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?