Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Garter Gutter

Back in March a sweater pattern popped up on Ravelry that looked like it would be fun to knit. I had the perfect yarn in my stash, so immediately cast on. There were a couple of things about this sweater that I liked. The first was the fact it was garter stitch. I was in the mood for a bit of garter stitch. The second thing it had going for it was its unique construction. 

You cast on enough stitches to take you from one wrist to the other, and knit back and forth until you got to the part where you had to do some shaping for the armholes. It was a lot of garter stitch. Miles and miles of it. Enough to dampen even the most enthusiastic knitter's will to knit on. But knit on I did. I was rather proud of myself as I cast off the stitches for the arm shaping and put the remainder on waste yarn. I was finally able to stretch out my work and check to see if the size was right.

Bad news. Very, very bad news. Unless you were a double arm amputee. When I held it up to me, rather than stretching from wrist to wrist, it went from just below elbow to just below elbow. I could have wept. (To give you an idea of how much knitting had gone into this, what I was holding was the equivalent of a garter stitch scarf in length and width.)

I immediately assumed it was my fault. I checked my gauge again, thinking this had to be the source of the problem, but it was spot on. I read and reread the instructions, trying in vain to figure out where I had gone wrong. Try as I might, I couldn't figure it out. I went to bed with a severe case of knitter's gloom. Then, in the middle of the night, I woke up and started doing some mental math. Wait a minute! When I divided the number of cast on stitches by the stitches per inch it didn't even come close to the measurements given in the pattern schematic. Someone had made a mistake, but it was starting to look like it might not be me. And yes, waking up and thinking about knitting in the middle of the night is perfectly normal behaviour.

First thing in the morning I emailed the pattern designer. To her credit, within a few hours she had emailed me back saying that in spite of the extensive testing and proofreading that had been done, there had been a mistake with the gauge requirement. Okay. I accept that there are going to be mistakes in knitting patterns. I can handle a mistake in a chart or some other similar non-project threatening error. But gauge? To put this in perspective for all my non-knitting readers this would be like buying a new car and the manual telling you it runs on diesel when it's really supposed to run on gas. Your new car is toast from the moment you put diesel in the tank. That was this sweater. Doomed from the moment I cast on.

Part of me wanted to have a hissy fit. Sort of like my dad the time the fertilizer company applied the wrong product to one of his fields and ruined the crop. My dad, who was known for his kindness and generosity, totally lost it. He stood in the middle of the field yelling at the poor rep from the fertilizer company. In that moment the enormity of the mistake, and the inability of the company to own up to it, turned my dad into something he usually wasn't. A raving lunatic. I think the thing that kept me from going over that edge was the fact the designer owned up to the problem and apologized. 

There was no way I was starting over again. That sweater and I were finished. However, I really liked the yarn, and I still wanted to do something in garter stitch. That's when it came to me. I needed something dependable, a pattern I could trust, with maybe a bit less knitting involved. In other words, what I needed to knit was Elizabeth Zimmermann's Rib Warmer Vest.


This is my third Rib Warmer, and definitely my favourite. These vests are perfect for cool spring or fall days, and they have a bit of that retro hippie look that appeals to me. I have the DVD from Schoolhouse Press, and part of the fun is knitting along with Meg (Elizabeth's daughter) as she takes you through each step.


It seemed a little strange putting on jeans and a wool vest on a warm, almost summer day in order to take these pictures.


I'm not crooked. It was the photographer.



The colour is more accurate in the pictures of me wearing the vest, but you can see the details better in the pictures below.


Thank you for all the comments you left on my Fergus Friday post. I think I've turned the corner with this cold, and hopefully in a few day will feel 100% again. In the meantime it gives me an excuse to get some extra knitting and tea drinking in during the day. Please feel free to share your own knitting/crafting horror stories. It would make me feel better to know I'm not alone.

49 comments:

  1. Love your Rib Warmer ... was on Ravelry yesterday and saw that you'd just finished this. I know what you mean by 'hippie chic' but it looks fresh and sporty on you. Hope you continue to mend and feel better. :)

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    1. Thanks Diana! I know that in many ways the vest is rather dated, and when I just went and looked again at the first picture of me wearing it I think it makes me look a bit dowdy. Oh well, it is warm and comfortable and so I will wear it even if it does. Ha!

