Monday, January 17, 2011

Sweater-Along ... Percolating

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I've settled on my sweater-along project! I'm going with Hourglass from Last Minute Knitted Gifts in Berroco Ultra Alpaca, but upon consideration, colour 62172 (Cobalt Mix) may not be the best idea for me.

62172 Cobalt Mix

It is a beautiful ultramarine/cobalt blue, and I'm down with bright colours, but it occurred to me that a slightly fuzzy, bright blue sweater may make me look more comical/muppet-esque than  elegant.  Muppet-esque is perfect for Lady Gaga, and I could have pulled it off when I was eighteen, but I'm too old to wear Jean-Charles de Castlebac (Gaga's Kermit Coat and Animal dress both come from his Fall 2009 collection.  Sorry Cobalt Mix, I'll have to revisit you in a smaller project if you're still around. 

6285 Ocean Mix

So I'm shifting to the colour Ocean Mix, It's a peacock blue.  I didn't have any left in the store so I had to special order it, and in the interim I'm going to be good, do what I'm always telling others to do, and check my gauge/tension before embarking on the sweater.   The sweater is knit in the round, so I am going to make my 'swatch' in the round. Actually, I'll probably just make a hat as a tension swatch, just a basic beret, maybe something like Woolly Wormhead's Propello (we have the pattern for sale at the store). 

The 411 on Swatching
  • You have to swatch, even if you are using the yarn recommended by the pattern. Tension varies from person to person, and if you want your project to turn out, and more importantly fit, you need to confirm that you are on the same page as the pattern.
  • Cast on enough stitches for at least 5", but 6" is preferable. 
  • To figure out the number of stitches to cast on for your swatch, check the tension suggested on the ball-band. If it measures over 4 inches, take the number of stitches and multiply it by 1.5. If the ball-band offers a tension over 1 inch, multiply that number by 6.  
  • Work in the stitch you need to use to ascertain your tension until the piece is square, bind off.
  • If you are knitting in the round, then you need to swatch in the round. Fortunately, you can make your test swatch into a hat.
  • Hand wash your swatch in Eucalan or Soak, both available in store, or clean it in whatever way you intend to clean the finished  garment.
  • Block and lay flat to dry. 
  • If you have time, pin your swatch to a laundry line or bulletin board and leave for a week or two. If you expect your garment to be heavy, weight the swatch with a clothespin or two. This will give you an idea of how the garment will stretch when worn, and is especially helpful with yarns that have a lot of drape, like silk, cotton, alpaca, or linen.
  • Measure your tension, preferably with a ruler (measuring tapes can stretch over time), in the centre of the swatch, do not include edge stitches, they tend not to be representative of the true tension. Measure over a minimum of 4 inches, but if you have more to work with (5") that is good too. If it is hard to read your stitches because of the yarn's colour and/or texture, thread a darning needle with a contrasting colour of fine yarn or thread and weave it horizontally through the stitches, going over the first, under the second, over the third, under the fourth, etc, to the other side. 
  • Do not rip out your tension swatch, but keep it. Keep your swatch on a board in your laundry room, with the washing instructions pinned to it. Also, every time you wash your sweater, wash it too, and then in the future if you need any yarn for repairs you'll have it on hand, and in a similar close condition. 
By the way, the reason I`m substituting a new yarn for this project is because, A. I like the Ultra Alpaca and want to use it, and B. several years ago I made this pattern in the recommended yarn, Noro Cash Iroha, and it did not wear well at all! Because of the silk content in the yarn, it never stopped growing, so I had to go back and perform sweater surgery (silk tends to grow unremorselesly  in EVERY direction). Also, the yarn wore very poorly, it looked really mungy, and it ended up in the charity pile.  

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