Well, every so often in a knitter’s world—more often in mine than I prefer to think—one is forced to do the math.
Math. Sadly the word conjures up myriad thoughts in my head. The one thing that always pops up first—and I am well aware this is not true—is the old misconception that girls are not as good at math as boys. Who started this foolish rumor? Why does it persist? And most popularly, why is it still used as an excuse around here to throw a hissy fit when one cannot figure out one’s homework?
All I know is that usually, when I come upon an opportunity to tweek a knitting design, this thought comes first. However, this is quickly followed by, “I did get an A in 8th grade algebra.” On the other hand, I just barely got a C in sophomore year Geometry; Miss Montopoli did not appreciate my creative point-of-view when it came to theorems. But I digress, as usual.
Nowadays, however, my next thought when faced with a knitting-math challenge is one of excitement and “this should be fun.” My reason: a fantastic knitting course I took nearly 8 years ago at the (sadly) now defunct LYS Knitting Arts in Saratoga. The class was called “Do the Math.” Yes, this was stuff I probably could’ve figured out myself, but there’s nothing like sitting in a class with someone who’s a whiz at it, and being able to ask stupid questions and all. I’ve used what I learned that day countless times; most of the time it worked out well, but that’s another story.
Anyway when the opportunity to make a sweater for an old friend’s little one who was bigger than the size offered in the legendary “Baby Sweater on Two Needles” by Elizabeth Zimmerman, I pulled out paper and pencil, the original pattern, and my trusty calculator.
Actually, first I started out with a short review of some similar projects on Ravelry to bolster my confidence. Then I did a gauge swatch using some lovely Rowan Handknit Cotton from my stash (yeah, stash!), and EZ’s pattern. I was aiming for a 12 to 18 month size.
As many of you already know, EZ has the most inspired system she uses for knitting a seamless cardigan sweater: she calls it her “Percentage System.” Using this system, you:
1) First figure out what you want the finished circumference of your sweater to be.
2) Next determine the number of stitches per inch that you got from your gauge swatch.
3) Then multiply the 2 numbers.
The resultant number becomes what she calls your “key number.” Using this number, you break down your garment layout as follows:
Right Front : 15% (plus several stitches for the buttonhole border)
Right Sleeve: 20%
Left Sleeve: 20%
Left Front: 15% (plus several stitches for the buttonhole border)
So, now I had all my basic numbers, and although I fudged EZ’s percentages to work with the lace pattern of the body (remember, this is going on a baby), and shamelessly copied one, Weezalana on Ravelry for some of her mods, here’s a rundown of how I got my numbers to work out into a toddler-sized sweater:
–I cast on 64 stitches.
–On Row 9, I increased 32 stitches (K4, then *K2, M1* to 4 sts before end, then K4)(96 sts); on Row 17, I increased 48 sts (K4, then *K2, M1* to 4 sts before end, then K4)(144 sts); and finally, on Row 25, I increased 18 sts evenly across the row (don’t quite recall the breakdown, my notes are sketchy here, sorry—however I think it could be something like, K4, *M1, K8* across the row, ending with K4 for the last four border stitches)(162 sts).
I worked to these numbers because I was then able to evenly divide the sweater sections based on the lace repeats in the pattern (remember I fudged the percentages a bit when dividing? This is why);
Right Front : 28 sts (plus 4 border sts)
Right Sleeve: 28 sts
Back: 42 sts
Left Sleeve: 28 sts
Left Front: 28 sts (plus 4 stitches for the buttonhole border)
–Knit one more row, and started Gull Lace Pattern:
Because of the way I divided the stitches, not only was I able to do 3 pattern repeats on each front, but after I’d done 4 or so rows of Gull Lace, I was able to divide for the sleeves between repeats, and then, when it came time to pick up the sleeve stitches and add on underarm stitches, I added enough for one more complete repeat, so the lace pattern on the sleeve turned out exactly right (numerically).
“I’m so proud of me.” (As the sage Cookie Monster always says…) 🙂
I finished the sweater using some of my favorite vintage buttons from my stash.
I hope I got an A+.
Edited to add: Hahaha! The laugh’s on me. If you read this when I first posted it on Sunday, you would’ve noticed that I had a bunch of percentages in my second set of numbers where I smugly explained how many stitches I divided into each section. Well, not only were the percentages ridiculously wrong, they weren’t percentages at all. My note-taking was obviously so cryptic, even I couldn’t figure it out. Sheesh. Is my face ever red. 😉
Those of you who read and were kind enough not to comment, bless you. You are truly kind souls.