Actually, it’s not completely done, I still need to knit the front bands, but near enough. My excuse is that I haven’t bought the buttons yet, but actually I’m fed up with the body and couldn’t wait to make a start on a sleeve.
I should have had more sense than to tinker with a pattern such as Stripes Gone Crazy. Being constructed top-down from short rows on the slant, with the angle of each “crazy stripe” varying from that of its neighbour, it’s been fiendishly complicated to make adjustments to length, width or anything else. I wasn’t able to match the tension (gauge) of the pattern and so settled for a needle size that gave me the correct stitch tension. Normally, this is a satisfactory solution, because it results in a garment that is the correct width and it’s easy enough to adjust the length by knitting more or fewer rows, respacing any shaping such as sleeve increases or raglan decreases to suit the new row count.
If I’d thought properly about the wisdom of knitting SGC with the wrong row tension, I would never have started. I thought I could get away with it because the pattern instructions explain how to shorten or lengthen the body by working fewer or more of the narrow, non crazy stripes that go right around the body at underarm height. My first mistake was to lengthen the armhole depth without realising that it would lengthen the whole body – duh! (In my defence, this is the first top-down garment I’ve knitted.) I ripped it out back to the body/sleeves split to deal with that, and followed the advice in the pattern to start with just one narrow stripe in the contrast colour instead of two, and then start the crazy stripes with the contrast colour instead of main colour. In other words, instead of a right front like the one on the right …
… I would have ended up with one like this.
The only problem with that was, given my too-big row tension, I still needed to reduce the number of wide (20 row) stripes from 6 to 5 to give me an acceptable length, which would mean 5 fewer narrow (4 row) stripes on the left front. I thought that would be OK, because I’d end up with a contrast colour stripe at the bottom, like the normal length version, which would then look better with the lower welt worked in the main brown colour, as it should be.
So, I stopped the first crazy stripes stage after 5 crazy stripes and moved on to the “from small stripes at the left front to larger stripes at the bottom of the back” part of the pattern. Here the stripes start at an angle of about 45º and end up almost vertical. I launched in without giving any consideration to the fact that my row tension was going to b***er things up. Only when I was 118 rows and 8 stripes down the road and tried the cardigan on my dressmaker’s dummy did I realise all was not well. By then, the back was almost as wide as it needed to be at the bottom, but I’d only worked 8 stripes, and I need a total of 20 in this section to make the right front the same length as the left.
“Aha!”, I thought, in my ignorance, “All I need to do now is ensure I have 20 stripes that total to, say, 130 rows max, then I’ll have the correct number of stripes on the right front and the correct width at the back.” I worked out a combination of 20 stripes that totalled the right number of rows, scribbled a few notes on the back of the pattern, ripped out all of this section and started re-knitting it. But what I’d failed to notice is that there is another variable; as well as the total number of rows and the total number of stripes having to be right, the total number of decreases of the back stitches, at the end that forms the lower edge, has to be right. All of those back stitches have to be gone by the time the last stripe or two are worked.
I was 80 rows and 8 stripes in this time before it dawned on me that it wasn’t going to work. I put four sizes of the pattern into a spreadsheet to see how the designer had handled this section of the design across different numbers of stitches. Studying it, it was obvious that, given my row tension, there was no way of reconciling the competing requirements of rows, stripes and decreases without some radical re-writing of the pattern. In particular, I needed to work the lower edge decreases at a faster rate, since I would be knitting substantially fewer rows than written for my size. A bit of trial and error with the spreadsheet was then called for to find the optimum combination of different-sized stripes. I ripped back to the start of “from small stripes at the left front to larger stripes at the bottom of the back” for the second time and gave it another go.
I am much happier with this version. There is some distortion at the lower left side but, judging from the unblocked photos on others’ Ravelry project pages, that’s inevitable. I just hope that it will block satisfactorily, despite being a cotton yarn. It’s one thing persuading 100% wool to go where you want it with the help of moisture and possibly heat, quite another to coax inelastic cotton into position and get it to stay there even after washing.
The rest of this cardigan should be plain sailing, no more “craziness”, just straight stocking stitch and ribbed front borders. The pattern calls for the narrow-striped sleeve to be on the same side as the wide-striped front and vice versa, but I think it looks better the other way around, narrow with narrow and wide with wide.
What have I learnt from this episode?
- If I want a summer cardigan and I’m fool enough to choose a complicated pattern and a yarn that can’t be made to fit the specified tension, then I should start earlier than the end of April.
- I enjoy modifying patterns almost as much as I enjoy knitting them. (But then I already knew that.)
- Full credit to Anne Lernout, the designer of SGC. Getting it to work in a single size must have been incredibly difficult, yet she has graded it for the full range from XS to XXL. I can only think that the crazy stripes for each size will have been individually worked out by knitting samples, because trying to calculate them is complicated, given the sunray-type arrangement across the back.
- I’m glad I didn’t buy expensive yarn for this project, because at one point I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it work. The fact that this is my bargain £1 a ball Patons cotton and not a delicate animal fibre kept me going through the repeated froggings. Like making a toile from muslin when fitting a tailored garment, there’s something to be said for trying a dramatically unconventional knitting pattern out on inexpensive yarn.