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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why Doesn't My Knitting Look Like That?!

Have you ever knit a pattern faithfully, only to have it come out looking very different from the picture on the pattern?  There may be good reason!

IT'S THE PATTERN

1.  The photo may not be of the pattern as written.  Sometimes in the process of knitting the sample for a pattern, corrections are made, but the sample isn't re-knit.  Don't you hate when that happens?  But with publishing deadlines being as tight as they are, a re-do isn't always possible, and so the pattern won't match the photo.

2.  The photo may be knit in a different yarn.  Designers, me included, design things and have the samples knit in good faith.  We intend for the yarn to be available.  Yarn manufacturers make the decisions that are best for their company.  Sometimes that means the sample is finished in yarn A, only to have that yarn discontinued before publication.  A last-minute substitution to yarn B is made by the designer so the pattern can go to press with the publication.  Though the change is usually stated in the pattern, sometimes it just doesn't make it.

3.  The tech editor goofed.  When sample knitters knit the project, they often find and correct errors in the text.  Those changes go to the technical editor, who adjusts the pattern accordingly.  Also, each pattern is usually only sample knit in one size, but is published in many sizes.  If there are any errors in the different sizes, it's the job of the tech editor to find them.

4.  The pattern was just poorly written.  It happens.  If you've ever tried to give someone step-by-step directions on how to tie their shoes, you'll understand how difficult it is to convey certain ideas in words.  The designer may think they were perfectly clear, but the general public may find the pattern to be wildly unclear.

IT'S YOU

5.  You didn't swatch, and either your stitch gauge, row gauge, or both are way off.  Some people say that row gauge doesn't matter.  Yes it does.  Do you want your sleeves to be long enough?  Do you want your armholes to meet up for seaming?  Of course you do.  If your row gauge is off but your stitch gauge is on, try changing materials on your needles.  Metal tends to have a taller gauge, bamboo the shortest.

6.  You knit very tightly.  Even if you've achieved gauge, if you knit very tightly the yarn will loose much of its spring and loft.  This will make many stitch patterns look flat or sloppy (cables and decreases look particularly odd).

7.  You used a different yarn.  Even if you get gauge, remember that your substitute yarn may have more loft or a different finish on it than the original.  For example, high twist yarns have clearer stitch definition than low twist yarns do.  Cottons and acrylics often have a sheen that many woolens lack. 

8.  You don't knit evenly yet.  If your stitch size isn't extremely consistent, you may produce a project with a wrinkly appearance.  How do you fix it?  It depends on the person, but in general a knitter needs to perform a stitch 2000 to 5000 times to consistently produce a smooth stitch.  The longer you've been knitting, the faster you'll perfect new stitches.  If you aren't smooth yet, you will be.  It's one of the many reasons we often have knitters begin on scarves...

9.  You haven't blocked it yet.  It is a rare project that doesn't benefit from blocking.  It's a bit like what ironing does for a pleated cotton skirt.  It's an essential finishing technique to make your work look its best.

I hope these notes help make your next project a huge success!
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