This post is about me trying to do something that looked like it would take less effort, and ending up with a whole heap more trouble than if I hadn’t. Specifically it’s about me trying to follow a published pattern. I don’t usually follow published patterns strictly when I’m knitting, crocheting or sewing – same with recipes. This is because I’m usually starting from the materials, then having to work out something I can do with them. I have some failsafe patterns and recipes, and I adapt them to what I have or what I want to end up with.
Example: I see some reduced-price herbs and greedily buy them up – then realise they’re not the kind of herbs that can be easily frozen. So I have to use them today and I can’t be arsed to go back out to buy more ingredients, so then I have to work out something I can make with what I’ve got. And that’s how homemade pasta with pesto and salmon from the freezer happened. (Recipe to follow in another post…)
Ditto with fabric and yarn, both of which I am fatally and magnetically drawn to buying with no purpose in mind. I used to feel bad about this extravagance till I spoke to a friend whose husband had just bought his 7th bass guitar, for a four-figure sum. That makes me and my stash look almost virtuous. Almost.
The point of this preamble is that I did that thing that I rarely do and tried to follow a pattern – and it was a massive pain in the arse. I saw the Rainy Day cardigan on the cover of a crochet magazine while waiting in a checkout queue. Magazines at checkouts are catnip to me. I can’t just stand in a queue and do nothing. If there are magazines nearby, I read the covers obsessively. This one had a delightfully interesting-looking cardigan on it but I was nearing the front of the queue too quickly to study it in detail, so I whipped it into my basket. That was not my mistake. My mistake was showing it to my granddaughter, and being so surprised by her enthusiasm for it that I promised to make it for her holiday – not, as I would usually do, say that I would make ‘a cardigan with a rainbow yoke’ but ‘I’ll make this one in the magazine’. That’s when the trouble started.
The first problem was that I couldn’t get the tension to work. The one thing you must have if you’re working to a pattern is the correct tension – the right number of stitches and rows to a 10 x 10 cm square. I tried three different thicknesses of yarn and three different size hooks and nothing came even close. If the stitch count was right, the row count was way out. If the row count worked, the stitch width was enormous. This should have been a wake-up call. But I decided I could make it work by using the stitch count for a size smaller in the pattern, with a hook that was two sizes larger than suggested. However I also noticed that, while the size chart listed five sizes by age (1-2 years, 3-4 years, 5-6 years, etc), the instructions referred to S, M, L and XL with no indication of how these aligned. Was there an XS or an XXL to make up the five sizes? I eventually worked out that it was the former by counting stitches and increases in the pattern.
At this point I really should have realised that it was going to be easier to work out my own pattern. Nevertheless, like Elizabeth Warren, I persisted.
The pattern was worked top down, which I like because it means you can try on and fit as you go along, and the rainbow yoke worked up really quickly. But I struggled to get the stitch count to match the pattern instructions (nothing on whether to count the turning chain as first stitch) and one side sloped quite badly. I thought for a bit about whether I could live with that, then undid it all and started again. The second time I got the stitch count right, but the slope was still there. I was beginning to get narked. And the granddaughter was excitedly asking when it would be finished.
So I did what I should have done in the first place, and what I will now always do if using a published pattern: I typed ‘Rainy Day cardigan errata’ into Google. And up came a whole series of posts from other crafters complaining about the pattern and – hallelujah! – an errata sheet.
I undid it all and started again. This time the yoke worked – it was straight, the stitch count was right, even the row count to the sleeve division worked. But the proposed row count to the hem was way too short compared with the measurements on the pattern. In fact I ended up almost doubling the number of rows to make it not quite as long as the pattern said. Because of this I gave up on the cloud insert, deciding that if I did add one I’d do it as an applique and use my own pattern. As for the sleeves, I abandoned the pattern altogether and worked them out to the measurements on the pattern template using the rows I’d already worked for the body as my guide for stitch and row count.
At the third attempt, I got it finished in time (just) for my granddaughter to take on holiday, and she loves it. The sleeve length on the pattern is a little short on her, but the top-down working process does at least mean that I can easily add some more rows when she gets back. And I made up for the lack of cloud with some lovely star-shaped buttons.
But will I be using an already published pattern again in a hurry? Nah. It’s much too much like hard work.