For those less obsessed with the fiber arts, this is the summer Interweave Knits, and the shirt I plan to make, the Lotus Blossom Tank by Sharon Shoji (p. 102), along with some lovely turquoise (of course) South West Trading Company Bamboo yarn. I may stress that this is the RECOMMENDED yarn for the pattern. In fact, it's even the right color, although that was accidental. I must also mention that the photos of this tank in the magazine are much more flattering than the one on the cover. But I digress.
So you might have astutely noted the title of this post, which also could have been "how many gauge swatches can Emily make" or "how many sets of DPNs is reasonable to need for swatching" or, as you'll see, "I'm supposed to get the same gauge with this yarn as I'm getting with thick merino on my Clapotis?". Let me back up a step. Last night I got home from work after my little "you should make something summery" chat with Rachel, and excitedly dove into this project. I realized quickly that I didn't the suggested circular needles (how is this possible, with all the needles I have?), but I wisely decided to swatch first and buy later. So, I gathered my provisions (magazine, bamboo, measuring tape, DPN case (from Kim), iPod, and diet Pepsi (don't leave home without it), and headed to the roof of my building. Sadly, there are no photos of this, as I'd left the camera in the lab, but I did get a shot of my full DPN case in case Kim is keeping an eye out. It's lovely, and very useful for this exact purpose, as we shall see:
The pattern recommends two needle sizes, one for the very bottom (US 6) and then one size smaller for the rest, with the gauge based on the smaller needle. The gauge I was shooting for is 5.5 stitches/inch, and the yarn band recommends 5 stitches/inch on size 5 needles, so there is good agreement between the yarn and the pattern. Hahaha...I'm a bit of a tight knitter, so I figured I would go up a needle size to start, and did a swatch on size 6s. Now, this swatch should've been done in the round, so I carefully carried my yarn across the back, loosely, and knit every row on the DPNs, for a couple of inches. I have to say, I liked the feeling of the fabric, but it was looking pretty narrow...so I measured it, and I had 7.5 stitches/inch. 7.5! I'm practically making socks here! I did a bit of muttering under my breath and moved up to size 7s, and got about 7 stitches/inch. Getting desperate, I moved up to 8s, thinking that this was totally impossible, seeing as I'm knitting my clapotis with size 8 needles and thick wool, and this bamboo is nowhere near that thick. On the size 8s, I got about 6 stitches/inch, but the fabric looked horrid, it was holey and stretchy and not at all like the nice dense fabric I'd gotten before or that on the model in the magazine. I thought, Emily, maybe it is your bizarre 'carrying the yarn across the back' thing that screwing everything up, so I broke the cardinal rule of swatching and knit a stockinette swatch on my DPNs (purling across the back) and actually GOT gauge with the crazy size 8s, but it looked AWFUL. I cannot stress this enough. In an act of desperation I made a circular swatch with my size 7 DPNs, and that was something like 6.5 stitches/inch. At that point I threw everything back in my bag in frustration and went downstairs and had a glass of wine.
What does one do in this situation? I like this tank top, I really like the yarn, and it seems ridiculous to me that my gauge is so off. Since I really liked the feel and drape of my albeit small swatch at 7 stitches/inch, I did some math and figured out that if I followed the pattern for the large tank top, with that gauge it would come out about the same size as the small that I was initially going for. However, that size requires twice as much yarn as I have, and although obviously I wouldn't be covering as much physical area as the large tank, I have a feeling I'd be using way more yarn than I would with the correct gauge. Thoughts? I might consult with the folks at the LYS tomorrow and see if they have any ideas. I've actually had this type of problem with sock yarn before, with wild gauge issues and way too many stitches/inch, but not with larger yarns. For instance, I don't have crazy gauge problems with worsted weight wool, I'm usually spot-on with those. I have no idea what my problem is. All I know is I am frustrated with this. I might go back and reswatch with the smaller needles and make larger swatches in the round, in case that's really my issue, but I have a feeling it's not and that this tank+this yarn are not meant to be for me. But I will perservere, at least a little while longer.
Dave is going to be out of town for the weekend, and he's taking
"my" his camera with him, so there may not be any photos for a few days. Perhaps I'll post some random ones I've taken lately and not put online, just to keep you all entertained! I'm all set for a long weekend alone in the apartment: 6 hour BBC version of Pride & Prejudice (thank you Netflix), chicken thawing in the fridge (I plan to eat meat every night, with the vegetarian out of my hair!), and (maybe) a new knitting project...
PS: No one has the new Rowan in the flesh! Very sad, I'm counting the days until they get it in stock in late August...