You’d think that I have been knitting long enough to know that getting started for a new project might not go smoothly. But it appears that I get “project amnesia” every time I start something. Not only can I imagine how fast the knitting will go, I can see myself wearing the garment before I’ve even cast on. Then reality has an unfortunate way of kicking in, and that agent of the devil, the gauge swatch, brings me to my senses.
In the case of Thora, I knew I’d have to do some adjusting to get the measurements I want.
After casting on with the recommended needles, and not getting anything close to the 23 stitches and 34 rows for the 4-inch gauge swatch, I kept trying again…and again. I chalked this up originally to substituting Zara for Rowan DK, but after my experience with Liv, I simply realized that I’d never get gauge with the recommended needles on an Elsebeth Lavold pattern. She and I must knit differently.
In one of her books, the Yarn Harlot says that “gauge swatches lie”. I read her essay at around 11 PM one night, and chuckled to myself. Now the laugh is on me, and in my case they lie sometimes and tell the truth sometimes. After dropping down to size 2 US needles for Thora, I was congratulating myself for getting gauge. How easy it will be, I thought, to just plug my measurements into Thora’s and knit away. The mere formality of blocking the swatch would just confirm what I already knew about the stitches per inch I was getting. And this is when the gauge swatch got its revenge. The blocked swatch, which should have been 5 inches x 4 inches (I cast on 30 stitches) and was before blocking, is now 5 ½ inches across by 4 ¾ inches long.
And what makes this worse is that I can’t simply knit to the small size and end up with a medium. I want the chest measure to be about 40 inches around, for a relatively fitted look. In the pattern, the small is 39 ½ inches and medium is 41 ¾. I need to knit in a way that makes my sweater fall between the small and medium pattern sizes.
My plan for Thora is to make it part of an outfit. I will use one of the many pieces of Liberty of London wool challis in my fabric stash for the skirt. Here you can see about six pieces of this fabric.
This is my choice for the fabric that will match Thora:
In all, I think I have about fifteen pieces, purchased over time from my first visit to London in 1967 and on subsequent trips through the 1970s. I really love this fabric, and it doesn’t seem available in the US any more. It lends itself to very easy but beautiful skirts. You can take rectangles and gather or pleat them, or you can make a circle or half circle and do a rolled hem. The fabric flows, and the fabric design provides sufficient interest so that more complex seaming isn’t really needed. The swatch in Zara was unexpectedly perfect. It will knit up as a sweater that is thinner than I thought the one in the picture would be, and it will match the lightness and drape of the challis. [I’ll post about making simple skirts like these when I get to it—and if you’re new at sewing or haven’t tried to make clothes without commercial patterns, this would be a good starting point. Skirts like these would work for other kinds of fabric, such as thin knits.]
I’m convinced that I want to make this sweater work. Will I have to drop down to size 1 needles? I hope not, but I’m willing to try. The idea of a whole sweater in moss stitch on size 1 needles is daunting. I’m going to study the pattern to see whether I can simply remove a few stitches in the panels around the cables. I also decided to do a second swatch of the cable that forms the buttonband. If I’m not knitting to gauge and my row gauge is off, I want to compensate for that.
So Thora won’t be easy, but I think it will be worth it.