The Shape of Things to Come

Hopefully all of you who have your yarn for the Roan knitalong are happily swatching away. For those of us who don't (yet) it's okay: We still have some brain work to do. It's time to put our imaginations to work, and possibly drag out our sweater collections. Today, I'm challenging you to imagine the shape your Roan will take, in terms of its actual, well, shape.

The original Roan was conceived as an extremely loose-fitting, open-front kimono. Not unlike this in silhouette:

If this is the shape you love most for your Roan, then your decision is already made: Kimono it is. The only mystery left is how much wearing ease will be in YOURS. To figure that out, you'll need to take a look at the completed measurements in the Roan pattern, but don't let that be your only source of input. I'd also like you to look at the sweaters (and jackets, and even bathrobes) in your wardrobe. Take these things out and try them on. Take note of those that really fit the way you like. Are they as loose as the Roan? More so? Flatten them out and take their measurements (circumference only for now). Now take your own measurements (get help from a friend if you can). We need the largest part of the body, so if that's the bust, measure there. If it's the hips, take that one. Now compare the measurement of the garment you liked the fit of to your actual body measurement at the widest point. The difference is your wearing ease. If you like the super-loose kimono fit of the original, I'm guessing you'll have a wearing ease of at least 4", and it could even be 6" or 8" if you really like it loose. Not to worry. The only number you need is the widest part of the actual garment you like the fit of. Got that? Great! Hold on while I talk to the rest of the knitters.

Now, this is for you troublemakers who, like me, love the motifs on the Roan sweater, but couldn't care less about the kimono shaping of the original. We who prefer a more traditional silhouette might be pulling something out of the closet that fits like this:

This is a traditional drop-shoulder shape. It skims over the body without hugging tightly anywhere, but without the volume of the loose-fitting original Roan. If this is your preferred look, find the things in your closet that fit like this and measure their circumference. Compare that number to your body measurement at its widest point and you're likely to get a smaller ease number. Yours will probably be less than 4", possibly 2" or 3". Just find the actual circumference of the sweater or shirt that you like the tighness/looseness of. Write that number down and hold on while I address one more group of knitters.

Not into the loosy-goosy look? Want something a little closer to the body? How about this:

This one, while still a drop-shoulder shape like the other two, fits a lot closer to the body. This one has just about zero, or even a slightly negative ease. The distance between this sweater and the body at the widest part of the body is at or close to 0. It could even be a little less than 0, which would make it a negative-ease garment. For you knitters who like to keep it close, this is your fit. Measure the circumference of the garment that you like best and compare it to your body measurement. If the difference is 0 or the garment is a little smaller than your body, you fall into this group. Write down the number, and then rejoin the rest of us.

Now, even though I had you check it, don't worry about which size in the original pattern is yours. It's only a jumping-off place. We're going to abandon the original Rowan sizing, along with the original chart. That's the reason I'm being such a spaz about getting your own personal, accurate gauge.

If you have your magic number (the finished garment circumference) and your actual preferred gauge (stitches per inch of knitting) you are now in total control of whatever happens next. Doesn't that feel awesome? Take a minute to allow yourself to feel drunk with power.

The next step is to figure out how many stitches you'll be casting on. Take the magic finished circumference number (let's be math-y and call it "A"). Multiply that by the number of stitches per inch in your gauge ("B" to us smarty-pants people). So that's A x B. The result is the number of stitches that will be in each round of your knitting. From here on out, let's call that resulting number X. X is our new best friend. X is the number of stitches we will base our whole sweater on, independent of steek stitches (more on that next time), and totally separate from whatever our friends at Rowan may have told us would be in the sweater. That's dead to us now. From here on out it's YOUR Roan sweater. It's good to be King! Now hang on to your beautiful new friend X. Write it down. Embroider it on little hankies. And start thinking about what length of circular needle you'll need to find/procure.

Don't try to cheat with the needle; the wrong length of circular needle can really screw with you, gauge-wise. Too short and you'll have to scrunch up your knitting, which can result in an unintentionally firmer gauge. Too long and you'll be stretching your knitting around it, struggling to move it along, and possible enlarging (loosening) your gauge as you knit. Now is your chance to buy a shiny new circular needle, just for this project. Go crazy and get the one you've always wanted but talked yourself out of. You're going to spend a lot of quality time with this needle, so don't skimp on it. If you already have the perfect one, take a careful look to make sure it's not bent, chipped, splintered, or loose at the joins. Even the best needles get loved to death, so thank it for its service, and replace it if you need to.

I'm traveling to teach over the next few days, so if the blog goes quiet, don't panic. I'll be back soon with the next steps, and hopefully my own Roan yarn will be here waiting for me!