Someone on Ravelry was asking about a pattern for a v-neck sweater in dark gray mohair-looking yarn, knit loosely in Brioche stitch. Looking for something like that, I came across this recent DROPS pattern. Not quite what she was looking for, but a “fake” brioche stitch/English Rib done in a similar yarn and gauge. It looked pretty cozy. Then I saw the price for the yarn (brushed alpaca over a silk core). Cheap! All of their Alpaca yarn was (and currently still is) on sale. Only around $25 total for the yarn I’d need. I figured it was worth the gamble – even if I didn’t make the sweater, the yarn would probably make a nice wrap.
When the yarn arrived, I excitedly cast on without swatching. Although I normally do, I’ve rarely had to change needle sizes for DROPS patterns, and doing a swatch in the round isn’t very useful unless you make a swatch in the round on at least 16″ needles. Since this is a top-down raglan, I figured the yoke would be the swatch, and I could adjust as I went.
It started out pretty well, but I could tell that my gauge was a little too loose. I kept on, thinking that it might not matter since I could just adjust the raglan length. I had planned to do the medium size, but switched to the smaller size when I saw that my gauge was off. Even so, once I got past the sleeve division, I realized it was totally not going to work. It was huge. Yes, I could have adjusted the raglan increases, but the fabric was really too loose, and I knew I wouldn’t be happy with it.
I ripped the whole thing out, and started again with smaller needles. (Pattern calls for 9mm/US 13, and I went down to US 11). First I did a little swatch (flat), just to get an idea of whether I’d like the fabric on the smaller needles, and to be sure it wasn’t too dense. It looked very nice, especially after a wash-and-dry. (So soft! So fluffy!) Off I went again, and figured I’d still go with the smaller size. This time, my gauge seemed pretty close. After getting the sweater re-knit to an inch or so past the sleeve separation, I checked the fit. Still a little bigger than it should have been, but not bad. It’s supposed to be oversized, and I’d probably wear it over another top, so I kept on with it.
But then I had a dilemma. One of the reasons I don’t like to make top-down raglans is that once you divide for the sleeves, you have to make a choice. If you knit the body first, and then after picking up the stitches for the sleeves, discover that the upper arm area is too tight or too loose, or that you should have made the raglan length longer or shorter, you’re screwed, and have to rip out the body to make changes. But the same holds true if you knit a sleeve first – if then you decide that the body is too big or small, you’re screwed again, and have to rip out the sleeve. Since sleeves are smaller, I knit just a few inches of one sleeve, and basted the seam under the arm to check the fit. Looked good, so I put those stitches on waste yarn, and went back to the body.
My next problem with knitting in the round: You really can’t tell how something fits a particular part of the body until you’ve knit past that area a few inches, since the live stitches have more stretch, and are easily distorted. So in order to check the fit at the bust, I had to knit several inches below the bustline. While this is true of flat knitting as well, at least if it’s wrong you can either adjust the corresponding piece, or at worst, only have half as much to rip out.
During the whole process, I tried the top on a few times, and I swear it kept growing width-wise every time. And in truth, it probably did, because of the loose stitch pattern and being knit in the round. Knitting in the round creates a spiral, and there’s nothing to keep the yarn from stretching more and more. With flat knitting, the fabric can’t keep stretching sideways. Pulling the fabric lengthwise into place helped a bit, but I had to finally admit that it was still just too big.
I briefly considered reknitting the sweater flat to minimize the growth, but then decided to give up and stuff the project into Aunt Cookie’s Ottoman of Shame while I regrouped.
And I’ve come to a decision… instead of knitting a top-down raglan in the round, I’m going to knit a… top-down raglan in the round. Yes, that makes sense, I know. But this one is knit at a tighter gauge, and is either stockinette or garter. And it’s been successfully knit with this yarn. The pattern is il grande favorito, and I’m planning to do the garter-stitch-front modification that a lot of people have done, like this one.
Now I just have to decide if I really want to knit it in the round, or if I want to modify it for flat knitting (maybe just after the sleeve division).
What’s that Einstein said about the definition of insanity?