Monday, July 17, 2006

St. Brigid Sweater

I am, at long last, knitting a sweater for myself. I've lusted after the St. Brigid sweater in Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting for many years, and today cast on to begin the back.

That may sound simple, but there were a number of factors that made said cast-on something of a triumph.

First, the largest pattern size for said sweater finishes at 48" (supposedly for a 40" person, who apparently needs 8" of ease, but never mind that). My bust is 50".

Second, since the yarn called for in the pattern doesn't seem to exist anymore (and would probably be prohibitively expensive if it did), I chose a different yarn, which is also a slightly heavier weight.

Third, when I knit a single column of one knit stitch between a purl background, it looks like crap, so I knew (from having made small objects with this same chart before) that I would need an extra stitch for every chart repeat.

Fourth, the gauge for the orginal pattern was given over a 2 x 2 basket stitch instead of stockinette, so I really had no idea how my usual gauge compared.

I knew going in that these things would be a factor, so when I purchased my yarn (Cascade 220, for the record), I tried to wildly overestimate and then ordered three skeins more than that, to (hopefully) ensure that I would have a full skein just for swatching. Last week, I cast on my "swatch."

In one of her books, Elizabeth Zimmermann made the observation that half a sweater was more or less the same length as an adult's head circumference, and suggested doing a "swatch hat" for patterns that involved lots of cables, since cables tend to have their own idiosyncratic gauge that might have little or nothing to do with stockinette (or 2 x 2 basket stitch) gauge.

I thought this was a good project to try it out, so I cast on the full pattern for the back of the sweater, minus the basket stitch edging. I worked two full pattern repeats, and came up with a swatch that was 19" wide, or about 7 1/2" short of what I needed for one half of the sweater.

Now, I admit that I don't often block my swatches. The vast majority of my knitting is either knitting I've done so many times before that I know what's going to happen, or it's a design where blocking and/or gauge doesn't matter enough to bother. This time, though, I wasn't taking any chances. Sure enough, my 19" swatch bloomed two whole inches. It was 23" after it first dried, then shrank down to 21" after a couple of days (just the right size for a hat, amazing!). Now, I don't mind oversize clothes, but 6" of ease was a bit more than I'd counted on. Yay for blocking.

So, today, I did the math. I figured up my swatch, and how many basket stitch stitches I'd need to make up the extra inches on the sides, and cast on. I bought one of those spiffy Clover row counters, the small ones that can be worn as pendant and locked (very important with a toddler in the house), so I have no excuses. Onward and upward!


Blogger Jen said...

Oh my gosh. You are my hero!

Hey, go over to my site and leave a comment - sock yarn contest! Easy as pie!

6:42 PM  

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