Saturday, January 29, 2011

See my Sweater-Along Swatch!

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Finito!  I finished my Sweater-Along Swatch-Hat! You may recall, that because my sweater will be knit in the round, I had to make my swatch in the round too to get an accurate gauge. This is because people's tension while knitting flat is not always the same as when knitting in the round, either because their purl stitches are a different tension, of just because of the way they hold the needles. I know that my tension while knitting on smaller circular needles is a bit tighter than on larger ones, so I'll factor that into my math. For example, my measured tension after blocking was 22 sts & 27 rows = 4"/10cm, so I figure that the actual tension when I make the sweater will be closer to 21 sts = 4"/10cm. Also, the sweater will be heavier than the hat, and that extra weight pulls and stretches the garment in ways that the swatch/hat won't experience. If I was feeling ambitious I could hang the hat up for a few days with some weights attached to the bottom to pull it down, but I don't know how accurate a measurement that will give me, and I'd kinda like the hat to be wearable in the end. 

Anyway, I washed the hat in Eucalan, and lay it flat to dry on it's side, smoothing it out a bit. Then I measured the tension in several places on the hat to make sure that my numbers were accurate. Once I got the numbers I was after, i washed the hat again and blocked it flat with a dinner-plate, to get it's final, proper shape. I double blocked it because the beret shaping distorts the tension, especially right at the middle which is the easiest place to measure. 

As for swatch aesthetics, the yarn has worked up really nicely, it is definitely a sweater I'll want to wear! The only thing is that I'm not sure the needles are too small for a sweater. The yarn is worsted weight, but it knitted up pretty densely on a 4.5mm, and i don't know if it's too tight for a comfortable sweater. I've cast on for a little cowl/neck-warmer on 5mm-24" circular needles to get a better idea about density. If it's too loose, I'll just rip and go with the 4.5mm for the sweater, and if I like it I'll keep knitting to get a swatch. But I'll try to go fast so I can get to the sweater and won't keep you waiting!

One more suggestion, when washing add vinegar to the water and wash alone, the colour is concentrated. 

See why it's good to make a swatch before starting? You get all kinds of useful information from it, and a hat!  This might actually be a really good way to get holiday and gift knitting done. 

Oh, and as for the actual hat (poor, neglected, back-of-the-bus hat!), I'm not in love with the style, but it's not awful either. I'm not crazy about the rolled brim, wouldn't do that again, but it fits and is comfortable, and the general shape is very good. I ended up switching over to another pattern by the same designer, the free Rollin' Beret pattern, for the decrease instructions.  Basically, this is what I did:
  • Cast on 88 sts. Work Rollin' Beret pattern as written for largest size.
  • After increases I had 132 sts. Continue to follow pattern until decrease instructions.
  • 1st decrease round: *K20, k2tog; repeat from * to end of round.
  • The next round will be (*K19, K2tog), the following round will be (*K18, K2tog), the fourth will be (*K17, K2tog) .... and so on, until 6 sts are left. 
  • Follow pattern for I-cord nubby on top. 
One caveat about the pattern - the size knitted up accurately, but the sizes offered are SMALL!  I'd say the largest size fits about a medium head, so if you are using Berroco Ultra Alpaca and 4mm & 4.5mm needles, and have a 21(22, 23, 24)" head, I suggest the following:
  • Cast on 84(88, 92, 96) sts
  • After increases, you'll have 126(132, 138,144) sts
  • Work 4.25 (4.5, 5, 5.5)" from increase round
  • Start decreases as [K19, K2tog] ([K20, K2tog], [K21, K2tog], [K22, K2tog])
I think the size I made is a Medium/22". It is a bit big on me, but I don't look like Mushmouth in it. 

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