Over the years, I’ve edited books written by professors in a lot of different academic disciplines, and although I try to eschew stereotypes, in my experience the physicists and economists tend to have the best senses of humor, and the chemists and accountants do not. There are some notable exceptions to my view. Among accountants, Bob Newhart is a standout for his dry wit, and I did work with an accounting duo who persisted in replacing the “Ms.” in my mailing address with “the lovely and talented.” (Not quite hilarious, but considering the other accountants I worked with, it had a bit of charm.) Nonetheless, I recall only one accounting joke and it came to mind as I began to swatch for Mara.
This is the cardigan that graced the cover of Alice Starmore’s hard cover Book of Fair Isle Knitting, but, to my disappointment, was not included as a pattern in it. I hunted down the pattern for vest version in an old Workbasket magazine, which provided me with the chart and the names of the yarns used. When I heard that some of the yarns were being discontinued, I collected all of them, plus a lot of extras. Here’s the color card I made up:
And as Sirdal was drying on my wooly board, I started to swatch and recalled the joke. Now, although I think I have a good sense of humor, I lack the timing to tell a really good joke. So bear with me a bit. The joke starts when a business owner is interviewing accountants and poses the question: How much is 2 + 2? The first candidate says 4 and is rejected. I’ll cut to the chase and get to the punchline. The successful candidate answers the question by saying: It is anything you want it to be. This is exactly how I view my first attempt at swatching for Mara:
The stitches per inch range from 6 to the desired 8. So I know exactly zip about how many stitches to cast on for the actual sweater. The gauge is supposed to be 8 stitches and 8 rows to an inch, and if I hold the yarn tightly, that is what I get. (I actually get 7.69 stitches per inch.) You can see that when I started the gauge was much looser, and I was able to tighten up significantly. Can I manage to do this for an entire sweater? The answer better be yes, or I’ll end up with something gigantic.
The swatch points out another problem that is keeping my itchy fingers from casting on: Yarn dominance. Although the bottom red motif looks good, the red is overwhelming the lighter colors in the top version (with the correct gauge). In knitting the top panel, I followed Ann Feitelson’s advice from The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, and I put the background (lighter) yarn in my left hand and the red in my right. So, if I consider the lighter yarn to be the background, this plan isn’t working for me.
So what’s a new Fair Isle knitter to do? The only answer I can come up with is swatch again. I also am new to corrugated ribbing, so next up for me is yet another swatch with the ribbing and another try at the three motifs. Perhaps then I’ll figure out why something funny is going on.