Sometimes “free” doesn’t fulfill all one’s expectations. Janis Joplin once sang that “freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose.” The song was Me and Bobby McGee. I hum that line often when I see yet another novice knitter in a panic over a free pattern that doesn’t meet his / her expectations. However, when the novice knitter is a pregnant woman whose due date is 2 weeks from now and she is in tears because she wanted so much to have a little knitted something made by her for her baby it breaks my heart.
After failing to knit a wee hat and then a blanket, the knitter then fell in love with a baby sweater that said it was sized for a 6 month old. The knitter, who has never knitted a sweater, was in a panic because she wanted to make something the baby could instantly use and she wanted to know how to alter the pattern for a 3 month old. Thus, her time frame was alter the pattern and knit it in 12 days, take 1 day to practice deep breathing, next day give birth. My advice was to calm down, breathe deeply, and knit a wash cloth out of soft organic cotton.
Later that day I was traveling the internet when I thought to look in on the pattern she mentioned. Cue up Me and Bobby McGee. It was a cardigan. Simple? Yes. So simple that no armhole shaping nor neck shaping was needed. The back was a square. The two fronts were rectangles. After sewing the pieces together the knitter folds the ends of the front rectangles down to form a neck opening. The sleeves were also rectangles minus any shaping. No schematic was provided.
I can’t say this enough. Free pattern or not, make sure it has a schematic. If it doesn’t, that is the first clue that something is wrong. If you still want to knit it then put away the needles and yarn, get out the graph paper, a pencil and a calculator, and create a schematic.
Ready? It’s time for knitting math.
The first thing to check is gauge. What are the number of stitches per inch? What are the number of rows per inch? Gauge is usually written like this:
12 sts and 28 rows = 4″ (10) cm. To find the stitches per inch divide 12 by 4. Answer 3 sts per inch. Do the same with rows. Divide 28 by 4. Answer 7 rows per inch. Write these numbers at the top of the graph paper you will be using them for all other calculations.
Next step , find the measurements of the sweater. Start with the Back. How many sts does it say to cast on? Let’s say 33 sts. How many inches is that? Divide the number of CO sts by the number of sts per inch. 33 divided by 3 = 11. The Back width of the sweater is 11 inches. Draw a line on the graph paper representing the bottom edge of the sweater. Below that line write 11″ (33 sts).
Now find the length of the Back of the sweater. To do this read through the pattern instructions. A pattern with armhole shaping will usually say knit until piece measures x inches, then break for armhole decreases. The original had no armhole shaping so it said knit until piece measures 10 inches. How many rows is that? Multiply the length by the number of rows per inch. 10 times 7 = 70 rows. On the graph paper, draw a line on each side of the bottom edge of the sweater representing the sweater’s sides. Next to one side write 10″ (70 rows).
Since the original had no neck shaping, draw a line on the graph paper representing the top of the sweater. Above this line write the same numbers that are on the bottom. In the middle of the square, write the word BACK. We now have the measurements for the back of the sweater.
Follow these instructions and find the measurements for one Front. Do the same for one sleeve.
Next week , how to alter a simple baby sweater to the size wanted. For now, have a good weekend.