yarn & fibres
three strikes

three strikes

I first learnt to knit as a small child. Mostly, it was scarves or simple fold over slippers; nothing that required foreign concepts like “gauge”. I grew up, moved onto other crafts, and my knitting needles remained pushed to the bottom of the drawer.

Then, at quilt camp 2011, the very first camp, I was gifted a pretty ball of pink yarn. Six months later, we headed to the coast for a holiday, and I popped it in my bag, knowing I would have a chance to grab some circular needles and I could make a start on a cowl, to revisit my old friend Knit Ting. I picked away at it, frogging and restarting, learning new stitches and skills along the way. Finally, it was done and blocked and…it was a million sizes too small. The toddler loved it though.

I worked out the problem – or what I thought was the problem. I was knitting through the back loop for my knit stitches. That would do it. I moved on, started other projects. I learnt socks, did a couple, put the needles away again. Picked them back up for Me Made May 2020 to knit the Gingerbread Sweater. It turned out fabulously, though slightly more fitted than the pattern photos would suggest. It’s become one of my most worn me made pieces.

Then I moved on to jumper two, a cardigan that I swatched, knitted, and frogged THREE times. The yarn is currently in solitary confinement in my stash basket, thinking about what it did. No matter how much I blocked it, I couldn’t get it to fit.

Most recently, I’ve knitted the Hebe jumper. The pattern looked perfect, a nice loose oversized jumper, knit in fine cotton; it would be ideal for our mild spring and autumns. I should have realised something was wrong when I had full ball of yarn completely untouched at the end. It does fit, pretty much, though the arms are a bit firm; but I didn’t want a fitted jumper, I wanted a loose jumper. Even my Linarii shawl ended up too small compared to the pattern, with a full ball (and more) left over – I’ve already knitted one pair of socks from the left over and I still have a heap to go.

I don’t want to give up on knitting jumpers though, so I think my first plan of attack is work out where I’m going wrong with my swatching. If I can’t work that out, I might just forever knit two sizes up. Clearly I knit tight, and obviously at a different tension when swatching because my swatches always lie. I think that’s the most frustrating thing; I am trying to do everything right and still getting myself in trouble.

I was nearly going to ignore the most recent jumper fail, but a while back I was on a podcast (Art Supply Posse; you can find my episode here) and we talked about the value of sharing our failures, not just the shiny pretty instagram finishes. It was tempting to let these failures fade into the background; it’s rather embarrassing to not be able to do something as simple as making gauge (even after swatching, like wth self that’s a very special kind of talent) even after knitting for so long. But it’s been a humbling, important lesson, that it’s ok to fail. It’s ok for things to not work out, and the only real failure is to give up and not learn from it. When it comes to garment knitting, creating something wearable, I’m pretty much self taught, and so of course knowledge gaps are going to come up and that’s ok.

So I’m going to blow off my frustrations, dust off my patterns, and try again. The yarns are too lovely, and the patterns have too much potential, for me to just give up. We have school break coming up, so my first order of business is to master the swatch. The grey cardi is already frogged, so I might try it again. Absolutely nothing to do with procrastinating on yet another crack at the colour work in the navy jumper, not at all. It also should, in theory, be the easiest to swatch correctly since it’s knit flat(ish…the sleeves are knit in the round).

A while back, I wrote an essay on “learning turns“, and I think that’s the phrasing I need to lean into. I didn’t make a mistake, I just did a learning run through the pattern. A test, a practise, a honing of the skills. And then hopefully, next time, I’m more likely to get it right.

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