Like any new knitter, I had wanted very badly to follow a pattern and end up with the perfect garment. I thought that a venerable yarn company like Dale of Norway, whose designs would have been knit by generations of knitters around the world, would have a flawless pattern. I suppose it may be crystal clear if you know what you’re doing, but when it comes to stranded knitting I was a babe in the woods.
And, although I am still new to stranded knitting, I’m not the virgin I was a few weeks ago. My second try at starting the sweater proved successful. I think the sizing is better, and my progress knitting with two hands is slow but getting better.
The shock for me in working with the pattern instructions (aside from what I’m certain is an error in the sleeves) was interpreting the chart—something that I thought I’d be good at from following charts for lace shawls and cabled sweaters. Now I can say that I am modestly skillful at understanding the stranded chart for Sirdal, but only after I “translated” it with the help of Knit Visualizer into a form that makes sense for me. I spent more time this past weekend moving the motifs around electronically so that my version of Sirdal will have some improvements over the original chart. I may have lost some authenticity in the original Norwegian pattern, but I like my changes.
I had to fix my initial charts because I neglected to represent the back correctly. I switched from S to XS. This is a unisex size—I’m small, but not tiny—and the actual measurements are closer to a women’s medium than a small. For XS, I need 131 stitches across the back and 62 for each front. I originally charted this for only 124 stitches across the back, thinking that the body tube would be in even quarters. The pattern is no doubt accommodating the button band, and I should have realized that. I’m glad the pattern writer for Dale was swifter than I am on this point.
But the odd thing about the Dale chart, and I guess other charts for Norwegian knitting, is that it plans to have sides that do not match up. If I were to knit according to the original chart, my side motifs would look something like this:
where the black line would be the side “seam”.
I thought that is how it had to be, and my first version of the chart had such side “seams”. But then I noticed that the motifs around the button band were not mirror images. The chart is set up so that there will be a full motif in the front, and since the motifs are odd numbers of stitches, one side doesn’t match the other. (And, indeed, the fronts do not match in the photos of the sweaters.) The blue line shows the location of the button band when a full motif falls in the center front.
For anyone who has read my blog before, you know already that I would not sleep well at night if my sweater front wasn’t symmetrical. This problem, in addition to fixing the stitch count, sent me back to the drawing boards.
I approached the new charts differently. I began by putting the center of each motif at the back center (as is indicated in the original chart), and working outward from there. The original chart shows the center stitch, but it seems to approach the chart by working from the center stitches in the back to the sides and the front motifs to the sides. I worked from the back all the way around to the front button bands. This portion of the chart shows how I started to adjust my chart.
I was fully prepared to have mismatched side seams if that was what it took to have symmetrical motifs in the front. But when I placed every motif at the center back and worked outward, I found that I could have unbroken motifs across the entire body tube and still have motifs that were mirror images of one another in the front. Here is an example of my adjusted front, with the purple line showing the location of my button band:
I continued to adjust several of the motifs so that some key part of them is the center stitch. In doing so, my center stitch isn’t the same as the one in the Dale chart, but it is in the center of each motif (the motifs have more than one place where they can be balanced evenly). Also my version gives me unbroken motifs across the entire body (no break at the sides) as well as a symmetrical front.
I am now happy and knitting away. I’ve knit the first “wheel” motif and the stars are next. Then there’s a huge region of lice stitches to warm me up for the far more complex motif that spans the chest.
I also fixed the steek, which now has 5 and not 4 stitches, but I’ve not figured out how to have the vertical lines between sections of the sweater that are just solid rows of red or white. It doesn’t matter because these stitches won’t be visible, but if you have a way to keep the steek pattern uniform, I’d love to know what you do.