Friday, August 31, 2012


Aaron's Trip by jezzybelly
I like this photo my husband took on his work trip to Sydney and Singapore. I think this was in Sydney, as I doubt they'd allow "wall art" in Singapore, but I could be wrong.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Knitting frustration

I'm still here in Germany and I have pictures of our travels to post, but between work and my latest knitting frustration, I have been too busy to get to them. But I am going to vent about the knitting frustration. I just ripped out about a month's worth of knitting over it.

I'm working on this sweater: Laguna Jacket. I bought the pattern and yarn in Wellington, New Zealand when we visited there two years ago. I tried on a finished jacket in the store so I had a good idea how the jacket would turn out and fit. It seemed like a great little cardigan and I assumed it would not difficult to make, especially since the pattern isn't very long and is labeled "intermediate." When I was going through my yarn and patterns before leaving for Germany, I thought this would be an ideal project to knit over the summer. In hindsight, I should have checked first because despite over 2 million registered users of Ravelry and an average of 500,000 active users per month, NO ONE has made this pattern. This meant that I was on my own when I had problems with the pattern. And oh yes, I had problems. I have not found any errata for the pattern either which left me questioning "is it me, or is it the pattern instructions?" While I'm not the most experience knitter, especially when it comes to knitting sweaters, I do know something about construction of garments and I do know math. It's not me.

I will be posting my experience with this pattern on Ravelry but I need to vent about it here on my blog first. First let me say that while I have never written a pattern, let alone one for publication, I have friends who have. I know they spend a great amount of time making sure the pattern works for different sizes and checking it for errors. I also have friends who have tested patterns for designers to make sure the instructions are correct. So I am very disappointed to find that the same care was apparently not taken with this pattern and that it has cost me a lot of time and caused me a great deal of frustration.

So where do I begin? The pattern has sizes listed with the dimensions for chest, actual measurement (which I assume is the finished chest size), sleeve length and sweater length. This is more than most patterns provide so it seemed like a pretty good start. I had tried on the size large in the store, so I didn't pay much attention to the measurements - I just circled the stitch counts for the size large in the pattern and began knitting. It's a cardigan, with the body knit in one piece, so you knit from the bottom up to where the armholes begin, and then you place the front left and right sections on stitch holders and knit the back, with small bind off sections where the armholes begin. At the neck you leave the shoulder stitches on holders (and bind off for the neck edge in between), and then you go back and knit the front sections. The front and back shoulders are joined using a 3-needle bind off. Finally, you pick up stitches at the armholes and knit the sleeves. Seems fairly straight forward, but the problems are in the details.

Here are the mistakes I found, both small and large:
  • Divide for front and back: says "Place 41(45, 49, 52, 57) stitches for each side on markers"  - I think she meant holders, not markers. Nit-picky error but an error none the less.
  • Back: "Starting at right side at the back (RS facing), attach yarn and K74(82, 87, 94, 103)." - Should be K73(81, 86, 93, 102), I think. For size large, the stitch count is 49-98-49 (side-back-side), and when you get to the bind-off where the armhole begins, you bind off 6 stitches on each side so it's 49-6-86-6-49. I can't think of where the extra stitch comes from to make it 87, not 86 stitches for the back.  
  • Front and neck shaping: says "work front as for back, including all shaping". There was no shaping! The instructions for the front have you work in stockinette until a certain length and then bind off a set number of stitches and continue in stockinette until you reach the sweater length. The problem is that for size large if you do this you end up with 34 stitches at the front shoulder, which doesn't match the 28 stitches of the back shoulder. I believe the instructions are missing the neck shaping. After I bound off the first 15 stitches per the pattern, I bound off another stitch each row until I reached 28 stitches and then I knit straight. This resulted in a slightly curved neckline like what is shown in the photo of the sweater on the model.
At this point I was mildly annoyed with the pattern instructions but I was also leery of the seemingly huge armhole that was created when I followed the dimensions for the length. I should have stopped right there, but thinking I was missing something (and still trusting the pattern), I continued on.

  • Sleeves: large size says to pick up 88 stitches. Now I hate picking up stitches because it's never quite clear which part of the stitch to pick up, especially when you're working across stitches that change direction. But there was no way I could pick up 88 stitches and have this sleeve look correct. If I picked up every loop, I counted 154 stitches in my sleeve opening. On my first attempt I attempted to pick up only 88 of those loops - this resulted in an open, lacy kind of sleeve join and looked wrong. I tried twisting every stitch to help close it up, but that didn't work either. Then I tried picking up every stitch but knitting two together so that I'd have a total of 88 - again that looked wrong because the sleeve diameter was too small compared to the sleeve opening.
Thinking the huge armhole was due to a mistake I made following the dimensions, I studied the pattern some more, but this just made me more disappointed in the pattern instructions. The dimensions are given in both English and metric. I'd been following the English so I decided to see how the metric dimensions compared. But I found more errors, and this has caused me to completely distrust this pattern. Before dividing for the front and back, the instructions say to knit "for 1 inch (4 cm)." One inch is not 4 centimeters, it's 2.5 centimeters! Had I knit for 4 centimeters, my armhole would be a bit smaller - still not enough smaller, but better. A quick check of some other places where both inches and centimeters are shown also show poor conversion. I wondered if I would have had better results by following the metric numbers, but the sizes and overall dimensions are only given in inches so one would think that the pattern was written for English measurements (despite the fact that New Zealand uses metric).

At this point, I accepted that I could not solve the armhole problem. I tried calculating how I could pick up 154 stitches and reduce it to a normal-looking amount to make the sleeve fit, but ultimately decided that I had to do the inevitable. My husband asked me if my knitting friends could help but I knew their conclusion would be the same., back to where I divided for the front and back. Closer inspection of the photograph of the sweater also tells me that I should knit more than 4 cm before the armhole begins and certainly more than one inch. At least the body of the sweater is in stockinette (the lace bottom was a simple pattern but hard on the hands to knit). Plus I already know to apply the missing shaping, and I'm prepared to be cautious of the remaining instructions for the sleeve. 

I do still want to finish this sweater. I like the simple look and that it's not a sweater that is knit in pieces and then sewn together. Except for the giant armholes, the body portion seemed to fit well. I just wish the pattern instructions were either correct and complete or that the designer had made this an expert level pattern with instructions for the knitter to apply appropriate shaping and assess dimensions accordingly - at least then I would have known what I was in for.