Is this a Martin Storey or a Math Story?

Back in August I laid eyes on this beauty, Tembe designed by Martin Storey.  (ok, the model ain’t bad, either.)  The colors, style of the cardigan, the way it was fashioned, and the magnificent elephants all reminded me of my hubby.  He had been asking for a hand knit and had been reminding me of how long it had been since I had knitted anything for him.  Immediately, when I saw this sweater I knew it would be the answer and would perfectly fill the apparent void that was in his wardrobe (and take care of the nagging), not to mention would keep my interest through the process.  I didn’t realize what a mathematical equation it would turn into, however.

Noah's Ark

I am one who orders pretty much everything online, so yarn is no exception.  I think all yarn is gorgeous therefore I anticipate a lovely package and enjoy the anticipation as I wait.  Plentiful amounts of beautiful Rowan Colorspun and a nice sturdy Rowan tweed as you see, below greeted us happily.  A bit grayer than we had anticipated, we both drooled when the package was opened.

So began the process of the gauge, the first mathematical equation.   Below you see several elephants beginning to be worked up each a different gauge due to different needle sizes.  Experience has taught me that I am  a much looser knitter than seemingly all of the knitters of Europe, especially in row count as I can NEVER achieve the number of stitches per inch as in the pattern if the pattern originated by a designer from Europe.  So, I expected the results I was getting.


I didn’t like the elephants I was getting with the smaller needles as they were too small and I was getting way too wide a piece of fabric with the next size needle so I calculated that if I followed a smaller size with my bigger stitches, I would end up with a sweater the size I wanted.  So, I chose accordingly.

After the first row of elephants were completed, I measured their height.  Hmmm… a little under the height according to the pattern.  The height of the elephant was especially important for two reasons.  The first being that if I continued following the pattern according to the number of rows, my sweater would be too short for the sake of fit.  Luckily there were solid stripes in between the elephants whereby I could make the difference.  So, I simply added more rows there.  However, after completing a stripe of solid, I realized my stitch gauge was NOT the same as my stitch gauge in the intarsia work (elephant stripe).  So, I stopped and worked up a bunch of gauges for solid and chose a needle size, accordingly which was a different size needle than for the elephants.  This meant that the elephant stripes were knitted with one size needle and the solid stripe was knitted with another size needle.

The second very important reason for the focus on the length is to fit the elephant rows evenly on the sweater.  There seemed a very purposeful pattern of two solid stripes and two elephant stripes with elephants going in the opposite directions that I wanted to capture.  I felt it was the designer’s intent to design it that way and it was what I saw that was so visually pleasing to the garment.  I must have measured and re-measured the length as I was knitting a zillion times to insure that I would get the right size I needed and the this look I wanted.

I learned something from Brandon Mably when I recently heard him speak.  He talked about the importance of looking at one’s work from a distance.  I understood what he meant completely as I had done this when working on this.  I had taken a photo of the back half way worked and when I viewed it, the elephants looked too small for my happiness.  That was when I ripped it all out and chose to work on the smaller size with the larger needles to make the elephants larger (as described, above.)  This photo shows the elephants that I felt were too small.


Once all of these calculations were figured out and kept constant throughout the project, I knew that at the end, the elephants would line up at the side seams and when hubby’s arms were down, would line up with the body.  That also was very important to me that this would be the case.  In the photo, below you can see how the elephants line up beautifully.


There are about 40 or so elephants.  I could not remember the stitch count of the pattern by memory.  Each elephant was 29 rows, each row different.  Just when I thought I had the pattern memorized, the next stripe of elephants were of a different stitch count as the elephants went in a different direction.  So, to expedite the process, I made these charts converting the charts to numbers.  For me, I could quickly glance at the numbers, work up that many stitches knowing I would get an elephant in the end rather than stop and count a graphic.  The circled numbers are the elephants.



Then, there are the mathematical equations regarding the band.  I don’t know the correct way of ensuring the band is equal in length on both sides, the placement of the button holes begin and end where you want and the stretch to the band itself is not too much or not enough for the body of the sweater.  Is there a correct way?  Is there only one way?  Then, there is the even space between the buttons, not too much pull for belly or enough pull (ha), and the right length button hole for the button!     My methodology was literally by counting the number of rows of the band and working the mathematics from there:  same number of rows for each side of the band, dividing for the equal spaces between button holes, counting the same number of stitches for each buttonhole, of course.  And, of course I used  the one row button hole method and sewed the buttons on the band with the yarn.

Here, you see the results.  It is lovely in every way.  And, the man ain’t bad, either!







IMG_3738 Reversing roles with me as photographer,  hubby as model we knew we would head to the Buffalo Zoo. It would give us that safari ambience as well as support our local zoo.

18 responses to “Is this a Martin Storey or a Math Story?”

  1. That is freaking awesome! I am glad you hung in there and got it done! I love the picture of him with his hand in his pocket and one foot on the stair. I love the sweater too!


  2. You did it! It sounds a bit harrowing though. I mean, I’m probably projecting my own issues, but when I am worried about length, I become this sad, nail-biting knitter. The results of caring are always worth it, but my process suffers! By the way, no elephants at the zoo? Darn!


    • Well, what I did was FINALLY get this thing written up. Somehow I got distracted in my knitting life…. hmmmm…. And, it took a good amount of research and time to find a new blog home. Then, of course there is work. Each garment I knit must fit so length and width comes with the territory. And, yes the local Zoological Gardens has a newly renovated Elephant house with occupants but we felt a contrast of animals more intriguing (rather than matchy matchy). Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Oh wow! Impressive result, it was worth all the maths and the efforts. The perfect sweater indeed to visit the local zoo. A knitting club for kids is a great idea, it is the perfect brain exercice and gives you so much confidence when you complete a project.


  4. Your elephant sweater is superb! I know he loves it!!
    I’m blown away by your meticulous calculations you had to endure to make it come out right!! I don’t think people realize all the calculations that go into a knitting project!
    I love your blog, Holly!!


    • thank you so very much! You know, I was just in a meeting at school with the Math Coach and I said…”You want children to learn Math? Run a knitting club!” I love writing in my blog but I keep researching how to make it look my own. Stay tuned….


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