Reunion Cowl of Yum; or Gauge, a Cautionary Tale

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Remember this post from last winter? Scroll down. No, farther down…to the blue Reunion Cowl (pattern: Natalie Selles)

Now, I love that Cowl, but really it was more of a residence than a garment. It is HUGE! Cozy. Warm. But HUGE!

This summer I set out to knit one that was the correct size.

And got this:

Reunion Cowl

Reunion Cowl

And look! It doesn’t touch my knees when I unwrap it!

Reunion Cowl

Exactly how much bigger was the blue one? This much bigger:
Reunion Cowls

Reunion Cowls

Both used the same yarn, Merino Cashmere…and interestingly enough, both used almost the same amount: 2.5 skeins.  The red one is definitely denser and more solid.

(by the way, this yarn is OMG SO SOFT! and warm and cozy…)

So what made the difference? Gauge. With the blue one, my gauge was off by 1/4 of a stitch. ONE QUARTER of a freaking stitch. (times several hundred stitches…well, clearly it makes a difference)

Moral? Knit a fucking gauge swatch.

Putting it into Practice: Sweater KAL

So we’ve talked about swatching and about making your sweater fit YOU.  What can that all look like when you put it together?

This summer, I knit Cria from Ysolda’s Little Red in the City, using the techniques and concepts Ysolda talks about in the first half of the book.

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(it’s these buttons up the sleeves that really hooked me)

DSC_0014 copy

I started by knitting a swatch, washing it and testing it by hanging it and carrying it around in my purse for a week. This gave me excellent information about how the yarn would behave when knit into a sweater: how it would change when washed, how it would react to gravity and how it would wear.

There was measuring (of me) in more places than I’ve ever measured before.

There was comparing my measurements to the size chart of the pattern to find which size would fit me best.

I chose a size FOUR sizes smaller than I usually knit.  Why did I do that?  Because sweaters look best when they fit in your shoulders. I chose to knit the size that fit my shoulders (cross back measurement) and upper torso measurement best. And planned my modifications from there.

Note that the narrowest part of my torso is not at my waist, but just under my bust. This means that I will always modify sweaters so that the narrowest part of the waist shaping lands at this point.

My upper torso and the narrowest part of me are exactly the same size, which means that if I knit the size that fits my upper torso, it will always fit the narrowest part of me as well.

BUT! My bust is larger. Four inches larger, to be exact. Which means that in order to make the smaller sized sweater work, I had to add bust darts to make the sweater 4 inches larger for the short time the sweater needed to be larger.

Also: my hips are larger, and this is an A-line cardigan. So the other modification I made was to add extra increases down the length of the skirt of the cardigan, to match my hip measurement.

I also made the skirt longer, as I wanted to wear this as my fall “coat”.

And because the sleeves are knit top-down (in fact, the whole cardigan is), the sleeves are actually the right length!

All did not go perfectly smoothly. My first run at the bust darts placed them far too high. The second run had them a touch too large. So there was ripping back. But ripping back and re-knitting with the knowledge that this was a learning process and that the end goal was to make a sweater that fit well. And, you know, I like to knit. :) Go into this process with the mindset that you’re learning a new skill, and new skills take practice. It’s completely worth it in the end.

To summarize, here are the modifications I made:

1) Chose the size that fits my upper torso, cross back and waist (narrowest part of torso) measurements
2) Added horizontal bust darts, using the instructions in Little Red in the City, starting just under the fullest part of my bust
3) Added increases evenly down the skirt to increase to my hip size and the length I wanted
4) Knit sleeves the length of my actual arms so that I wouldn’t have to do this again.

So after all that, I have a sweater that fits PERFECTLY for the first time ever!