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    1. Thank you Joey - at least it was a success, unlike the sweater the yarn started to be. :-)

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  3. Oh I hate it when this happens. I am impressed that you didn't have a hissy fit, mine would be a major one. Garter stitch is funny, it reminds me of early traumatic knitting experiences and I don't often use it. This is a shame for someone who doesn't like to purl. Your vest is nice and would make a perfect garment or Scotland. I am glad you found use for the yarn. x

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    1. I'm sorry to hear you were traumatized by garter stitch. I'm guessing someone had you start out knitting a garter stitch scarf. :-) I used to think garter stitch was rather plain. Well, I still think that, but sometimes plain can be nice in its own way, if that makes sense.

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  4. It came out beautifully, Kristie. I really admire your attitude. It sounds like you are very capable of making lemonade from lemons. :)

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    1. I think you should hold back your praise, Jennifer. I was pretty mad. My real life knitting friend, who had to listen to me whine during several phone calls, will attest to that. :-)

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  5. That is a lovely wool and you turned it into a great vest. I don't know if I have a horror story that's in the same league as the sweater mis-hap. But several years ago we bought a small tv stand for our son's room--to use with his video games. It had doors on both sides that were, for lack of a better description, like refrigerator doors--you could store games and dvd's on the inside of the doors. Just as I thought I was finished putting it together, I realized to two doors were on the wrong sides. The only way to get them off was to take the entire thing apart. At that point I WANTED to take it apart, though I wasn't too keen on putting it back together. :)

    PS - I seem to recall you claiming to not be good at math. But there you were, in the middle of the night, doing math in your head. Am I mis-remembering or were you inspired that night?

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    1. That's definitely a project gone wrong, Rick. I'm guessing you wanted to take it apart the fast way - with a sledge hammer. :-)

      I'm good at math (I actually have a degree in math, although I've forgotten most of it after all these years), it's just knitting math I have trouble with. Counting to four and other difficult tasks like that always seem to get the best of me when I knit.

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  6. That must have been so frustrating for you! I am glad that you worked it out in the end, your vest is lovely and suits you! I hope that whatever your next project is it goes more easily than this one did! xx

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    1. That should have been, than the start of this one did!! xx

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    2. It was very frustrating Amy, but I'm okay about it now. It has taken me a few weeks to get to that point though, and I think finishing the vest helped.

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  7. Knitting horror stories - well, there was the time I made a bee-yoo-ti-ful sweater from a pattern I had been wanting to knit for a long, long time - finished the sweater and put it into its blocking bath, in which it metamorphosed from a sweater into a dress. With very very VERY long sleeves. I have never used superwash wool since, and I never will again (except for socks - why does sock yarn not stretch like that, anyway?). Even putting it through a cycle in the dryer didn't help. And I'm quite sure every knitter has a horror story or two! -- Ruth in Ontario

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    1. Oh no Ruth! I have heard of that happening with superwash wool. You must have been so upset! That's a good question about the sock yarn. Some of it has nylon, so that would explain why that kind doesn't stretch out. But some sock yarn is 100% superwash wool, and you're right, it doesn't stretch out at all.

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  8. I bought some lovely wool roving to spin for a sweater for my daughter. Our border collie got into it and it had become a huge pile of tufts. After getting past that setback, I spun the wool, knit the sweater and my daughter wore it for the first time. I was away that evening and my daughter dropped it on the floor next tomher bed, went to sleep, woke up in the middle of the night and threw up on the sweater. My husband put it in the washer and it shrank horribly. He was so proud he hadn't put it in the dryer too.
    I should have taken the hint when the dog had a ball with the roving.

