Lessons From the Frog Pond

Meet USMP:

USMP Frogged

That's right - the victim is not who you thought. What was once the body of the Union Square Market Pullover is no more - she's just a pile of Frog Tree Sport Alpaca now. I started on the sleeve last night, did a few rows, then thought, you know, this looks big. Let me measure the body again. Sure enough, the bod had stretched somewhat since its first measurement and measured 36" across the bottom, where she was supposed to measure 33". I slipped her on. The sweater is supposed to be tailored - on me the body was not at all form-fitting. I took action (frogging alpaca is a bitch!). Then I promptly hid the yarn from myself until the angst blows over and I figure out what to do with it. As you can see above, it's stashed in a cabinet right next to my college diploma. Still haven't figured out what to do with that, either.

Colchique is spared for the next few days at least, but a few valuable lessons emerged from that disappointment. Those lessons, in part, prompted the USMP frog. They are:

Make Large Gauge Swatches, and Measure Across the Whole Swatch - When I took gauge for Colchique, I did a swatch and measured how many stitches per 1", even though I could tell the whole swatch was a teensy bit off. Teensy became more than teensy distributed sweater wide. I'm going to make larger swatches from now on and measure across the entire piece.

Don't Force a Yarn Into a Pattern (aka Use Caution When Substituting) - The cashmere I used for Colchique is really worsted weight. Phildar used a DK weight wool for its version, knitted on even tinier needles than the yarn called for, yielding a tight fabric. I learned that from seeing the French knitalong. It is a sin to knit cashmere that tightly, so I compromised by using needles one size larger than those called for. Combined with my loosey-goosey approach to gauge, this was a major mistake. The same thing may be a factor in USMP. I had my heart set on a particular color combo, and the only yarn I could find that was even close and also affordable was Frog Tree. Frog Tree could have worked on US1 needles, I suspect, but the fabric would still be stiff. I may yet try again on US1s. Still, it wasn't an ideal match.

Act Fast When You Know Something's Amiss - The thing about Colchique was, I knew she was too big as soon as I finished the back panel - the very first piece. I should have frogged her and restrategized then. It would have been work lost, but it only would have been 1/4 of the work required for the finished sweater. That's why I decided to put USMP out of her misery today rather than waiting.

Respect Your Ease Comfort Level - I am just too short to wear big, roomy sweaters. Anything more than like an inch of ease will make me feel stocky and stumpy. A taller person has more room for error in sizing: not so for me.

Do the Math and Modify the Pattern - I'm not trying to be like "ooh, I'm just too thin for normal pattern sizes!" or anything - I am only 5' 1", and so the proportions of most patterns simply don't accommodate my body type. In general, the size that would be below the smallest one normally given is probably where I fit. Instead of trying to do the XS anyway, I'm going to give more serious weight to my measurements and desired ease. If XS is too big and I'm set on a particular size, I'm going to do the math and resize it. It worked well for Simply Marilyn, and it can work well for other patterns.

Value the Process - Because of USMP, I now know how to do short rows and provisional cast on. Because of Colchique, I can now translate a French pattern, seam a collar, and manage button bands. The experience was not a waste. And you know, Buddha in the dishwater and all of that... I enjoyed having something to do with my hands during all those subway rides and movie nights. The process is why we do this thing.

When it comes down to it, I'm not that experienced a knitter of fitted garments (gloves and mittens aside... I am a master of mittens). I've only been knitting a couple of years, and before these two sweaters, the only real sweaters I'd done were Hourglass, Ballet Pullover, and Marilyn. (For anyone who cares, frogging Hourglass may yet be on the table as well, since she's stretched so much. I would reknit her for sure though.). Many of you already know this stuff, and I've learned it from you, but there's no teacher like experience. Also I'm not naturally that detail oriented (good thing I'm in law school, huh?), which can be an impediment. One day, I will conquer fitting a sweater. Until then, figuring out what not to do has been worthwhile.

[oh, um, p.s. - click here to see what else lives in the Cabinet of Oblivion to which the Frog Tree Alpaca was banished.)

Posted by jess at November 6, 2005 3:03 PM

If I lived closer I'd say that we should head out right this minute for cupcakes or booze, or both.

