In any Mythbusters episode, there are certain things you can count on. Weapondry or explosives will be involved. Jamie and Adam will disagree on the best way to do something. Adam will suggest a competition which he will lose, gracelessly, to Jamie. Grant will build something robotic. Tori will attempt to hurt himself, and sometimes succeed. Adam will hurt himself whether he was trying to or not. Kari will be grossed out by whatever dead animal part they’re using. Adam will calculate odds that will prove wildly inaccurate. And when something goes wrong, Adam or Jamie will provide the helpful comment, “Wal, there’s yer problem…” Cue laughter.
As I looked at my latest knitting creation today, I told myself, Well, there’s your problem. And Lexie’s Summer Dress, which had become Lexie’s Fiesta Dress (because the yarn, when knit up, resembled the Mexican fiesta dresses we see occasionally at Hispanic festivals here in south Texas), is now Lexie’s Fiesta Jumper.
Now, perhaps you’re looking and wondering what on earth could be wrong with that? Let’s just say it’s a perfect example of why magazines need to show more than one picture of a knitted garment, from more than one angle. Like this:
See the armhole? Well, there’s your problem.
When I designed the dress, for some reason I left Lexie an armhole almost big enough to get my arm through. And there actually are some other problems with the dress. The yarn doesn’t match the design well; the latter calls for a big poofy skirt, but the former knits up too stiffly to do poof. It can do bell, but not poof. And the seams turned out somewhat…unseemly. (I’m sorry. I had to do it.)
In the grand scheme of things, though, those shortcomings are pretty insignificant to me in light of the larger picture: this jumper started with a gauge square and a sheet of graph paper. I did it all myself.
Believe it or not, the process is amazingly simple–and not one I can take credit for, although I unfortunately no longer remember where I learned it (it was either a knitting show or magazine). That particular lesson involved adding shaping to boxy sweaters: take the schematic of the sweater and transfer it to graph paper. Then, say you want to shape the waist by bringing it in a bit. Make the change on the graph paper, determine now where and how much you need to increase and decrease, and voila! a custom shaped sweater.
To me, the next step was immediately obvious. If I could figure out how to alter a pattern for shaping, in that manner, it seemed to me I could design a pattern from scratch as long as I had my measurements. So I grabbed my daughter and one of her dresses and determined how long the dress should be, how wide the skirt, her waist, etc., and transferred them to graph paper. Then I knit up a gauge swatch. For once, the tedious exercise was actually somewhat exciting–this gauge swatch was going to allow me to translate the inches on my graph paper to stitches in a pattern.
Once I had my gauge (using US 7 needles with Peaches & Creme Fiesta Ombre, I got 9 stitches / 12 rows = 2″), I knew how many stitches I needed to cast on at the bottom of the skirt, at the waist, for the armholes, and finally for the straps. Also, since I knew how many inches, for example, the skirt was from hem to waist, I also knew how many rows I had to do my decreasing in. With just a little bit of math, I had my pattern and could start knitting.
I did discover two errors in the pattern as I was knitting, but I caught them both before they caused problems. I’d miscalculated for the armhole decreases–I needed to decrease 9 stitches total, but I’d translated that into decreasing 9 times…on both sides at once (for a total of 18 stitches). And since you can’t decrease 9 stitches, or any odd number of stitches that way, I changed it to 5 decreases instead. I also realized, once I’d knit the front, that the neckhole wasn’t going to be big enough to get over Lexie’s head. I’d fallen victim before to the differing proportions between children’s heads and bodies as compared to adults’ heads and bodies, so this time I knew to check. So I was able to alter the pattern for the back to add a button so the opening would be big enough.
So, just as the Mythbusters do at the end of every episode, I need to sum up what I’ve learned. I’ve proven to myself that I can design my own pattern so long as I’m not going too crazy and I’m using a relatively simple stitch pattern. I’ve learned a bit about matching a yarn to a pattern–I need to have a better idea of what the knitted fabric will be like before I design the pattern (a recent LYS purchase, while it is also a 100% cotton yarn, has a beautiful drape and might suit this pattern perfectly). And I’ve learned it’s not the end of the world if everything doesn’t go to plan. In the end, this is still a wearable article of clothing that I would be proud to dress my baby girl in–and even if it weren’t, I’ve learned enough to make the time spent worthwhile. And once I’ve got the pattern perfected, I’ll be ready to share.