A retirement gift, a plaque from the District where I worked, beckons me. It is as if it can talk and recall; that plaque with the Varsity letter. I hear students’ voices, excited anticipation in the air, their endless desire for learning. It speaks my tongue and reminds me about lesson planning into wee hours. It sounds with the hustle bustle of school life: hallways all abuzz, meetings with teachers and/or parents, the frustrations voiced and the sharing of successes of each day. One glance at this wall plaque of mounted school letter and personalized engraved plate, now hanging on a wall in my yarn room, does all of that every time I look at it.
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.
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!
I am not sure if this post ought to be called A Guide on Gauge or Gauge Guiding. In either case, I have become a huge fan of knitting up gauges! To the uninformed, the process of taking time to work up a gauge might seem like an unnecessary and/or optional step in working up a hand knit.
So as not to linger with thoughts of neglect towards poor hubby for too long, THIS gorgeous eye-catching cardigan will be draped over my husband’s back, front, shoulders, opened, closed, in wetness and in dry, in the morning, at noon, and throughout the evenings when next the snow doth fall…
Designed by Martin Storey as seen in The Knitter, Issue 67
and the yarn was just ordered!
ITEM: ROWANTWEED OPTIONS: Buckden
ITEM: COLOURSPUN OPTIONS: Winterburn