I've made it my mission to finish a sample sweater I'm knitting for work today, and I can see the finish line. But I just finished the first sleeve. And that sucker is effin' huge. My gauge was also a teensy bit off, but it is now one full stitch off.

I'm trying to see the bright side of this. Most of our customers complain of XS standard that most samples come in. They'll fit into this one, and then some. It's boxy enough that it doesn't LOOK wrong, but it is, it is very very wrong.

It's infuriating, isn't it? Even when you get gauge, washing and wear often take their toll. I am one of those taller ladies you speak of (5'8") and I can't tolerate baggy. If only knits could have 5% Lycra, like the best-fitting jeans do.

Posted by: Cirilia at November 6, 2005 3:22 PM

It's better to have frogged it now than never wearing it. The yarn can become something else or you can retry USMP. At least now you have a plan of attack for both if you plan to rework them.

ps I dont have folk socks but I do have vintage socks

Posted by: yahaira at November 6, 2005 4:28 PM

Just like education, no lesson learned from a knitting mistake is ever worthless. I find solace also in learning from something that didn't turn out as planned, and the knowledge seems to build on itself. PS: It was fun admiring your Noro yesterday. Lady Eleanor is near the top of my list when gift knitting is done!

Posted by: jillian at November 6, 2005 4:40 PM

i am quite possibly the world's laziest gauge swatcher, and it comes back to haunt me every single time... the idea of bigger, more carefully measured gauge swatches is actually a good one... i'll try that next time, and may wind up frogging mariah to get one that fits properly.

and i'd kill for cupcakes or booze or both at the moment.

Posted by: heatherfeather at November 6, 2005 5:06 PM

Ugh, I haven't knit anything of worth since before the summer. My brief break for work has turned into an indefinate hiatus. I just can't stand the idea of frogging my HG sweater even though I'm afraid that my math on the sleeves is/will be wrong by the time I get to the top and attempt to attach the sleeves.

I should face my fears. But in the meantime, I'll just contemplate your mistakes to avoid thinking about mine ;)

Posted by: kristiface at November 6, 2005 6:53 PM

Your stash is great! I know that I'll check back and you will knit something fabulous! Thanks for the tips!

Posted by: chica at November 6, 2005 7:03 PM

agh, sorry to hear about the demise of the USMP. I'm not having the best of luck in my knitting these days. I started the Aran top by Micheal Kors a few days ago and I was making kick ass progress on it. Alas, it was way too good to be true. But it's all my fault. I knew after I finished the two inches of ribbing along the bottom that the top was going to be a lot bigger and looser than I'd like. I considered frogging it for a second but decided to go ahead anyway. I guess I was hoping two inches would just magically disspear from the width on its own. It didn't happen (shocker). And now I'm almost done knitting up the back and it is freaking huge. It's going to Frogsville. Nuts.

But you're totally right about valuing the process. I am a lot more confident with the cable needle now. woohoo!

Posted by: Sandra at November 6, 2005 7:57 PM

Thanks for sharing the lessons...these things are hard to admit sometimes, but so very beneficial. I'm planning on knitting Hourglass soon, and you mentioned it stretching. Do you think it was the yarn or...? Should I knit a size smaller do ya think? Thanks for any input.

Posted by: Julia at November 6, 2005 10:02 PM

Excellent advice, all around...though that's kind of a Job's comfort, I guess, when something as pretty as your USMP body had to be frogged in its pursuit. That should be the knitting's about the process...process...

Posted by: eunny at November 6, 2005 10:24 PM

So so sorry about your sweater :[ I have a few projects that have happened like get far enough in that frogging it is like giving up an unborn child, but there's no getting around the fact that it just won't work.

However, I agree with yahaira - it's better to frog it now and end up with something great, than to live with the mistake and never wear it.

Give it a few days, or weeks - you'll get back to it and it will be great, like your other FO's. It'll be worth it in the end.

Posted by: Ariane at November 7, 2005 2:25 AM

Sorry USMP didn't work out. Your advice is great though. I especially agree with "doing the math" and taking the time to knit up a good guage swatch. I took the time do these two things for the Blackberry (from Knitty) I'm working on since my yarn choice was way different from the yarn in the pattern. It really works. I couldn't dive into the pattern right away and multiplying ratios is very boring, but it's definately worth it.

