Monday, November 24, 2008

A Puny Little Swatch is No-One's Friend

The fiber festivals were awfully fun this year. I came home all in a lather to sink my hands into this luscious brushed mohair. I had bought the pattern right along with the yarn, so, for once, there was no plumbing of the archives and agonizing over what to make with it.

I couldn't wait. I just wound it up into a ball and got right to work, prattling about its fuzzy softness to anyone who would listen.

Of course I knit a little swatch and got it over with. It's the done thing, after all, isn't it? Now, granted, it was a smallish swatch. And I didn't take it terribly seriously. I spread it on my knee, but I didn't pin it out to measure. And I certainly didn't launder it. It couldn't be that critical.

I dived right in, beginning hem-upwards on the back of the sweater, knitting eagerly, watching the colors flicker as they pulled out of the ball and worked into the rows. When I had an inch or two done, I eyed it critically. It looked a little wide. Spreading it carefully over both needles, so it could extend to its full width, I measured. It was a little wide. Hmmm. Well, did I want it to be big and loose? No, I really didn't. I wanted this one to be comfortable, but neatly fitted, not over-sized. So, grumbling mildly, I ripped it out, and started again, a size smaller this time. At least I felt clever for having double-checked before losing too much time.

Then I knitted away contentedly for weeks. Miles of stockinette can be very pleasant for me sometimes. It's nice to just enjoy making the stitches, pulling them through, feeling the yarn, admiring the piece as it grows, and chatting or watching TV or just relaxing all the while.

And, really, most fancy stitchwork would be lost in the fuzz and the color changes of this yarn. It really just needs to speak for itself. The sweater pattern, a simple mock turtleneck, is one designed specifically for this yarn, and wisely follows that philosophy.

I handled the yarn delicately. It was, after all, from a baby goat and surely deserved a little extra care. So, after a while, here I was, with all the pieces done and ready to assemble. A soft, fuzzy kid mohair sweater in beautiful colors that I was looking forward to wearing. The only thing was, it looked kind of... wide.

I measured. It was kind of wide. I hadn't gotten gauge. It was probably from babying it, not wanting to pull the loops tight. But come on, I had swatched! I had measured! I had started over and adjusted the size I was knitting! Nevertheless, there it was, stretching out widely in front of me. Where's the justice in that?

It just lay there blinking at me, caring naught for all my protestations. Still, wanting my neatly fitted sweater, I decided there was nothing for it but to rip it out. The whole thing. The basically completed sweater.

Sigh. It was a test of my character, that's what it was. And in mohair, too. I think I mentioned before that ripping out mohair takes extra patience. Oh, yes, indeed it does. Ripping out knitting should be something like stripping off a Band-Aid. Painful, but over quickly, so you can put it behind you. Not with mohair. Oh, no. Not only does it have to be done slowly and gently, but it gets downright argumentative and stubborn at times.

I'm an expert at ripping out knitted mohair, now. I've had lots of practice. I don't want to think about how long it took. I did it in stages, ripping out a piece, and starting to re-knit it on smaller needles before mustering the will to rip out another piece. I mostly avoided looking at clocks while all this was going on. I did get curious, though, before it was all over, and noted the time for the last piece. It took me two full hours to unravel just the back of the sweater.

I wish I could say that I remained serene through this whole process, doing what was necessary without letting it get to me. But I can't. I have to admit that, at times, I got frustrated with teasing apart the little hairs until they would let go. Once or twice, defeated, I actually yanked hard, hoping to break the thread. But it was too strong for that, though the tangles eventually did give way and let me pass.

It made me glum for a while, and I didn't really want to talk about it. But that chapter is over. The re-knitting is well underway. Once again, I'm enjoying the simple pleasures of endless stockinette, this time, I hope, in the right needle size. It does seem better. With the smaller needles, it has some life and body that it lacked. Before, it was a little slack and sprawling. And it seems to be coming out more my size.

This time, it doesn't matter. Whatever size this sweater turns out, I'm wearing it. But I may be a little more particular next time about the size of my swatch!


Bess said...

Oh darling! What a blow. And what fortitude you demonstrated, doing right by that mohair.

Whew. My heart is beating just thinking about all that knitting. I'm glad the second and a half time remains rewarding.

In fact - something about endless stockinette sounds very desireable just as we are jumping into the holiday season .....

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. That is my very favorite yarn- so I feel somewhat guilty. I hope the rest of it goes well.

I'm taking this gentle reminder to heart, and reswatching for the current sweater I'm knitting- since I only knit about 1 1/2 inches before measuring then jumping in...

Anonymous said...

You are so brave and driven! Haven't I heard that placing mohair in the freezer for several hours makes the frogging much easier????? Not that you need this tip NOW!