Ask Patty: Perfect Husbands and Easy Sleeve Caps
Problem: My Husband Is Perfect
To many people, my “problem” is going to sound like I’m complaining about the burden of being too rich and too thin. What’s my problem? My husband loves my knitting too much. Specifically, he loves one TERRIBLE sweater I knit for him ages ago. It was the first sweater I ever knit, and it’s full of mistakes. I’ve since knit him many other much better sweaters, but he keeps wearing the terrible one. He’ll put it on when we are going out with friends and I try the “why don’t you wear this one” trick, but it never works. Worst of all, he’s always bragging about how I knit that abomination.
What do I do: spill red wine on it?
Embarrassed Ex-Bad Knitter (Sarah)
I know exactly how you feel. I had the same problem. My husband is proud of my knitting, yes, almost too proud. Whenever he would wear one of my knits out, there would be an exchange reminiscent of a David Rakoff story called “The Canadians Among Us.”
Party Guest: I was driving over here when a song from Bachman Turner Overdrive was—
David Rakoff: (cutting them off) They’re Canadian.
Party Guest: That’s a nice swea—
My husband: (cutting them off) Patty knit it.
I knit a monstrosity for my husband many years ago, and like you, I have since knit him many other, nicer sweaters. It was the second sweater I ever knit. It was hideous and he loved it. (Ironically, I am using the before and after pics of the sleeve cap in this very column to demonstrate a row gauge fail.) He wore it once to drop me off to teach at WEBS and I wouldn’t let him come inside.
So, what should you do? That depends on how fixable it is. Is it one element that can be ripped out and re-knit? I was able to do that with the terrible neckband. The first time, I thought picking up stitches was randomly shoving a needle from front to back. I also didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to decrease all the way at the edge.
Horror show neckline:
Re-knit when he wasn’t looking and I could rip out the neckband and redo it, pretending it had something to do with fixing a moth hole, neckline:
Or if it’s an all-over mess (as my husband’s sweater was) you might luck out like me and have moths eat it, or have it “lost” by the dry cleaners. But if he really loves it and it would make him sad, that might make you sad.
Perhaps if you could find the exact yarn, you could go the route of every parent with every dead goldfish. Replace it without his knowledge. Secretly knit an exact, but better version, replace it and bury the original.
If all else fails, perhaps you can tell him that he looks too sexy wearing it, and you’re not comfortable with him wearing it out, so let’s just make it our special “alone time sweater.” I mean how can he say no to that!
Godspeed my fellow embarrassed knitter/appreciated wife.
Look Ma, No Algebra!
Okay, I’ll bite. You mentioned in your gauge column that there was an “easy” math adjustment for not matching row gauge, even for the sleeve cap. I don’t think anything about gauge math is easy, so my question is, prove it.
Better Not Say Pythagorean Theorem
Dear Better Not Say,
Not only is my method simpler than the Pythagorean theorem, it’s what I always call in my gauge class “cookie math.” First let’s break it down to three friendly formulas.
If you had 10 cookies on a plate and you had 5 friends coming over, how many cookies would each friend get?
1. Cookie Total/Friends = Cookie Portion
10 ÷ 5 = 2
If you had 20 stitches in a 4-inch swatch, how many stitches are inside each inch (gauge)?
1. Stitches (or rows) Total/Inches = Gauge
20 ÷ 4 = 5
If you had 5 friends coming over, and you knew each friend was getting 2 cookies, how many cookies you would need?
2. Friends x Cookie Portion = Cookie Total
5 x 2 = 10
If you knew your gauge was 5 stitches in an inch and you knew you wanted an 8″ scarf, how many stitches do you need to cast on?
2. Inches x Gauge = Stitches (or rows) Total
8 x 5 = 40
If you had 10 cookies, and you wanted to give each friend 2 cookies, how many friends could you have over?
3. Cookies Total/Cookie Portion = Friends
10 ÷ 2 = 5
If you had a pattern that told you how many stitches or rows are in a specified section of knitting (e.g., 38 rows of a sleeve cap), how tall will it be if gauge is 6 rows per inch?
3) Stitches or Rows Total/Gauge = Inches
38 ÷ 6 = 6.25″
So if your row gauge is off and you want the sleeve cap to look the same, then that means you want your inches to be the same, but the number of rows worked will be different. (Since your cookie portion is different, your total cookies will be different!)
Four easy steps to success:
1. Count the number of rows in a shaping area.
2. Divide that by the pattern row gauge = inches the pattern used for that shaping zone.
3. Multiply the number of inches by YOUR row gauge = how many rows you have to accomplish the shaping.
4. Start tweaking.
This can come in handy for many sweater parts, for instance a sleeve cap. Say the pattern gauge was 6 rows per inch, but you are getting 5.25 rows per inch.
No biggie right?
Wrong: biggie. Remember Seinfeld’s puffy shirt? Well, for the second sweater I ever knit, that’s what I created. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but when he was wearing it, it always looked a bit like a puff sleeve.
If the cap was supposed to be 5.5 inches, you can bet that there are 33 rows in the cap.
5.5 inches x 6 (gauge) = 33 rows
But if I just knit the cap as written, at my different row gauge, the cap would be 6.25 inches, a whopping .75 inch too tall. That’s just enough to make it a puffy sleeve when you try to set it in.
33 rows ÷ 5.25 (gauge) = 6.25 inches
Now that we know what the problem is, let’s look at the easy steps to fix it.
1. Count how many rows are in the cap after the initial bind off at the sides. I counted 33 rows in the cap.
2. 33 rows ÷ 6 rows per inch = 5.5″ for the desired cap height.
3. Multiply the desired cap height by your actual gauge (e.g. 5.5″ x 5.25 rows per inch = 28.87). This means that if you knit a cap that is 29 rows, it will be the desired height.
4. So I’ll get rid of 4 rows, evenly across the cap. Sometimes when it tells me to decrease every other row, I might do that every row. If every 4th row, do it every 3rd row. Look at the instructions, and make a plan to achieve the same shaping over 4 fewer rows.
Thanks to the aforementioned moth attack, I took out the sleeves, ripped them back (using the excuse of needing to harvest more yarn) and re-knit the sleeve cap.
Original cap is in front; new, improved cap is in back.
No Pythagorean theorem, just a sophisticated version of fudging. If the cap is the right height, all is right with the world.
Ta-da! *Drops mic*