Hot Tip: Don’t panic

Hot Tip: Don't panic

I wish I had a logbook of every time I’ve ever thought there was something horribly wrong with my knitting, only to realize it’s actually totally fine. Sometimes these occurrences are more phantom than others — like the time (during my first year) I had cast on for a sweater and there was something off about my ribbing. The multiple wasn’t working out but my cast-on math was correct and my stitch count matched, so it seemed literally impossible for there to be anything wrong, and yet there was. I looked at it over and over, counting and recalculating. I showed it to Meg, who did the same. Neither of us could make any sense of it, and yet it seemed clearly, undeniably wrong. Until the next morning, when I looked at it again and couldn’t even figure out why I thought it was off — there was literally no problem.

On the other hand, sometimes the “problems” are quite plainly right in front of me, in three robust dimensions. Like, oh, these raglans. After I blocked the yoke at the end of the first two bands of double seed, there was a tiny whiff of a notion that something might be a little wacky. But I blithely put it back on the needles and kept knitting, with it bunched up on a smaller-circumference circular for those last long rounds, like you do. The other night, I made it to the division round and could finally lay it out flat and take a look at what I’d wrought, and OH MY GOD WHAT IS UP WITH THESE RAGLANS!! The sweater seemed to think I had a little bonus boob at each raglan seam and was perfectly shaped to accommodate them. For a few minutes, I was holding my breath, hand over mouth, trying to think what could possibly have gone wrong and just how far I would need to rip to fix it.

But I have a rule: Do not panic. And above all, DO NOT RIP. If something seems off, I set it down — preferably overnight — and at least half the time, I find it was a moment of temporary insanity on my part. There’s literally nothing wrong. A good portion of the other half of the time, it’s not nearly as grave as it might seem. With these raglans, I had to think it was some weird result of where the increases ended combined with the mitering of the fabric at the raglans and the upper part being blocked and the lower part not. That all of that was just creating a temporary buckle. Or at least, I had to hope — and to find out for sure before I hot-headedly ripped anything out.

So I put it on waste yarn and into the wash, the same as the upper part had done. And I hoped that it would even out in the wash. That is the other lesson that must never be forgotten in times of don’t-panic: Blocking is magic. The upper and middle left images are Before; the middle right and lower images are After.

I’m pretty sure the raglans are fine and the four stray peaks will not reappear, but there is a chance now that I’ve gotten carried away and made it too big! Still not panicking and not ripping. I won’t know for sure until I knit a bit farther on the body and at least one sleeve. So that’s what I shall cool-headedly do …

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23 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Don’t panic

  1. Forgive me if I missed a post but is that a gansey you are knitting? I have ecru yarn waiting for a project and I still have DDL gansey fever. I intend to make more than one:)

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  2. I frequently tell myself to sleep on it, and almost all of the time,whatever the problem was , is manageable in the morning. This applies to knitting and life!

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  3. Hi Karen. I was interested in knowing if you ever worry about soaking/blocking a garment a few times during the knitting phase. How does it look the blocked section with the newly knitted section. Any worries about blending?

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    • I have a related question. Do you worry about color changes if you don’t treat all sections of yarn the same way? If one is washed more than the others, I worry about fading with some yarns. Not ecru, but the more deeply colored ones.

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    • I don’t worry about it — it all gets washed the same way eventually, and it’s either being soaked in a basin or washed on gentle, so it’s deliberately not anything abrasive or that would create enough wear on the fabric that you could tell that one part has been washed one more time than the rest.

      But I can’t speak to every yarn and fabric and type of washing there is, so it’s always a matter of personal comfort level and using good judgement, case by case.

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  4. Inspired by your blocking ‘in progress’, I just blocked a sweater back. Normally, I would wait till all pieces were done and then block the whole thing, at one time. I learned that my gauge was off a tiny bit. Nothing major but I will try and be a little more relaxed, while knitting the front. It was my first time to use blocking wires on wet wool. I found it challenging to thread the stitches. Do you use wires?

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  5. I have a question about blocking in-progress projects (that maybe I asked before?): I took a class with Elizabeth Doherty and she advised us to cast off using waste yarn before blocking because just having live stitches held on a waste yarn might potentially distort the fabric when blocked. Since you seem like you have extensive experience doing it your way, and with lots of different yarn, have you ever noticed anything off?

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  6. Obviously, you wrote this post intending to speak directly to me with your advice to not panic! A good chunk of summer of basics sewing and a dog-eaten sweater in progress for my son have been testing my outer bounds of “take a deep breath and look at it again tomorrow….”

    Also I had a hearty out-loud chortle over “bonus boobs”

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  7. This actually might be the reason that there are a few unfinished knitting projects on my shelf. Thought that I might not be capable of this craft, but your post is brilliant. Before they get passed on to another I am going to block them and not give up yet. Thanks Karen

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  8. I had the same problem but I ripped and started again, I´m new on your blog wich I found fantastic and so elegant, one question, is this ivory sweater a new pattern? is just lovely, thank you in advance for your answer, Lilia

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  9. Pingback: Hot Tip: Allow for adjustments | Fringe Association

  10. Pingback: The ivory aran-gansey (2018 FO-19) | Fringe Association

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