Remember how yesterday I was very positive about the sizing of my Kit Camisole after trying it on? Remember how lovely it looked?
Yep, I was pretty smitten.
Well, I ripped it out & started over. Six inches in — a big portion of that the very slow knitting of half-linen stitch — & I frogged it all. No one should be surprised by this, really, this is not really shocking if you know me. Is it disappointing? Yes. Will I be glad I did it though? No doubt. With this fresh in my mind I thought today would be a good day to talk about sizing,’failure’, and finding peace in little disappointments.
First of all, the big kahuna: sizing. To say it rather simply, getting the right size in your knitwear can be a challenge. Some garment pattern sizes are listed as ‘finished measurements,’ meaning the actual garment measurements when completed. Some sizes are listed ‘to fit bust (or chest, or waist, etc) measurement…’ meaning you are supposed to choose the size that is closest to your actual body measurement. Then you have to factor in ease — how much extra or less fabric you create in order to achieve a looser or more fitted look — which is sometimes addressed with good direction, sometimes not. Of course, all these measurements are absolutely at the mercy of gauge — if you don’t get the gauge right or at the very least understand how your gauge differs from the written pattern and make adjustments, your garment will not turn out as the pattern intends. Unless you are pretty darn lucky, ignoring the gauge issue will lead to disappointment and quite possibly some choice words at the final bind-off.
In the case of my Kit Camisole, where I ran into trouble was the double whammy of both size & gauge. First of all, I am currently measuring between a 37.5″ & 38″ at my bust — so my fear was that the 43″ would be enormous, but I was also worried that the 39″ would be too snug. Add in the fact that I have recently dropped about 10lbs and am working on dropping another 10, I went ahead with the size 39″ thinking everything would work out perfectly in the end.
Well, I tried it on yesterday and — as you know — I was hopeful as the fit wasn’t bad at all, but as I continued row by row & stitch by stitch and I knew my gauge was running a bit tight the sinking feeling in my stomach began to really grow. I was quite sure the fit was going to be ok, but tighter than I had envisioned. I also knew that if I ripped back, started over, and worked the 43″ at my slightly tighter gauge that I would be much happier. Working patterns at a different gauge is something I always advised against as a knitting instructor. It has always been my argument that unless you are fully comfortable making independent mods to your pattern, there are no shortage of wonderful patterns available that will work magically with your yarn if the gauge isn’t quite right with the pattern you are using. Why roll the dice? In this case, however, I opted to stick with a slightly tighter gauge because 1) I am certainly at the point where I am comfortable should I need to make any changes, especially with this simple pattern and 2) I also prefer the denser fabric as this is intended to be knit rather loosely & thus a bit more… ahem… revealing than I would like. A tighter gauge will help to make this a more stand-alone camisole rather than a layering one. When I really stopped and let myself consider the possible outcomes, I started re-winding the Sparrow and in a matter of minutes unwound the hours of work I had already put into this camisole. Slightly tighter gauge & size 43″ was what I needed to knit, so it shall be knit.
It’s a very common misconception among knitters that this is a failure or says something negative about me as a knitter. I watched a lot of students really disheartened by setbacks like this, their confidence taking a huge plunge if any ripping was required. Often it made them feel like they weren’t very capable when I knew the very opposite was true. I think the fact remains that even with knitting a full swatch, sometimes you will get into a project and it just won’t work according to plan. There are times you just won’t know for sure about the fabric and design until you are looking at it in your hands. In my experience, the strongest knitters, the ones who learn & grow the most are those that aren’t afraid to admit when a project isn’t quite right and take the time to correct the problem, however painful & time consuming the correction is. You simply learn so much in a re-knit and are generally so happy with the outcome because of it.
The truth of the matter is that even the knitters we all look up to make mistakes, they start over many times, and they deal with the same setbacks the ‘average knitter’ does. While it’s true, the more experience you have the more tools in your toolkit & the more options at your disposal to deal with the trouble which makes corrections easier. You also learn that a small bummer today will lead to a much happier end. Most of all, I’ve learned to have the patience to make sure each project is just right. The disappointment I had as I rewound my 2skeins of Sparrow yesterday was short-lived. Obviously it took me a while to finally decide to start over because I didn’t want to lose the precious time I used to work on those 6inches. In the end though, I am at peace with the fact that I know I made the right call. The yarn will be re-knit, the sizing will be right, and everything will be ok.
The beauty of knitting is that most things can be easily rewound and started again. Yarn is full of opportunities and on a large scale, it is very forgiving. We just have to be comfortable enough with our own needles, confident in our judgment, and humble enough to do what is right by our projects. This is what will ultimately lead us to create the knitted items we truly want to proudly wear. Correcting a mistake doesn’t mean we are unskilled, it means we are honest and ok with not always being perfect on the first try. No one — including me — is going to judge my work by the 6inches I pulled out. True proof of my abilities will be in the camisole I wear in (I hope!) a few weeks. I expect it’ll be lovely thanks to yesterday’s tough decision and all the tough decisions that are yet to pop up along the way. The challenge of knitting, the joy of knitting, the zen of knitting is in seeing opportunity & promise even in the face of setbacks and forging ahead anyways. Every project has to begin somewhere… sometimes it just has to start a couple times before we get it right.
Here I go again…