December 11, 2013

From Sally — Gauging Interest

Filed under: Updates — surly @ 7:33 pm

Gauge. Boring, but essential.

When trying to achieve “proper”gauge, I have usually found that it’s more important to focus on the stitch gauge than the row gauge if I’m having having trouble getting both to match what’s called for in a pattern. That’s because patterns will often tell you to work a piece until it measures a certain number of inches or centimeters. (Even in that case, though, you should keep track of how many rows you worked so that you can make a corresponding piece such as a front the same number of rows if seaming.) However, with some patterns row gauge is critical.

I have long wanted to knit Alice Starmore’s Margaret Tudor. It first appeared in her original Tudor Roses book, and it has been slightly reworked in the revised edition (which is a must have). Seeing it again rekindled my desire to knit it. This is a complex sweater with many pieces and although there are several sizes, they are all the same length in part because of the length of some of the vertical repeats. It would be difficult to shorten without ruining the overall effect of the design.

The yarn called for is Scottish Fleet, a fine and tightly plied gansey type wool. I bought enough to make the sweater years ago and I knit the first panel. My gauge was way off, especially my row gauge. The sweater would have become a long tunic on me at that gauge, which wasn’t the look I was going for. I am a better, more experienced knitter now. My knitting has also become tighter over the years. So I pulled out some of my Scottish Fleet and tried again to get gauge. I simply can’t. I would have to go down so many needle sizes that it would be too hard on my hands. Despite my best efforts, I cannot knit this sweater out of the yarn called for, even though I would have liked to for many reasons. It’s lovely yarn and my strong preference is to support this designer by using her yarns. (I’ve made up for my temporary disloyalty by buying up enough of her yarn for other designs to keep me busy for much of next year. Stay tuned.)

The quest for a substitute began. I did a lot of swatching from yarns I had in my stash, and I finally settled on Madelinetosh Pashmina in the color Antler. It’s a beautiful yarn although it’s not a perfect solution. I won’t have as firm a fabric. That may become an issue, especially when I want to sew on all of the buttons. (I bought the buttons called for in the original Tudor Roses book and still have them.)

Here are two panels side by side, one in the original green Scottish Fleet and the other in the Pashmina. As you can see, I hadn’t even finished five repeats in the green and it is far longer than the fully completed panel in the cream. The new piece is the length it should be. Note that they look similar in length here, but there are a different number of repeats.

This is a project I will keep in my basket and work on in spurts depending upon my mood, so I don’t expect to finish it any time soon. Hey — I’ve been waiting for over a decade so what is the hurry?


  1. YEARS ago, I made Sheilavig, out of Scottish Fleet – I think I used either US 1 or 0 needles. I at one time used bamboo needles, which broke inside a row. I found knitting at Starmore gauge with Fleet brutal – hard on the hands, just hard. Finishing this vest took a long time. I do love my “waistcoat” as the VY gang would say – but it is FIRM – wool that might deflect bullets. I think your less authentic incarnation might be more comfortable in more than one way.

    Comment by Pam — December 11, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

  2. So gorgeous! Those buttons are amazing! Antler will be just beautiful and will show off the pattern so well. Take your time and enjoy the knit!

    Comment by Kathy W. — December 11, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

  3. Kudos on returning to a project that has been on your radar for a long time, and for finding a yarn that will work. I’m finally working on a sweater I’ve wanted to knit since I first got Aran Knitting back when it was first published — St. Brigid. And, Susan, if you are reading, I’m just about done with sleeve #2, leaving just the front!

    Comment by Susan — December 12, 2013 @ 12:37 am

  4. My gosh, I remember that sweater now! Gorgeous pattern, I look forward to seeing you recreate it.

    Comment by June — December 12, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

  5. I will wait with great patience to see the finished product.

    Comment by Astrid — December 12, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

  6. You will be so much happier with the softer yarn. I’ve been working on Fulmar for several years on size 1 needles at firm gauge with Frangipani. The design shows beautifully, but the resulting fabric is like chain mail. I’m hoping that washing the sweater will soften it somewhat. Looking forward to seeing your finished work, as the start looks spectacular.

    Comment by Alexandra Lyman — December 13, 2013 @ 12:12 am

  7. That is beautiful but beware: madtosh pashmina pills almost immediately :( It gets very fuzzy. And it has a tonne of drape to it. Getting butons to lie properly is going to take some kind of re-enforcing. And it grows a lot…like 7% after blocking. It is a bit of a shame because it is a gorgeous yarn, but you might want to keep looking. Have you tried the 80/10/10 worsted base? That one is my favorite out of the range.

    Comment by Flaneuse — December 13, 2013 @ 11:40 am

  8. I gave up on a pattern because I simply couldn’t get the gauge the pattern called for . . . . with any yarn or needle size I tried. Some patterns (the more simple ones) will take well to fiddling to fix gauge issues and others won’t. I’m glad you found a yarn that will knit to pattern gauge. It’s a lovely sweater and it would have been a shame to have to give up on it.

    Comment by PurrlGurrl — December 13, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

  9. Oh wow. It’s going to be beautiful. I love the new version of the book. This one has always been on my long list and now that it’s been reworked, I like it so much better. I’ve bot Mary Tudor in the original yarns, and hope to experiment with the reworked pattern.


    Comment by Southerpurl — December 14, 2013 @ 9:03 am

  10. The Mary Tudor is exquisite. Wish I were still in the group for inspiration!

    Comment by Kathy Filkins — January 20, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

  11. A friend told me that you have a good button hole tip for the Holier Than Thou scarf on Ravelry..How do I get that tip from you?..many thanks marylou Kavaler

    Comment by marylou kavaler — January 31, 2014 @ 11:59 am

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