January 15, 2009

This Knitter's Hubris

When I was growing up, my mom worked at a knit shop in HP, Granny's. Granny's was owned by a woman named Rochelle. I can't quite remember, but either her married name was also Rochelle (making her Rochelle Rochelle), or she was married to a man named Sheldon, thus making them a couple with a gimmick: Shelly and Shelly!!!

Rochelle was a great knitter, and although she was a dedicated smoker and allowed others to smoke in her shop, we will forgive her because it was the '70s. Anyway, Rochelle always said "knitting is ripping and ripping is knitting," when consoling tearful knitters faced with massive corrective frogging. As an adult, and a knitter with a more than a few years behind me, I completely understand the wisdom and up-by-the-bootstraps practicality of this statement.

I only wish that Rochelle had had a similar maxim regarding swatching, because that would really come in handy, for oh, say, every single project I ever do. The thing is, I almost never swatch. And if I do, I frequently fudge the gauge a little because I don't want to do another swatch. Bad, I know.

One way I've tried to get around this is by using the exact yarn that the pattern calls for, desperately hoping that my gauge will match that listed on the pattern. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I also tend to use fall-back yarns, like Cascade 220, which I know I'll never ever have to swatch.

This practice, along with my attendant hubris, came into play this past week when I made the Birthday Cowl. While I have admired numerous cowls on Ravelry, I've only ever knit one other cowl. Why I don't know. It's the perfect little project -- highly portable, quickly finished, practical and wearable. Living as I do in drafty house built in 1893, I could wear a cowl all day every day from October - April. After looking at scores of beautiful Birthday Cowls, I cast on with some gorgeous Cashmere Island Heather gave me last Christmas.

I followed the pattern to the letter, blithely assuming that 1) Cashmere Island is a worsted weight yarn (since I long ago misplaced the ball band), and 2) the gauge on the size 8 needle would therefore be perfect. The pattern is genius; it's easily memorized and only two rows. Once you get just a little tired of the lace round, you get to knit one round, and then it's time for more lace. The end result with the diagonals and yarn-overs is really to die for.

Cashmere Island, as I now know, is a DK weight yarn. Hmm. I love my cowl, and I'm wearing my cowl, but my cowl is big. Not crazy big, but a little droopy, and not snug up to my neck and chin like I wanted it to be. I can't stop thinking about what would have happened if I had only used a 7 needle. If I had only swatched. I guess I could use a funky little pin to make it snug, but that isn't really the way I pictured this cowl.

Will I rip and re-knit the cowl? No, despite Rochelle's maxim. Have I resolved to "get with the program," as my dad would say, and swatch every project from now on? Probably not. Am I getting there? Maybe.


sophanne said...

I try very hard not to fudge after swatching and yet I think my subconscious fudges for me. If my brain is going to completely take over m knitting like that, why bother swatching?

Judy said...

The loose cowls look great held close to the neck with a wee broach or pin of some kind. Like you did it on purpose, a design element, you know!

The A.D.D. Knitter said...

I feel like it we have to start swatching for cowls, it might be time to quit knitting for good!! Love this one, btw...

VicJoRob said...

I'm with you on the swatching. If only the swatch could be a part of the final product. My friend has her own issues with swatching and sleeves.