Okay! Well, here we go.  I would like to thank all of you who are joining me in this knit-a-long… it’s my first KAL ever, and I hope it is a helpful and successful one as well.

So I thought we should get started off by discussing the importance of swatching.  It is so important to swatch- I just can’t talk about it enough.  It super important that you get gauge for this project because this will determine the final length of your piece.  We will discuss modifying the length of the piece, if necessary next week.

Make sure to swatch your yarn on the needles you intend to knit your entire project on.  The reason behind this is that every company and every needle material is different.  There is no actual standardization when it come to knitting needle sizes and therefore (for example) a size 9 in Lantern Moon might be 1/4 of a millimeter different from a Addi Natura in the same size- which makes a difference.  The type of material your needle is made of also makes a difference when you knit because you as the knitter reacts to the feel of each material differently.

For example, I am a very very loose knitter and when I knit with metal needles I feel that things are even looser and I start to tense up and tighten up and my hands cramp up as well as my knitting- overall everything gets tighter.  When I knit with Lantern Moon Ebony needles I have the exact opposite reaction.  I feel that the natural texture in the wood holds my stitches for me and allows my tension to flow freely and easily…. it’s like night and day.

After you have swatched on your needles make sure you block this swatch.  Steaming is okay…. if you plan to never wash your vest.  I always say that washing your garment is an opportunity to block it….. hopefully that will take out some of the fear of blocking.  I know you are going to wash your garment because you plan on wearing it… that is the goal here right?!  So wash your swatch!  I’m not saying that you have to put it in the washer and dryer with your darks, but you definitely want to submerge the thing!

Just follow these eight easy steps to block your swatch:

  1. Knit your swatch and bind off loosely :)
  2. Get a mediumish sized bowl and fill it with lukewarm water
  3. Squeeze in a little bit of Soak (this is a no rinse wash available in so many lovely fragrances) into the bowl and swirl
  4. Submerge your swatch and let it sit for 15-20 minutes – don’t panic if you forget about it and come back like 4 hours later, I’ve done it many times and nothing bad happened.
  5. Take out your swatch and squeeze out all the excess water.
  6. DO NOT PANIC if your water turned into the color of your yarn, this is excess dye and is absolutely normal… it will happen a few times (each time getting lighter and lighter), but it will not effect the saturation of the color in your yarn.
  7. Lay your swatch flat to dry on a towel or some really awesome blocking mats by Coco Knits.
  8. Do not check gauge until your swatch is completely dry.

When your swatch is dry then check the gauge.  If you get gauge, great! If you don’t then re-swatch!  You’ll thank me later.  A lot of the time knitters get confused when they don’t get gauge and aren’t sure what to do next… do I change needle? Do I go up a size? Do I go down a size?  Well lets clear that up! If you swatch tells you that you need to have 21 sts and 32 rows over 4″ in pattern and your swatch comes out smaller, that means your stitches are too small and to make them bigger, so you need to go up in needle size.  If you swatch comes out larger that means your stitches are too big and you need to make them smaller, so go down in needle size.

You should continue to swatch until you get gauge… please do not make the mistake of guessing your gauge or thinking that you will just knit tighter or looser to get gauge.  This always fails and results in an ill-fitted garment.  Nobody wants that!

Now after you check the gauge, check that drape! Is it a good drape? Do you like the density of the stitching or do you feel like it could use a change (either more dense or less dense)…. is it the right density but just too drapey or is the drape just right?  All of these could be factors of yarn choice.

When I knit my first Olga’s Vest I used Madelinetosh Merino Light, this is a good lofty wool yarn.  Wool is good because it has lots of air pockets and air pockets equal bounce.  Bounce is good for this garment.  The second time I knit Olga’s Vest I used Wollmeise Pure 100% wool.  This is a fantastic yarn, but not great for Olga’s Vest – and I didn’t find this out until after I blocked the garment.  I got a little confident and thought, “Eh… I wrote the pattern, I’ll check gauge but I don’t feel like blocking my swatch- I just want to start!”  Well fast forward to months later, I have a Wollmeise Olga’s Vest hanging in my closet… neglected and unworn.

