Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Swatch

After realizing that attempting to get the needles back from the lace shawl was a pointless effort, I changed tactics.  The new plan was to knit as fast as I can until the shawl had no choice but to release its grip on the needles out of sheer exhaustion (and completeness, but mostly exhaustion).

It turns out the shawl has more stamina than I do.

Here's where I seek your advice.  I admit to buying this yarn with a bit of hesitation knowing that it is variegated.  Variegated yarn does not work well with complicated lace patterns. (this is always true.  No amount of denial is going to change this.  Not even if you really, really, really want the yarn and pattern to be united.)

I'm considering this shawl a swatch.  (By the way, the pattern is Damask by Kitman Figueroa and I'm using Malabrigo Sock in Azules.  You may not be able to tell that it's the same pattern because of the variegation.)  No, I could not have knit a small square swatch.  How could I tell how the colors would change with the decreasing stitch count in each row?  How would the nupps look?  What would be the overall effect?  Clearly I had to knit the largest swatch possible, and it might as well resemble what the finished shawl would look like, right?  So this shawl swatch and I spent some quality time together and I just can't decide.  I quickly pinned it out to see what I have to work with.

I was a bit deflated by what I saw.  We needed some time apart (though, obviously, the shawl swatch held onto the needles).  After a few days I picked it back up and knit steadily for an hour, or six rows, whichever measurement you choose to use.

I thought it looked funny.  I thought, "This pattern isn't lining up."  This was on the first row.  I decided that the designer knew what she was doing and I should just continue.  "Oh, good", I thought, "the next row lines up with the one below" and this is how I continued for an hour.  I thought it was time to count my stitches.  153.  That seems right, it says in the pattern that after row 56 I should have 153 stitches.  Perfect.  But what is this number in parentheses?  Oh, never mind, that's just the stitch count for the medium size, but I have 153, so I must be knitting the small size.

But that doesn't make sense, because I cast on for the medium.  When did this change?  Have I been knitting the small size all along?

I studied my knitting.  I looked again.  I saw where the pattern didn't really line up, that the stitches were falling in the wrong place above the nupps.  "The nupps," I thought.  The nupps at the top of this chart.  The top of this chart that I just started knitting.  Why are there already nupps?  Somehow I must have...

And then I realized.  I've already knit this chart.  Not the entire thing, that would be too easy.  I knit through the nupp rows and then stopped 4 rows shy of moving onto the next chart.  Three days later when I sat down to knit this shawl swatch again, I assumed the logical thing to do would be to begin at the bottom of the chart.

For an hour I did this and didn't think twice.

Stupid shawl swatch.

So what do you think.  Is the variegation too much?  Maybe we should wait to see until I block the shawl swatch.  You can never believe a swatch until it's washed and blocked, right?


  1. Oh my...

    Blame that patterned sofa of yours, sweetie and walk away.


  2. The yarn doesn't seem to be getting lost in the pattern and the pattern doesn't seem lost in the yarn. I like it!

  3. it will not get better with time, washing, blocking, dimmed lighting, abject denial or vitriolic tantrums. Wonderful skeins of yarn do not universally lend themselves to wonderful projects. Demand the return of your needles and replace the admirable, yet inappropriate yarn with something more amenable. ( I have been listening to Bronte for the past few days while knitting, does it show?)

  4. While I like the yarn at a distance. Up close you can't see the pattern very well. I'd yank the needles free and get a new pattern for that skein.

  5. Frog the swatch and start over with a solid color yarn. That's what I would do. And get those needles back. Do you think the needles would be jealous if you invested in a second pair?

  6. It really doesn't look so bad, at least in your photos. However, only you can tell and if you're blogging about it to ask advice you already know the answer. Give it up.

  7. i think it still looks pretty.

    if you are not happy with it, why waste all that time and energy you've already put into it...put it up for bid, perhaps someone will take it off your hands and finish it and you won't be so disgusted looking at it anymre.

