Thursday, July 20, 2006

Knitting Reference Materials

I lost my trust in patterns years ago. I was crocheting a rug for my newlywed kitchen and followed the instructions absolutely. Everything was perfect, my gauge was dead on, I used the suggested materials, and I was looking forward to a nice oval rug that would look a little like the concentric oval rag rugs I remembered from my childhood. What I got was a ruffled, uneven nightmare. I cried. I doubted myself. I re-read the instructions. Since this was in the days before the Internet, I called the magazine for errata, and they told me they hadn’t heard of anyone else having a problem, so I sank into dejection and despair. Oh, woe! Then I got pissed, looked at the finished project and saw where the error began. I frogged back to it, reworked it, it came out perfect, so I gave it away. I couldn’t stand to look at it again, it just made me angry.

I had a similar experience with knitting a Sweater From Hell. I think every knitter eventually has one of these cross her path. The raglan edges don’t match up and there are little shoulder horns sticking up, or the damned thing has gorilla sleeves, the button band puckers, it bulges in odd and unflattering ways, it pinches in the underarms, the neck is strange and binds in weird places, and no amount of hopeful, optimistic blocking will cure it.

Do the pattern writers come to my house and fix their mistakes? They do not, the fiends. Neither do the magazine or book publishers. They just all sit out there in the vast open world, never held accountable for their heinous crimes and fraud. I think they get up in the early morning and giggle at us, enjoying our misery, remote and safe in their evil lairs, which are papered with our wasted dollar bills – schadenfreud of the yarn mavens. It’s enough to make a gal howl at the moon. (Which doesn’t help either, I’ve tried. It does bring attention and commiseration from the neighbors, though, which is not all bad.)

So, I went through a phase of just winging it. The problem was, there was no easily accessible reference material to tell me what sizes were considered standard for anything. I could swatch for gauge like nobody’s business; if there were an Olympic swatching division, I’d be captain. I have even made afghans and sweaters from my swatch piles. They’re weird but warm. I tried going into stores with a tape measure, a pencil and a little notebook to try to assemble my own reference chart of sizes. I got a lot of strange looks from clerks, which scared me off, wuss that I am.

The Internet has changed that. Now we have 8 whomptillion references for everything, which is just as bad because now I still don’t know whom to believe. Preemie heads can be any size from 8 inches to 12, and God only knows how big blankets should be. However, I’ve compiled a list of reference materials and locations that DO appear to have fairly consistent sizes, from things I’ve made that DO fit or suit, and which cross-reference with one another to achieve some general standards of uniformity. All of which is no help to anyone who feels that only individually customized items are worth producing. However, if you have any interest in just having a general reference, I hope the following will be of use to you – they’ve been extremely useful to me.

Hats: This freebie PDF offers a wide range of options. It has gauge-based instructions for yarn weights from fingering through bulky, and 6 head sizes, preemie through men. I re-wrote mine in MSExcel since this one prints out a little light and tiny.

Socks, Mittens, Hats, Tams, Gloves, Scarves, Vests, and Sweaters: Spend the $24.95 plus shipping, if only so you can throw out all your hinky and much-in-need-of-adjusting free patterns. I don’t recommend it for sweaters or vests, since the only sweater style is for set-in sleeves, which I don’t really care for, and I think the vests look funky, but it’s bang on for the others. The measurements, however, are reasonably accurate. Chock full o’charts, you may need a highlighter or pencil to keep track of what you’re supposed to be doing, but I really think this book is a worthy investment. It really reduces the frustration factor in finding baseline measurements for all those little accessories that are so much fun to make.

Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns

More Sweaters: Ann Budd has come out with a reference book exclusively on sweaters. I haven’t reviewed it myself, but if she stuck to her principles, it should be accurate. The reviews appear to be pretty good on Amazon.

Otherwise, I refer you to the chart at: for overall measurements with this addendum: if the arms are as long as the body of the sweater, regardless of type of sweater (raglan, set-in, whatever) it’ll be a darned good fit. For cropped, trendy sweaters, you’re on your own.

Blankets and Afghans: Bev’s Country Cottage website offers this reference chart, which is accurate IMHO based on personal experience and cross-referencing to other charts, including industry standards for bed sheets, coverlets, and comforters:

Small Preemie: 18" - 20" square
Medium Preemie: 20" - 22" square
Large Preemie: 22" - 28" square
Full Term Baby: 28" - 36" square
(Note, with all of these, you can make it the smaller measurement for width, and the longer measurement for length if you prefer rectangular blankets)

Baby 30" x 36" = crib sized (6" squares= 5 across x 6 down ~ 30 sq)
Children 42"x 48" (6" squares= 7 across x 8 down ~ 30 sq)
Lapghan often used in seniors homes 36" x 48" (6" squares= 6 across x 8 down ~ 48 squares) Adult Afghan (Will fit across top of bed) 48" x 72" = twin sized. (6" squares= 8 across x 12 down ~ 96 squares)
Adult Double Bed (Will fit across top of bed) 60" x 84" = full sized. (6" squares= 10 across x 14 down ~ 160 squares)

Let the creative juices flow!!!


Becky said...

You rock! Thanks for all the information. I have been a "winger" my whole crocheting career..nice to know I am not the only one.

Javajem said...

This is great! I always wondered about this stuff - but never googled it. Thanks for doing it for me!

BoS said...

Glad to be of service! Knit on! (Or crochet on, as the case may be.)