if at first you don't succeed...er...swatch...

...knit, knit again!

I've noticed that most of what I knit lately comes out with a tighter gauge than expected. There are two possible explanations for this: 1) Yarn companies consistently label their yarns with looser gauge to give knitters the false impression that you can finish a project in a shorter time than is realistic. Because they are wrong and I am right, OR 2) I knit more tightly than I used to. Yes, it's probably the latter, and that might have something to do with the needles I'm using. About a year ago I bought some Harmony needles from Knitpicks - both fixed circulars and some of the interchangeable tips and cables - and they are both slicker than bamboo needles and pointier than any other needles I've tried except for Addi lace (which are great, actually, but so expensive I only have a couple).

I've mentioned before that I'm sloppy with swatching. I often skip the gauge swatch, with certain exceptions. What are those exceptions, you may ask? Well, if I'm knitting a whole sweater for a grown man, like my dad's Christmas sweater from a few years ago, I don't dare skip the gauge swatch because that's a whole lotta knitting. Or if I'm using a non-wool yarn like the 80% bamboo/20% wool blend for my Millefiori cardigan last spring, I want to know how the yarn will behave after washing and blocking so I don't end up wearing a tent. For the record, those sweaters turned out beautifully. But for socks or little-people clothes or accessories I usually don't bother and - don't hate me for this - more often than not, things work out.

I also often skip swatching for sweaters I knit for myself. Sometimes I'll start with the sleeve and get a few inches in, then check to see if I'm on gauge or not. If so, then I've saved myself the trouble of a swatch. If not, the beginning of a sleeve isn't so bad to re-knit. I know there are people out there who would disagree with me and say "But you have to wash and block all your swatches!" Well, yes, yarn does funny things once it hits the water, but usually I work with wool and that tends to keep its shape pretty well. And a swatch only tells you what will happen with a few inches of knitted fabric, which can completely change with a whole sweater. Might as well just dive in and see what happens, right?

All this has little to do with the project I've re-started, actually. Last spring I started Jared Flood/Patons urban aran cardigan with some Cascade Ecowool. For this one, I actually did a swatch! Even so, I was unsure about sizing and began with the sleeve. I'm glad I did, because I could just tell it wasn't right. The knitted fabric was too dense and it was going to be more close-fitting than I wanted; the wool is a little scratchy and the cardigan is big and thick enough it should wear more like a jacket. I got frustrated and put it down, but a couple days ago, with cooler weather coming our way and Anya's yellow sweater finished, I decided to bump it up a needle size and give it another go:

So far, so good. I'm hoping this one goes quick.


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