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    1. This is a very sad story, Weavinfool. Once a sweater is felted there's no going back. I'm guessing that was a very long night at your house. I had to smile though at your husband being proud of himself for not putting the sweater in the dryer. :-)

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    2. Glad she fixed it for future purchasers - too bad she hadn't sent out the revised pattern (if bought through Ravelry or another platform).
      LisaRR

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  9. Do tell us the name of this problem pattern - please prevent anyone else having the same problem!
    What an utter disappointment.
    isaRR

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    1. I thought a lot about whether or not to name the pattern. In the end I decided that since the designer fixed the error and the next knitter won't have the same trouble I did, I wouldn't. Had she not fixed it I definitely would have given the name though. I wouldn't have wanted anyone else to have gone through what I did! If you still want to know send me a message on Ravelry and I will respond there. And utter disappointment is right!

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  10. I meant to type my own name as LisaRR ...
    I was so demoralized by that bad pattern!

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  11. Your knitting is perfection Kristie, and the vest looks stunning. It is disappointing that instructions these days so frequently have major misakes. It now happens with nearly every sewing pattern I purchase, yet in the past it simply never happened. Seems to me proof readers are no longer used very much, and as you say, if it is a time-consuming craft process, this is seriously annoying. And unfair. (Will get off soap box now :)

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    1. That's very interesting that the same problem exists with sewing patterns, Patricia. I think it makes things especially difficult for people who are just starting out in a craft and don't yet have the skills to recognize an error. I know if I was trying to sew something I wouldn't have a clue if there was a mistake. You sum it up nicely when you say it is seriously annoying.

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  12. Looks great Kristie! A triumph! That's such a clever design for a vest and I'm with you on the garter stitch, I love it!!! But how utterly frustrating with the first pattern! No test-knitters??? Mel x

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    1. She told me she had test knitters, Mel, and I believe her. I think she told the test knitters the correct gauge, and the problem was when the pattern got printed up there was a typo with the gauge instructions. Nobody would ever think to check that part again. She had a pattern that had been test knit by several people and turned out fine, so assumed all was well.

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  13. You asked for sad stories?
    I've had 8 skeins of Cascade 220 (in the prettiest red you've ever seen) since the yarn shop I used to work in closed, 6 years ago. I was going to make a cardigan, had settled on several patterns over the years but never cast on. This past February I cast on for a pretty cardi from Knitscene, lots of stockinette, a little pattern on the sleeves. I needed a project to watch TV by. Fast forward to warm weather, last week I pressed on to finish before it stalled out and it became an UFO over the summer. Perfect! Into the tub for a little soak, into the washer for the drain and spin cycle...a big snafu with my washer, and the tumbling did felt my beautiful wool. It's like a boiled wool jacket, and I'm sick over it. The shrinkage is mostly in length.

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    1. Oh no, Pattie! That is horrible! If it had been me I would have cried. And maybe used a few choice words in between sobs. You must feel so disappointed. I'm sorry that happened to you. It puts my sweater incident into perspective. I was able to do something else with the wool, and I hadn't got anywhere near having a finished item. Have you ever though of making one o those patchwork blankets out of cut up pieces of felted wool? They are very pretty, and at least you would be able to make some use of your sweater.

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  14. Love the vest, especially the shaping, and I think you show great determination in starting again after such a fiasco. I'd have wanted the designer's guts for garters if it had happened to me. As you say, at least she apologised and the error was corrected, but it's a pity about all the wasted knitting hours.

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    1. There might have been a moment or two (well, a day or two really) that I did want the designers guts for garters. She offered me another one of her knitting patterns for free. Needless to say I declined. :-)

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    2. Ha ha, too funny. She thought you'd take a chance on that happening AGAIN....geez. I love your Rib Warmer. You are constantly inspiring me to add things to my Ravelry queue. I just can't seem to get myself to actually knit anything lately. Maybe when it gets cold again.

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  15. Oh I could write a book about the knitting disasters I have experienced and seen. I just was three quarters through a sweater and I ripped it out. The thing was I knew it wasn't right soon after starting but I kept looking at Rav projects and thinking this must get better. You do have to listen to that inner knitter voice. So many patterns are riddled with mistakes or improperly worded. Often there is problems with tech editing, lack of test

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    1. I think a lot of us could write a book on knitting disasters, Chris! And I'm also sure each of us would have a chapter about how we just kept knitting, even though we knew something was dreadfully wrong with the project. :-)

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  16. Oops iPad freeze!! Lack of proper test knitting, odd gauges, sentences and instructions deleted by publishers who edit to accommodate more advertising..etc. drives me bugs! The sad part is a lot of knitters think they are to blame, get discouraged and quit knitting. Your vest looks great!everything looks so nice and green and lush in your photo. Very pretty!

