I See! (I Think!)

I understand Gauge as the mathematical count the test knitter or designer uses to achieve the pattern.

My simplified notion of "achieving the pattern" was contained by the concepts of physical measurement (how big or small does the thing have to be to fit) and visual design detail (adding in cables etc.).

Then when Sandi Wisehart on the Interweave blog focused on "Ease" in her posts, I incorporated that into my rudimentary understanding of achieving a pattern. Now I also thought not only about size and design but also about "Fit" -  whether the thing should be tight or loose or somewhere in between.

Last summer, knitting the Ribbon Edged Cardigan by Debbie Bliss in her Baby Cashmerino I was surprised to be using larger needles than I have in the past with that yarn.  Once I had a sizeable piece of fabric knit at that gauge I recognized this new (to me) gauge was producing knitting that delivered a measure of Drape that was absent when knit at the tighter gauge with which I was more familiar.

Sooooo... Drape, created by manipulating gauge can be used at the discretion of the designer to influence the outcome of a knitted garment as well!

And I understand Drape is different than Positive Ease...when I considered a loose fitting cabled sweater with no shaping I recognized such a design probably wouldn't drape at all. By virtue of the cabling it would have relatively significant structure. This would make it hang away from the body if fit with Positive Ease but in a self supporting manner free of Drape.

Aha! I must remember all this, I thought.

Now about to cast on the for the Minamalist Cardigan from Interweave Knits Fall 2007 and 'honouring my resolution to read all the detail from every pattern I undertake, I read the following about this sweater...
"...knit in allover moss stitch giving solidity to a soft alpaca blend..."
Ohhhhh! "Fiber" can contribute to Drape as well!!! She's used moss stitch to manage the Drape of her chosen fiber, to "give solidity" to the soft alpaca!

Suddenly I had one of those racing moments of cognition where many things all came together at once...The sweater's design in alpaca assumes a softness that will yield Drape. If  I'm NOT using alpaca, but using wool instead I won't have that Drape so I need safeguard that element of Drape by.....Knitting at a looser Gauge!!!

Oh but then how will I make the thing my size without redesigning the whole pattern?

Again, the Lightening struck and I thought - I know! I'll make a smaller size - fewer stitches at a looser gauge will make a garment that's bigger than the measurements given when the piece is knit at the correct gauge.

So I'm going to go against gauge to nonetheless achieve the design because I'm using stiffer yarn but still want the Drape intended by the Designer. Then to avoid having a garment that's too big for me, I'm going to make a smaller size.

I couldn't believe it could work that way, I didn't trust myself not to be missing something obvious in the reasoning.  So I started knitting swatches, I invited a more experienced knitter over for lunch and I went through it all with her.

She said my reasoning was correct aaaaaand she chose the swatch with the biggest gauge as having the nicest drape without being so loose as to just be sloppy.

With her word of approval and TY teetering on the very brink of becoming an FO I'm now excited to start on this in the next couple of days. I'm also going to be using my fledgling Continental technique for this. Its supposed to make moss and ribbing faster. It won't at first but maybe by the time I'm done! My plan is to knit on this during the Olympics when I'm NOT watching but still want to be knitting and so don't want to work on my Olympic sweater.

TTFN and thanks for dropping by!


Sandra said...

I could almost see the light bulb go off from here! Nice thought processes!

Stephanie said...

Knitting is so COMPLICATED sometimes, but you're right, we have to keep all of these things in our heads when we start a new project! (Probably why I don't often knit sweaters!) I think I can tell in the picture even that the biggest swatch has the best drape. It sounds like a great project to start when TY is done. (Hurray for TY being almost done!)

Acorn to Oak said...

The drape stuff makes sense and adjusting the needle size to achieve it. But, then when you have to figure out the gauge and adjust a new amount of stitches to the pattern....ouch!...that hurts my brain. lol Sweater knitting sounds so complicated and scary! I just have to remember to take one baby step at a time. :-)

Brenda said...

Marie, you elevate the thinking behind knitting to that of a PHD thesis. That in turn elelvates all knitters - both in our own eyes and in the eyes of the non-knitting world. Many knitters probably knew what you discovered, but you say it so well. Thanks.

LaurieM said...

I like your reasoning. I also like your picture of the needles with the swatches. It's hard to believe that half a millimeter can make such a big difference!

Did you wash your swatches? In my experience a good wash and lay flat to dry also loosens up the stitches. Even more so when you are talking an entire garment instead of a small swatch. Knitting grows when you wear it. I stretches out and down. I've been counting on the knitting growing over time in my more recent projects by making the sleeves just a touch short (1/4 of an inch).

Natalie Servant said...

Thanks - a great post that made me think about something I love.