There’s a lot to be said for persistence and perseverance… in relationships, learning, gardening, and of course, in knitting.
A favorite design, admired for many years and knitted many a time, has been Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Icelandic Overblouse.
The ultimate in chic simplicity, the entire garment is knit in garter stitch ( the easiest possible knitting), and has the simplest shaping in the final rows. One would think that it would be easy to churn out this garment from one’s needles for every family member. After all, it was just about casting on enough stitches to go around the person, and knit away.
EZ suggests, as always, to knit a guage swatch, measure how many stitches in three inches, divide by 3 to get the stitches per inch, measure the widest part of the body and add ease, and then cast on the correct number of stitches for half that measurement. Easy peasy, one would think!
The first one was made in 2012, as soon as my dear niece sent some exquisite wool from the States…variegated yarn in shades of blue—it was going to be my perpetual winter sweater over my jeans. I knit it on smaller needles, hoping to get the gauge of the pattern. It was a quick project. But alas, in my haste, I realized that the over blouse was a trifle stolid and stiff. I should have knitted on larger needles and re-calculated the stitches required . Omitting the gauge step resulted in the sweater being gifted to my cousin, who was delighted with the fit and finish.
And yes, it looked much better on her!
The next one was for the 2013 winter, and THIS time, I took the larger needles. The knitting was loose and the final sweater seemed lovely…this was going to be my perpetual winter sweater over my jeans.
One wash, and the sweater expanded in all directions. My tension had been too large and I knew that this one is going to grow into something which would drape all over me. Omitting the gauge step resulted in this sweater being gifted to a young friend, who was delighted with the fit and finish.
Yes, I am repeating myself, but can you see the emerging picture? The issue of dodging gauge samples and watching my knitting settle down in foreign wardrobes?!
I present two swatches, knitted with 3.5 mm and 4 mm needles. Swatches were washed, blocked, dried, swung around, rubbed on the cheek and measured. I started with the 3.5 mm needles , wrote down notes in my knitting diary ( another instruction which has been ignored a million times, and then—the hand wringing, the hair tearing, the confusion when the back and front shaping wouldn’t match!!), and knitted along.
The sleeve length had to be just right, so called up my daughter to confirm the exact inches. I was sitting on a hill forest slope, she was at her Grandmothers in Bangalore—no measuring tape in sight. The exact measurement from vertebral spine to elbow was sent—3 hundred rupee notes, end to end! The sweater has been completed, and I am completely satisfied and happy with the outcome! It has the right stretch and bounce, and I am sure it will be just right for my daughter.
So what have I learnt after three attempts at a simple project?
- Gauge, Gauge and Gauge…as the learned ones say,
- Leave all the ego and the arrogance ( I know it all, I have been knitting for years) out of the house and follow instructions written by knitters who left their ego and arrogance and lived to write patterns.
- Make sweaters for your loved ones—I find I am methodical and meticulous when I know the garment is going to be on someone else. It becomes a matter of pride, to get it perfect!
- It helps to have a large circle of loved ones. There is always someone who will fit perfectly in my knitted garment and who will be thrilled to wear it.