I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a pullover pattern by Sari Nordlund, called Onnen:
It checks a number of boxes for me at the moment – easy to knit, worsted-weight yarn, raglan, interesting but not too complicated cables, vertical pattern, comfortable, comforting, wearable. After looking through literally thousands of patterns over a period of many weeks, I found that I kept coming back to this one. I even have the yarn at hand to knit this with.
So, I bought the pattern and spent some time looking it over, and immediately hit a conceptual snag. The gauge is listed as follows (this is available right on the pattern page on Ravelry, so I’m not giving anything away):
19 sts and 25 rounds = 10 cm over stockinette stitch on 4.5 mm / US 7 needles, in a round, after blocking.
25 sts and 27 rounds = 10 cm over cabled pattern on 4.5 mm / US 7 needles, in a round, after blocking. Measurement taken approximately over round 19.
So far so good. Looking at the pattern, however, I became confused. The pullover is knitted bottom-up in-the-round. For the size L (47″), it asks that you cast on 244 stitches. Markers are added to divide the front and the back, which is divided evenly so that both back and front have 122 stitches. However, the back is knitted entirely in stockinette stitch which has a gauge of 19 stitches to 4in/10cm, and the front is composed of a central block of 68 stitches in cable pattern knitted at a gauge of 25 stitches to 4in/10cm, plus 54 stitches (27 either side) knitted in stockinette at a 19 stitch gauge. I have to admit that this sets up warning bells for me.
I did some math. It turns out that if you are hitting the recommended gauges, for the size L, the back will measure 25.68″ and the front will measure 22.24″. (It goes like this: 19 stitches per 10cm/4″ equals 1.9 stitches/cm or 4.75 stitches/inch. 25 stitches per 10cm/4″ equals 2.5 stitches/cm or 6.25 stitches/inch. To continue in inches, the back will thus be 122 stitches at 4.75 per inch, or 25.68″. The front will be 54 stitches at 4.75 stitches/inch (11.36″) PLUS 68 stitches at 6.25 stitches/inch (10.88″) which equals 22.24″. Yikes! It’s worse than I imagined.
(At this point, I asked Doug to read this, and I did his head in. “What’s the problem?”, he asked. “The circumference works out right and its knitted in the round.” The problem is with the placement of the markers, and thus the side seams, and thus the placement of the sleeves and raglan shapings. If the side seams are placed so that both back and front have an equal number of stitches, then the sleeves will be in the wrong place, and the front of the sweater will be bunched over the chest, while the back of the sweater will be too wide.)
Why would you knit a sweater and place the raglan sleeve shapings unevenly skewed towards the front, so that the front measures significantly less than the back? By this time I thought maybe I was over-thinking things and I wrote to the designer (on Ravelry, which perhaps she doesn’t monitor) and I never heard back.
I thought about forgetting the pattern altogether, and spent a few more weeks searching around for something else to knit, but in fact, I like this pullover. (I have quite a few of Nordlund’s newer patterns on my favourites list.) I do think the pattern photos look just a bit off around the raglan shapings, but of course that makes sense if they are fundamentally in the wrong place. So, being a bit OCD, I checked every single photo of this sweater which exists on Ravelry. There are currently 98 of them. Of those 98, only 2 photos show the back of the sweater being worn on an actual person (there are a number of photos of the back of the sweater, while it is hanging on a hanger). Of those two, one of them is obscured by a bunch of long hair and a slightly angled shot, and the other looks, frankly, much too wide across the back.
I then spent a long time re-calculating the widths of back and front as I moved the markers towards the back one stitch at a time, and discovered that if I moved the markers back 4 stitches on each side, so that the overall stitch count is the same, but the back has 16 fewer stitches than the front, then the finished pullover measurements should be roughly equal for the front and back.
I won’t go into the details too much here, but I also freaked out about the fact that the ribbing was even across the bottom of the sweater, even though the central cabled portion of the sweater had a much tighter gauge. For those of you interested in the nitty gritty details, I ended up casting on 240 stitches for the ribbing, and then increasing 4 stitches evenly across the cabled block of stitches at the front, while at the same time, placing the markers so that there are 114 stitches on the back and 130 stitches on the front.
Am I being unduly obsessive? Will this work out in the end? Only time will tell.