Now for the Interesting Details!

When I received the book Knit Noro, this was one of the first items that caught my eye. I thought it would be a perfect shop model, flattering for a wide variety of body shapes and sizes, and of course, worked in Noro. Then I took a closer look at the instructions and loved the pattern even more. Why, you ask? Here are the reasons!
1. This creatively constructed vest is knit sideways from a provisional cast-on at the center back, then the cast-on stitches are picked up and the other side is knit. Cool!
2. Vertical stripes are more flattering than horizontal stripes.
3. Loved the button loops, as mentioned in the previous post.
4. Knit out of Noro Taiyo… need I say more?
5. At first glance, it looks like the entire pattern is knit in garter stitch. Boring! Upon closer examination, I discovered a strip of stockinette stitch sprinkled in every so often. Just enough to break up the boredom!
6. Since the garment is knit sideways, ROW GAUGE becomes more important than STITCH GAUGE.
That last bit is pretty important… ROW GAUGE is more important than STITCH GAUGE. In this case, because the garment is knit sideways, stitch gauge (how many stitches you get per inch) actually determines the length of the garment. Row gauge (how many rows you get per inch of knitting) is the determining factor for bust circumference. Interesting. Take into account the fact that garter stitch is infamous for stretching, and you have a recipe for gauge disaster! So I proceeded through a fairly intensive gauge swatching process, thinking what a great teaching tool this would make. So I took pictures every step of the way, so you could see the importance of what I was doing. Ready?
1. First step: Knit two gauge swatches in pattern stitch (garter stripe pattern, in this case) using two different size needles (US 8 & 9, respectively). If you look closely, you can see the knots in the tails. Those tell me what size needles I used. Clever, huh?
2. See how much difference one needle size can make?
3. Measure each swatch carefully and record the sizes (either write it down or take a picture… you won’t remember, I promise!).
Swatch with US 8 needle (stitch x row) = 3.875″ x 4.1875″
Swatch with US 9 needle = 4″ x 4.625″
4. Give your swatches a bath, by caring for them like you’ll care for your finished project. In this case, the swatches went for a dip in the sink with some SOAK instead of the washing machine at home.

5. Wring out the extra water and let them air dry. I swear by ShamWows!… they really are extra absorbent and dry really fast. Plus, there’s no lint like from a regular towel.

6. Now for the fun part… in order to see how much this thing was going to stretch when I actually wore the vest, I had to simulate that extra weight somehow. Solution? Hang the swatches from a hanger, then add some extra weight in the form of a ball of yarn. I just took some scrap yarn, threaded it through the center of each ball, and tied it on to some spare dpns threaded through the bottom edge of the swatches. I kept the swatches trussed up this way overnight. Pretty fancy, huh? (Ignore the scary, creepy basement… it was the only place that would be undisturbed overnight).

7. Now for the moment of truth… what happened to my swatches?

US 8 swatch = 4.125″ x 4.25″
US 9 swatch after bath = 4.5625″ x 4.625″
8. Now, all that was left was to choose which swatch I could live with. I decided to go with the US 8, and know that the vest might end up a bit longer and a bit bigger than the actual measurements, which I was okay with. Since the style of the vest is a wraparound, I figured I could just snug up the placement of the buttons a bit. And it turned out perfectly!

9. What I would do differently – I forgot to measure before I trussed up the swatches. That way, we could actually see what the difference was before and after they were weighted. Oh well, next time.

So yes, swatching AND BLOCKING really IS important, even though it feels like it takes time away from our “REAL” knitting. Knitters, go forth and knit with confidence, knowing ahead of time how your project will turn out!

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