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    1. Isn't it frustrating when your iPad freezes? I find if I tap the little symbol to get rid of the keyboard, then tap the message box to bring the keyboard back it will work again.

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    2. I often write the comment somewhere else, then cut/paste into the comment box

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  17. Hey Kristie,
    I love that phrase retro hippy!! It looks good (and so does the shirt. I love striped shirts).
    Leanne xx

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    1. Thanks Leanne! Retro hippie would describe a good deal of my wardrobe. I really need to do some sort of an upgrade. :-)

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  18. Such a shame about the other sweater, I hope you can rip it all out and save the yarn so you can make something else. Love this vest, and I love me some garter stitch. I was just thinking the other day I would like to make something in garter stitch. So glad you figured out the whole gauge mess, usually I am to blame.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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    1. You might want to give this vest a try, Meredith. I highly recommend getting the DVD from Schoolhouse Press If you're going to knit it. When my knitting goes wrong, like you, it's usually my fault. That's why it took me until the middle of the night to figure out it was the gauge requirement in the pattern itself that was wrong. It took me awhile to get to the point where I realized it couldn't have been me. :-)

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  19. Hi Kristie, I have just found your blog and stumbled on this post. I have never heard of this before, I am a novice knitter but I never though patterns would be incorrect! How frustrating, especially at the time you had put into it. Well, all I can say is the vest is lovely. You did a great job, the yarn is lovely. Have a great week!

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    1. Hello Sarah, and welcome to my blog! It's nice to have you here. And thank you for the compliment on my vest!

      As a novice knitter this is something to be aware of - patterns sometimes have errors. Usually the mistakes are in the actual knitting instructions, and are quickly spotted by people knitting the pattern. The problem with this pattern was the mistake was before the knitting actually commenced, which is a place one wouldn't normally think there would be a problem. The second problem was because it had only been knit by a few people nobody else had picked up on the error yet.

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  20. Aww, I hate when I get all excited about a new project and it doesn't work out. Nice save, though! The vest looks great!

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    1. Thank you! It's so deflating when that new project enthusiasm comes to a screeching halt, isn't it? That's what I love about Ravelry though. There will always be great new patterns coming out to make up for the one that was a dud. :-)

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  21. Oh I am shuddering as I read this. As someone who designs and writes patterns that kind of error is my worst nightmare. I do use testing and tech editors but errors do slip through. That one is a doozy. I'm so sorry for your lost knitting. I have had more knitting projects go bad than I care to count, but they were usually my mistakes. Vest looks comfy!

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    1. I'm convinced it had to be a typo that didn't get caught, Mary Lou. If the designer had actually written the test pattern instructions with this gauge the test knitters would have immediately caught it. I didn't want to name her or the pattern in my blog post because I know mistakes happen. We all make them. It was just that this particular mistake meant I was doomed from the start, with no way of knowing it until I got to the point where I could stretch it out and see how long it was. Or, in this case, wasn't. It must be very nerve wracking to be a designer. My hat's off to you!

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  22. Kristie, actually, your diesel fuel analogy is not an appropriate one because you turned their mistake into something useful and beautiful! But I can understand how you might see it that way now in the heat of summer. I've experienced this with recipes that could NOT be redeemed. If I get the recipe off the Internet I always look at the comments to see if someone has tried the recipe and noted mistakes. If you hadn't been able to turn it into something beautiful all that work would have felt like a waste, I'm sure, since you really don't need the practice. Is it possible to undo a knitting project and reuse the yarn at least? Not being a knitter I have no clue.

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  23. It looks fabulous! I so need one of these for when the colder weather returns!

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  24. I love your vest, it is so practical and lovely! what a shame about the first cardigan though, how heartbreaking!! I totally got the image of your Dad in a field yelling too, apologies for giggling as I read it!

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