Monday, March 25, 2013

Cheat your way to the top (part 1).

Is this you?

You have yarn.  Say, for the sake of the argument, amazing yarn.  You have a pattern.  Which your amazing yarn is perfect for.  You've even swatched!  Unbelievably, the pattern looks *better* in this yarn than you thought it would.  The fabric has a marvelous texture.  The stars are aligned, you win at knitting, you have EVERYTHING.

… Except gauge.

Is this you?  It's totally me, at least once year.  And I am here to tell you:  all is not lost!  With a little creativity, we'll be just fine.  All we have to do is change the number of repeats.  

If you're thinking to yourself that this is a total n00b tip, you'd be right except for one thing:  I'm suggesting we change the number of repeats by a non-integer amount.  

Let me give you a few examples:

This hat appears at first to be totally integral.  It's got a 6-stitch repeat and 126 stitches around the brim.  Ah, but 126/6=21.  And 21 is problematic from the point of view of decreasing: 21=3*7 and neither 3 nor 7 is 4 or 5.  And to keep the decreases "in pattern", I would really like the crown of this hat to consist of 4 or 5 triangles like this coming together:

So, what did I do?  Well, 21 is reasonable close to 20.  So I grouped my stitches into five groups:  24, 24, 24, 24 and 30. For the first four groups, I worked the decreases as shown; for the last group, I worked the same decreases at the edges and had an extra column of pattern (ie 6 more stitches) in the middle.  I ended up with 4, 4, 4, 4, and 10 stitches.  At which point I worked 13 k2togs, then threaded the end of the yarn through the remaining 13 stitches, and called it a day.

Here's another hat, which required a little more finesse:

Can I start by saying how much I love this pattern?  It reminds me (in the best possible way) of funky old wallpaper.  But because the fundamental unit of the design is so large, it has a lot less room for fudge; at my gauge, three repeats was going to be positively pinheaded and four was going to be huuge.  So, I knit three and a half repeats.   

There's one insight that makes this trick work, and that is to switch the way you think about the fundamental unit.  It's not a rectangle with a triangle on top; it's a rectangle with a triangle cut out of the top.

If you do an integer number of repeats, it doesn't matter which way you think about the fundamental units.  But, if you do a non-integer number of repeats, your non-integral repeat needs to be a skinny rectangle missing a small triangle instead of a skinny rectangle with a small triangle on top:

See the difference?  The first one is going to fit great, because the crown decreasing starts off at 6 decreases/round, and changes to 8 decreases/round close to the end.  The second one will do the opposite (start at 8 decreases/round, then switch to 6 decreases/round).  I guess you might do this if you wanted to knit a hat which had a dedicated pony tail cozy, but for the rest of us, the first one is going to fit better.

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