Sunday, September 27, 2009

The importance of swatching

Remember the sleeve I showed you in Proof that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing?
That was a sleeve-sized swatch. That was a .very. .bad. .idea.

In a saddle-shouldered sweater, the sleeve's saddle extension is the keystone to the entire sweater. The keystone is cut last, to match the dimensions of the arch. Knitting is not like stone-cutting. That is, the measurements are mutable, especially when knitting with cables.

Here are the two side fronts. One has been steam-blocked, the other hasn't.

See the difference in size? If you didn't know the blocked dimensions, you would have thought that the sleeves needed to be longer and wider to form a 58.5" wingspan (the tip of one sleeve to the tip of the other sleeve).

Why didn't I read Ravelry before I started the sweater?   The sweater schematic measurements are off.  The sleeve, made according to the directions, is too large for the armscythe.  The sleeves are huge batwings.

Maggie Righetti, in Sweater Design in Plain English, warned against arty pictures where the model is posed in awkward, sweater-obscuring poses. So why wasn't I suspicious that the book, A Fine Fleece, doesn't show a single picture of the actual sweater.  (It was only shown in artful sections, folded on a chair and hung over the back of a chair, with most of the sweater obscured.)

Anyway, the sleeve/swatch has been frogged back to row 28 (of 120)  after the ribbing. Today, I reknit it up to row 80.  Thankfully, the new sleeve will be only 108 rows before I cast off the edges to form the saddle.  If you knit this sweater, I recommend knitting, blocking and measuring a swatch first.  If you are short of yarn, as I was, knit a side front first.

Fortunately, with the new slimmer and shorter sleeve, I will have enough yarn.  I had bought 15 balls, when I thought I needed 14.  Now I know why the old adage says to buy 10% extra instead of 1 ball extra.  I went back to the Slipt Stitch to buy another ball, but Patricia was sold out of this color.

Actually, she had bought Merinos Otto Shadow in 4 of the 6 available colors and sold out on 3 of them.  I am not surprised.  It is a gorgeous yarn and she sells it for a very competitive price, about 30% less than other stores in the South Bay and almost as low as the lowest internet price.  For a brick and mortar store with personal service, she has good to amazing prices on quality yarns.

I struck out on the extra yarn, but I did help Patricia set up a gmail account.  You can email her at  She's very new to email so you might want to call her if you don't hear back from her quickly.  (310) 322-6793


  1. Oh how frustrating! I'm glad that you were able to rework the sleeves and will come away with a wearable garment. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished (and modeled) garment.

  2. All that hard work!!
    I know you got distracted by the gorgeous yarn, you got blindsided and missed all the alarmbells you described.
    Thankgoodness you're an accomplished knitter, who can handle these type of things.

    Sorry I haven't visited for so long, Ravelry got the better of me!

  3. OH how frustrating for you. I admit that I do sleeves last because I often have issues with length and I need to know how the shoulder fits so I can gauge the sleeve length. But still, for it to be that far off is terrible.

    I have been known to fall for sweaters that are artfully draped rather than fully shown though, and understand the temptation and the risks. I still love that book.


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