learn all of this?! Principles of Knitting was piped directly into your brain?! :)

I've gotta say - your blog is the first one I read when I see an update. I bow to your knowledge and ability to translate knitting into math for those of us who are "mathmatically challenged".

One thing to consider with respect to Emily's question is that some of us **never** get row gauge. Me, for instance. Don't quote me, but I think perhaps Claudia and fluffa Becky, too. I'll speak for myself - my rows are always compressed, so much so, that blocking won't help. So, following your general directions, I always adjust patterns such that I'm knitting more rows than specified. The math is of the same type as you describe... it's just a bit of effort to ensure proper fit :).

Eunny & Grumperina too, thank you for answering my question. While I'm a girl who loves math, it looks like I was doing way more than I needed to.

I love the color for the QT project, very comforting in this time of abysmal rain on the East coast. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

Wheee! Thank you so much, Eunny. This was exactly what I was hoping for, and has made me much more confident of setting off next to the beaten track! It's great to have things spelled out, and in a much less wooly form than they were in my head. ;) I am enormously grateful.

I agree with Grumperina. I never worry much about variations in the vertical gauge (number of rows) when I'm adjusting a pattern for different yarn or to check the number of horizontal stitches per inch I get. I just measure the vertical distance I want (say, 15 inches from the bottom to the armhole) and knit until I get it. I use the the body of the sweater to then decide how long I want the sleeves to be. In other words, the sweater body becomes my "gauge swatch" for the sleeve length. Unless the pattern has a very complex design (as in some Kaffee Fassett intarsia sweaters), this system works well. Occasionally I will reposition a cable so it begins at the bottom and ends at the neckline (or, on the sleeve, begins at the cuff and ends at the top of the arm).

Such good advice for all knitters - newbies as well as veterans. Your site is one of my favorites. Bravo!

Your new project looks wonderful! I spy some Jamieson Shetland, no? Can't wait to see what you do with it.

Eunny, you explain so succinctly what I seem to do intuitively, but I could never explain like you do. Thanks for taking the "fear" out of adjusting a pattern!

Thank you. This was such a great help. I have been able to figure out how to change the CO number when knitting at a different gauge, but I always got stuck when it came to waist shaping and armholes. Excellent work.

Lovely lovely yarn. Great colors! What will it all be when it grows up?
You have such a good grasp on how to make things fit. I for one am always trying to find a person for my FO to fit, heh.

I love my knitting math! (scary, huh?)

PS - looove the colors for the new project!

you are so totally my knitting hero.

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