Why? Too much drape!  I would have found this out had I blocked my swatch, but we know what happened there… sad ending.  Wollmeise is 100% wool just like the Merino Light…. why did they react differently?  The constructions of the two yarns are completely different.  The Merino Light is a single ply lofty yarn and Wollmeise is a multiple ply, which that many plies in that thin of a yarn… you loose loft and bounce.

So…. I learned my lesson! Not all wools are created equally!  Another thing to keep in mind is that most plant fibers and silk (and blends that include those fibers) tend to have more drape…. this is not necessarily a bad thing… we just have to work around it and make some modifications to the drape of the cowl.  But to be safe, pick something with bounce and loft.  Koigu KPM or KPPPM is another good option.  But don’t limit yourself.  As Clara Parkes (of Knitter’s Review) says, “Get one skein and swatch it.  If you don’t like the yarn, you’ve only bought one skein and not a whole sweater’s worth.”

So once you choose your yarn and get gauge you are ready for the next step.  You want to make sure that you choose the right size to make your garment.  It’s so important to take your measurements before you get started.  It takes less than a minute and will allow you to make the right decision on which size is best for you.  For this particular garment you only really need one measurement, and that will be your bust.  This is not you bra size!!!  Your bra size is seems to be a funny number that someone decides after looking you up and down and then adding a letter… this SOOOOOO does not translate to your knitting.  Your bust measurement is the circumference around the fullest part of your bust and I always like to take this measurement after a comfortable and normal sized inhale (not a deep breath).  Make sure you take this measurement at the fullest point of your bust and all the way around… this is usually where your “point protectors” are (wink wink…. get it?!).  Click here for a visual if you are unsure of the placement.

This brings us to the conclusion of this post, and I now realize there weren’t really any visuals.  I didn’t think they were necessary for this post, but the next post will be full of visual aids, do not worry!  I hope you all learned at least one thing from today’s post and will apply this to this project as well as all your others.  Please let me know if you have any questions- you can post them here, Ravelry or Facebook or email them to me@graceakhrem.com.

Please keep in mind that I am leaving the country on Wednesday, so I might not answer any questions on Wednesday or Thursday.  Throughout the KAL I will be overseas and I will definitely answer all questions it just might take a few hours because of the time difference.  Happy swatching!!!

16 Responses to Olga’s Vest KAL – week 1/8

  1. Thanks for all this info. So we swatch in the pattern stitch? I was going to use the Wollmeise but now not so sure after reading your post.

  2. Hi Grace,

    I’m so excited the KAL has started !!!! I made one Olga’s Vest and now I get your wisdom. Yay!

    First, I have a suggestion. *You might consider dual posting in Raverly in your “KAL schedule” thread.* After I checked the Ravelry KAL schedule all morning and afternoon, it finally dawned on me to check your blog and here it is!

    Would you be willing to elaborate on *How To Swatch” and “How to count gauge”? For instance:

    What is your suggested swatch size?
    What’s the best size swatch to evaluate “drape”?
    Any suggestions for measuring/counting our stitches in the linen lace stitch pattern? That was hard for me.
    Eventually, I cast on 21 stitches until my cast on was 4″ wide and then I knit a 4″ x 4″ swatch.
    I ended up on 10.5 needles which made me wonder about the affect of an 11 or 12 needle on the buttonholes and buttonband. I thought needles that large would make the buttonholes too big. Honestly, I think my holes are a bit roomy.

    I usually only concern myself with stitch gauge rather than row gauge. What are your thoughts?
    Since we’re knitting Olga’s Vest “left front to right front” rather than “top down” or “bottom up” does that mean we’re supposed to turn our swatch and measuring gauge in that direction?

    I really appreciate you guiding us through your pattern.

