Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dissecting My Shetland Swatch

By Leigh

In the last episode of my Shetland adventure, I puzzled over my swatch, and wondered how to know whether or not I had enough of any one color for the cuffs and bands. I received a lot of encouraging support in the comments to that post, and also some helpful suggestions.

Wool Enough
suggested the "Rule of Three," which was new to me. The formula is this:

Measurement x 3 = approximate yardage per row

So, for one cuff, I'd measure my wrist, which is 6.25 inches x 3 = 18.75 inches, (but I'll round it up to 19). Depending on how wide I want the cuffs, I will need 19 inches per row of ribbing per wrist. Based on the width knitted in the swatch (12 rows), I would need approximately 228 inches, or 6.3 yards of black yarn for each cuff. The hips, neckline, and front bands could be estimated the same way.

Then my spinning and knitting friend Mary, (who isn't interested in having a blog but really should because she is a fantastic lace designer and knitter) showed me some information from June Hemmons Hiatt's The Principles of Knitting - Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting. What a fantastic resource this book is! On page 429, it describes a way to calculate yardage of each color needed for stranded knitting. This was not especially useful to me because 1) I had already knitted the swatch and 2) I plan to be a little fairly serendipitous in my exact color choices. However, it gave me the idea of how to get an approximate idea of the yarn I would need for each color in the pattern repeat, as well as how much I had used for the ribbing. For that, I decided that I needed to dissect my swatch.

Hiatt's technique calls for knotting the yarn for the swatch at 5 yard intervals and keeping track of how many 5 yard sections are used. Since my swatch is already knitted, all I needed to do was frog the swatch and measure the amount of each color yarn used in the 16 row pattern repeat. From that I could calculate yards per inch, and from that, calculate the approximate yardage I would need for the total width of each border band. Confused? Me too.

To find out how much yarn I had used for the ribbing on the swatch, I unraveled and measured it. I discovered that I had used approximately 4 yards for 9 rows on a 3.5 inch wide swatch. Dividing yardage (4) by width of ribbing (3.5) I calculate that I need 1.14 yards for each inch of ribbing. Multiplying that by my wrist measurement (6.25) equals approximately 7 yards needed.

The two calculations are fairly close. Since I am using a fairly fine yarn, I will use the larger of the two for my yardage estimates. At the moment I am finishing spinning the rest of the black, in order to see about how many total yards I will have. Then I'll be better able to tell if I have enough to finish all the bands on the sweater.

When it comes down to the actual knitting, I plan to take Weaver Annie's advice. I will knit all the pieces using small amounts of black in the pattern, and then knit all the edgings last! I can make narrower bands if I think I'm going to run out of yarn. As you can see, I definitely plan to play it safe with this one.

Posted 5 Feb. 2008 at http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com

Related Posts:
Shetland Fair Isle Gazzintas
What I Learned From My Swatch
Shetland Sampler Cardigan Complete!


  1. That is a lot of great information! Thanks for leading the way!

  2. After knitting a lot of quick sweaters, I realized that they pile up and it's better to make one careful one since it's going to be around for a long time. Have you decided if all the sweater will be patterned or just parts??

  3. Wow, way too much math for me - guess that is why I just make square things & rectangular things like blankets and scarves, LOL...

    Thinking about you and wishing you and Rascal good luck tomorrow. XOX T.

  4. Weaving Annie's advice is topnotch.

    It's going to be a great year watching this sweater being created.

    Good luck with Rascal!

  5. I'm very interested in your yarn calculations, and the book you mentioned on the Principles of Knitting. I might have to add that one to my abebooks "wants" list, it sounds very useful.

    I shall also bear in mind Sharon's comment, above, about knitting carefully rather than quick. This is a cheerful thought for me as the sweater on my needles has had ten months of steady knitting and several times been undone in parts and started over again. I find it hard to believe there will one day be a finished item.

  6. Thanks for passing along these useful tips! (and I have memories of my high school art teacher telling me to pay attention in my math class!)


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