Sometimes the finish line of a project is not a bright line — you can ease your way across it with finesse, as needed. Take this sweater, for instance, which I bound off on Labor Day. This was a classic case of why knitting top-down is great and also why some people rail against top-down: To wit, A) yes you can try it on as you go and get it exactly how you want it, but B) only if you take into account what happens when you block it. My unblocked gauge on this sweater was 7.25 rows per inch, whereas after a wash it came in at 8.25. That’s substantial shrinkage! Had I simply tried on the sweater and bound off when it looked done, it would have been way too short once it was washed. Here again is why it’s critically important to count rows rather than measuring fabric. But that said, I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted it to fit or how long I wanted the cuffs and waist ribbing to be — those are all little fit and design details that I like to let the sweater dictate as it takes shape. Part of trying on a top-down in progress, for me, is letting it tell me what it wants to be.
So in this case, I did my math to calculate total rows and decrease placement for my projected lengths but also left room for last-minute adjustments, just in case. A few rows before what I thought would be final, I put the cuffs and body on waste yarn, washed and dried the sweater (this O-Wool Balance is machine washable, but you always want to treat your swatch and your WIP however you’ll treat the finished garment, whether that’s hand-washing or whatever) and put it on again to make those final decisions before binding off and seaming. (I knitted the sleeves flat, as usual, so yes there was seaming.)
It’s all about being the master of your own knitting! I’ll show you the whole sweater as soon as I can get photos.
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Thanks good advice. Ordered the shade card for O-Wool Balance and appreciate the info. Cotton has a tendency to get shorter and wider but wouldn’t have guessed that would happen when blended with wool. Latest example a swatch of Rowan Summerlite DK (all cotton) which went from 24 stitches to 22 stitches over 4 inches after 20 minutes in the dryer on medium.
I do put it in the dryer for a bit, but just not bone dry.
Your patience in these swatch-wash-check-wash matters has been so helpful to me. ‘Watching’ you execute such tedium not only proves its worthiness, but shows it to be very doable. And you are kind enough to never really needle us with, “Come on, Barb! Why wouldn’t you do these steps on a project that takes sooooo many hours of knitting?!” Thanks, as always.
I confess it’s easier when it’s wash-and-dry, so it’s a matter of hours as opposed to waiting a couple of days for wet-soaked wool to dry! But yes, always worth it, regardless.
Such good advice. Sometimes my small swatches lie.
Since reading that you blocked a sweater partway through the knitting, without adverse effect, I have been doing the same to assure accurate measurement. I did that again last night on a sweater I was knitting for my daughter, and found that I needed to begin the armhole decreases about 1.5″ sooner than I would have had I depended on it’s unblocked measurement rather than on the row count calculated on my blocked swatch. Row count really works!! Thanks for experimenting, and letting us know the outcome.
To be honest, I had a hard time trusting the math on this one and wound up going deeper than I meant to because I was worried about it coming up *too* short and decided I’d rather err on the side of too long. So it’s not how I would normally spec it, but of course it’s totally fine.
I did same last night – knitted further than my row count indicated I should . . . . then ripped back to my calculated row count. I hope I remember that in the future.
I usually block as I go, it’s worth the time and then I don’t have the disappointment of frogging many rows.
Do you ever block part way through knitting one of the pieces in a seamed sweater? Wondering if it’s still useful to do in that context.
Very timely post as I’m just starting to swatch for my next sweater project (a Willard, using BT Shelter). I haven’t considered row gauge previously but given this one is a top down yoked pattern, it’s going to be very necessary I think. Thanks so much for doing the “heavy lifting” on this for us!
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