Patty Lyons is a brilliant knitting teacher, designer and communicator, one of the hardest working people that I know, and I am grateful to say that she is my friend. We have bonded over our love of musical theater and our constant search for how to be better teachers and better communicators. We are actually pretty much alike in our work ethic and motivation to be the best at everything, but she is way ahead of me in her success in that endeavor. My philosophy in graduate school was to study with the smartest people, and learn from them. This served me well and I continue the practice. I’ll admit that part of the reason I think Patty is almost always right is that I almost always agree with her, but she constantly makes me think and check my work. This is a very good thing. When we stop learning and questioning, we stop growing.
I didn’t teach for Vogue Knitting Live in April, so had the opportunity to work on a new class for May (part of my Stripes series, the search for a “jogless join”), and do some personal knitting. I signed up for Patty’s new Video class “Gramercy Park Video KAL” on her new website, Patty Lyons.com . I can barely keep up on my own basic website and blog, and Patty’s skill at this computer thing completely boggles my mind. You should definitely check out the site. Anyway, I love a lace sweater, and they are tricky to design. Lace patterns have very specific repeats, and this limits your ability to change the number of stitches and rows to adjust for sizing and shaping. Patty is a master at this, so knitting one of her designs is like a knitting vacation for me. The KAL has 4 suggested yarns, and I picked two of them. Yes, I am going to knit two sweaters, isn’t everybody? Just kidding, that’s the over-achiever in me. But, I really liked the idea of a cotton version for summer, and I really wanted a soft wool version, too. I ordered sweater amounts for the Valley Yarns Granville (167 yd/153 m per 50 g hank; 90% Pima Cotton, 10% Merino Wool) and the Cloudborn Fibers Merino Alpaca Sport (137 yd/125 m per 50 g hank; 80% Superwash Merino, 20% Baby Alpaca) from Webs, and started to figure out what size to knit, while I waited for the yarn to arrive. Patty has extensive videos about each of the yarns she recommends, and for how to determine your size. I already had my measurements, and determined fairly quickly that I would knit the size 3 (38″bust circumference), but of course you never REALLY know this until you knit and block your swatches.
Knitters who know me, who have taken any class from me, know that I think swatching is about the most important part of knitting a successful garment. It’s not a problem, it is just a chore, an easy one. Easier than unloading a dishwasher by far, and we do that daily without grumbling. Patty and I agree on this, and our philosophies align pretty closely, so I enjoyed her video on the subject. Patty showed a few ways she blocks lace. I am a fan of wet-blocking, so my babies get a soak. What is important is that you block your swatch as you intend to block the garment. At some point, I will actually throw my swatches in the laundry with a bunch of towels to see what happens, but that can wait until the sweater is complete. While knitting, I will be referring to my swatches and want to keep them safe.
I swatched for both sweaters at the same time. I used an addi Turbo Lace needle, 24 in. long, size 5 US. It is a metal needle with very sharp tips and a flexible cord, which are outstanding qualities for knitting lace. The merino yarn was much easier to knit with, being stretchy and soft. The cotton was more challenging, as it is crisper and I had to work a bit more to get the tips into stitches for decreases.
The swatches look and feel really different, but ended up being almost exactly the same size and gauges, as Patty expected they would. The cotton swatch, unblocked was crisper and the pattern was easier to see than with the merino.
I measured the unblocked swatches, which is difficult because the individual stitches are crowded and hard to see. It is best to measure the overall size, and get a general idea of how close you are, and I was really close to the expected 27 sts/34 rows for 4 in. Then, I gave them a bath. I kept the swatches separate because I wasn’t positive that the blue yarn wouldn’t bleed. I’m happy to report that it did not. Good to know!
The blocked swatches are almost identical in size, and remained very close to the unblocked size. My blocked row gauge was very close to Patty’s, as you will see from the photos.
My stitch gauge is looser however. I used 2 repeats of the pattern (28 sts) to measure stitch gauge, and it was 28 sts/4.5 in for both swatches. This calculates to 6.25 st/in, and Patty’s gauge was 6.75 st/in. I like both of my swatches, the material is very nice. I’ve cast on new swatches with a size 4 needle, to see if I prefer a slightly tighter fabric. I also need to assess if the new needle size affects the row gauge, at all.