Posted by: Cathy at November 7, 2005 7:28 AM

'value the progress' is defenitely a good thing. I'm currently working on the lucky clover wrap from stitch 'n bitch nation and must have frogged the darn thing 5 times now. But now I know how the pattern works and where I have to do yarn-overs by sight. One day (hopefully soon) I will finish it and will add a lovely wrap cardigan to my closet and therefore having made my first 'real' knitting object....

Posted by: Judith at November 7, 2005 7:28 AM

Oooh, that's too bad about the pullover, but at least now you won't be stuck with an ill-fitting sweater gathering dust in your closet.

You might want to check out Jenna Adorno's patterns. She's a knitwear designer who's also petite, so her patterns are designed with smaller women in mind (and they're really cute, too). She's published a few in the Stitch N Bitch books and on Knitty, and she sells one to benefit breast cancer research on her website:

Posted by: parikha at November 7, 2005 8:25 AM

This was very interesting to read - I, too, am teeny tiny, and have yet to knit a sweater out of fear. The patterns I've liked have shown the smallest size to be way bigger than I would consider. Math it is, huh. That doesn't make me happy, but I think you are right - learning how is the right way to do it. Would you recommend the Hourglass sweater as a good first sweater? Its been on my list for a while, though I have yet to get the book.

Posted by: Megann at November 7, 2005 8:48 AM

Oh man, this is dissapointing! It sounds like you learned a lot from the process though. I have heard that alpaca needs to be worked tightly, so perhaps the size 1 needles could work.. that is, when you're ready to look at that yarn again :-)

Posted by: Diana at November 7, 2005 9:12 AM

Good lessons. One of these days I should really get to steppin' and frog all of my earlier works. Yeah, I learned "technique" after I learned, "fancy yarn."

Sorry about your sweaters, frogging is sensible, but still doesn't erase the work you did :/

Posted by: Yarn Abuse at November 7, 2005 10:18 AM

I am completely with you on frogging sooner rather than later. I made a gauge swatch for Hourglass (in the round even!) and got gauge. I began knitting and after the second decrease round on the body, I knew something was wrong. I kept knitting though, because I really wanted that sweater and had done so much work already. I took the sweater with me to knitting meetup and a friend (and 20 year veteran knitter) said, "That looks way too big for you!" And she was right. My gauge had slipped from 19 sts/4 in to 16! Uh oh. This coupled with the fact that I'd heard (from you and others) that the Cash Iroha stretches with wear, convinced me of what I had to do. Though it crushed my novice knitter's heart to do it, I handed it over and she frogged it with the ball winder.

I still haven't gotten the gumption to start it over, but I will once the mourning and the holidays are over. I just have to keep telling myself that it's better now than after it was done and sitting in my drawer unworn.

Posted by: julia at November 7, 2005 11:54 AM

Yesterday I had to rip apart the Gothic Leaf Patterned shawl I was making for my Mom for the fifth time. This time it put me over the edge and I lost it (so mad I threw the yarn across the room and even contemplated burning it) so badly that I scared my boyfriend as he's never seen me so mad.

I feel your angst.

Posted by: Caren at November 7, 2005 1:10 PM

I feel your pain and have learned all those lessons (well most of them) that you listed there. I still have to frog my Salina.. In the past 2-3 months, I think I've frogged or will frog about 4-5 things. We can be sisters in frogging.

Posted by: Angela at November 7, 2005 1:23 PM

You are brave - congratulations on the frogging! And I need to bookmark this page or have these lessons tattoo'd on my arm or something.

Posted by: MeBeth at November 7, 2005 5:44 PM

Set your own life time easier get the loan and everything you need.

Posted by: Rosalyn24Goodwin at June 13, 2010 2:37 PM

yeah...because I learned to knit from someone intensely anal and crazy, I always make huge swatches when I make them. I generally cast on at least 10-20 stitches more than the gauge listed and knit for at least 10-20 rows more than the gauge listed so that when I measure, I am smack dab in the middle and the fact that we all tend to knit tighter toward the edges doesn't become a factor in ill measurement. It does make swatching take even longer though.

Posted by: carolyn at February 1, 2012 10:01 AM
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