  8. Wow, you are a dedicated swatcher. I don't think the pattern is really lost in the yarn, but I think you could find a better yarn for the pattern (and likewise, a better pattern for the Azure colorway).

    Deep breath.

  9. Well at least you've had fun playing ;)

    frog - find plain yarn in fab colour - resume knitting - preferably not another swatch :D

  10. I like it. Leave it. Or maybe knit on, then overdye if you don't like it at the end of things.

  11. Ooh, overdyeing sounds good. But I have spent the last week or two ripping out my knitting... so that's certainly a viable option, and I will support you either way.

  12. My guess is that if you have to ask, you're not happy, and if you are not convinced now, why go through the non insignificant effort to knit the real thing?
    I've been in a similar situation and found that when I have doubts, I end up knitting something ill-fated from the start. I don't know how you knit/think, but I am guessing that it would be safer to consider the variegated yarn a learning experience and cut your losses now. :)

  13. The variegation doesn't bother me, but if you're off by that much in the patterning, I have two words for you: Frog! It!

    Continuing to work on it won't help the issues it has, nor are you likely to become less frustrated with it. And let's face it, problems with lace are just likely to compound. If you say you need to walk away from it, then I say you need to make a clean break and start anew.

  14. I agree with the "stick with it" opinion. To my mind, variegated yarns look really nice with lace patterns, but only if they stay within the same colour family. I have knit a lace border for a large shawl in a colour gradient yarn and love it. But that's just my opinion.
    it's this one
    If you aren't 100% happy with the yarn/pattern-combination, frog it and reknit.

    As for the pattern mistake: that's sad and would irk me every time I looked at it. I once knit the entire upper part (arm holes upward) of a sweater with a 90° clockwise shift compared to the back decreases...and only noticed this after blocking! Shame on me...but still funny.

  15. There is some lace that demands a solid color, and others that play nice with variegated yarns. It's a matter of taste and preference, really, and you have good taste.

    I personally wouldn't look at that shawl and go, "WTF were you thinking?" However, it does seem that YOU don't like it, sweet pea. And that is most important.

  16. I think you're smokin' crack, that yarn looks lovely with that pattern. That's a TV (tonally variegated) yarn and I think you can get away with it.

    But what really matters is that you don't like it. You know you don't. Considering you already made a tactical error with the charts, I say rip it out and start again another day with a yarn you're more confident of.

    But I still think it's beautiful.

  17. I just finished this shawl with a subtly variegated yarn, and didn't find it to be problematic. having said that, Rows Red has a point. No matter what we all think, the important thing is that YOU don't like it. Looks to me like the swatch will be visiting the frog pond.

  18. Well, I think it looks beautiful, but after all, I'm not knitting it. From your tone, I think you know what you're going to do, you just don't want to do it. I don't blame you! But I think you know you aren't going to be happy with it as it's going. Take a deep breath, maybe get a drink, and frog away. Free the needles for what you want!

  19. I was first attracted to your blog by your photo of Fred's apartment building with a glimpse of the "Cathedral" in the background. (I spent many an hour gazing at that place from the 14 floor of WPIC--where I wasn't a patient. REALLY!)I miss Oakland--but not the traffic.

    But maybe I should have been [a patient] because I NEVER have a problem with variegated yarn and complex patterning. Granted it does depend on whether the variegation is subtle. I like the yarn, but the chart error would probably be a problem for me....And if either are a problem for you, it really doesn't hurt [much] to frog. Ask me how I know.....

  20. My grandmother (who taught me to knit, by the way) was a very wise woman and she would have said, "A man on horseback would never know the difference"...
    Personally, I think it's lovely...but I'm not a solid-color yarn kinda gal...

  21. I, for one, am all for the variegation.

  22. 1) I know I'm late to the party. Sorry.

    2) It's a great pattern.

    3) It's great yarn.

    4) You already f@*#ed it up. Rip it and find some other yarn. There are tons of yarn and patterns out there better suited for each other.