  3. Yes, absolutely swatch in stitch pattern! – Wollmeise is a gorgeous yarn but I think it will be better suited for another project :)

  4. Valerie- you have so many great questions! I am glad you are starting another Olga’s Vest! I will definitely post KAL updates in the group, but it does feed at the top of the group page as well… or at least it should.

    It gets tricky to heck gauge in pattern, especially here where there are 21 sts to 4″ that means you need to get 5.25 sts per inch. For a lot of people this is very tricky to check and some yarns are harder to read that others. I would cast on 21 sts and work for a while and see if your swatch is 4″ that is the truest way to check gauge in a stitch pattern like this. Don’t concern yourself too much with checking every inch.

    I suggest a 4″ swatch to see if you get gauge… if you do and are still not sure you like the drape, make a bigger swatch. The pattern repeat for this garment it a multiple of 2+1 (this just means make sure you have an odd number of sts). Make the swatch as big as you like to check drape.

    If you got gauge for the stitch pattern on a 10.5 this just means that you are a tighter knitter than me and when I suggest to go up to a size 10 (for example) for the bind off then you will want to go up one needle size from the size you got gauge.

    If the buttonholes were too big, it might actually be that your buttons were too small…. what was the diameter of your buttons last time?

    Stitch gauge is definitely more important that row gauge USUALLY. In this particular pattern stitch gauge is the length of your garment and is very important here. In some garments the pattern is written by rows rather than inches, so it’s definitely a good idea to check your row gauge and see if you are getting that too. Sometimes row gauge is harder to get, but it’s also easier to work around.

  5. Hi Grace! Thanks for the additional swatching insight! The buttons were 1/2″ .

  6. Hi Grace,

    My first swatch on #9 needles came out 5.5″ (stitches) x 4.5″ (rows). I swatched again on #8 needles and got a measurement of 4.185″ (4 3/16ths) x 3.75″.

    I’m not sure what to do with that! I was hoping it would work out in a way that I could make the 32″ sweater and get the finished size to 34.5-35″. Hmmm… I’m not figuring on overlap with buttons though. Will you be addressing this issue next week?

  7. My pleasure… Maybe the shape of the buttons was slippery, if they are rounded at the top they might slip out easier as opposed to being flat.

  8. Are those the gauges you got after blocking and drying?

    I wont be talking about customizing bust size until the 3rd or 4th week.

  9. Yes, those are my gauges after blocking and drying. I tried to block with the tension I’d be using on the finished garment. So we can customize the bust size after we’ve started knitting? If so, would you recommend I try working this on #8′s with the 32″ size? Thanks Grace!

  10. Oh my god I had to do the lace pattern about 3 times before I got the hang of it, just my inability to read I guess, but now I have the hang of it. The original pattern has you slip purlwise but the corrections on ravelry do not say just sl 1. Does it make a difference I might do another swatch with some other wool so maybe I will try them purlwise and see if there is a difference. Thanks Donna, not sure why my first comment came up as anonymous>

  11. I think that you will be okay on the size 8 but at this point I would prefer you go with the fabric you like better…. if you like the tighter one just make sure you have extra yarn. We can customize things, I’ll talk about that next Saturday.

  12. Hi Donna,

    Actually you are ahead of the game, most knitters don’t memorize the pattern until they get to the first armhole. So pat yourself on the back :)

    The slipping rule is always slip purl wise unless specified otherwise. There are some stitches like ssk or skpo where if you look them up in a stitch dictionary they tell you to slip them knit wise, but if it doesn’t say slip it purl wise :)

  13. Great! Thank you! I prefer the tighter fabric on the 8′s and I have 900 yds of yarn so I’m all set. Can’t wait until next week :-)

  14. Oh know not memorize just get it to work in thr first place, but now doing second swatch it is becoming easier. Will now slip purlwise.

  15. Looks like we are all moving along smoothly, that’s what I like to hear! :)

  16. Pingback: Olga’s Vest KAL – week 2/8

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