Compromise and confusion

I’m knitting the second sock after arriving at a compromise between perfectionist and reasonable: I cast on, knit ribbing for a while, saw that I might possibly be just one stripe off from having matching socks, and started over in hopes that it would match. We’ll see—I think the color that comes up next will be the wrong color, but I’m not frogging again. It will be okay.

I desperately want to restart the candle flame shawl but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m still trying not to irritate that shoulder with too much repetitive motion. It’s just about better now, but there’s still a twinge here and there if I move it wrong or lift something too heavy or work at the computer for too long. This shoulder has a history already—I had to see a physical therapist for a somewhat different problem several years ago—so I’m trying to be good to it. Physical therapy is expensive. Though as it turns out I do still have the dorky stretchy band and the list of exercises from when I had to go before, and likely most of that would be helpful again now that I’m mostly better.

My current crafting dilemma has nothing to do with the non-matching socks or the shawl that I keep starting over, though. It’s this: I have a number of balls of Plymouth Encore, DK weight, black. This is the yarn I’ve been using for the several failed attemtps at this tank top.

Now, I love this top. I love this top so much that I want to marry it and have children with it and grow old with it and spend our twilight years sitting on the front porch drinking iced tea and kvetching about these kids today. As such, I’d really like it if I could work out my gauge problem and have it come out in a size and shape that more or less resembles me.

I’m pretty sure the yarn called for in the pattern is DK weight. The yarn I’ve been making it with is also ostensibly DK weight. The pattern calls for a yarn that has 109 yards per 50g ball and a gauge of 5 sts/7 rows per inch on size 6 needles.

The ball band for the yarn I’m using says it should work up at 5½ sts/inch on size 6 needles. The band also says the yarn is 150 yards per 50g ball.

I am having massive gauge issues with this project. To begin with, it boggles my mind that, although it has 41 more yards per 50g ball in my yarn than the recommended yarn, the band claims that it works up only a half stitch per inch smaller on the same size needles.

Next problem: On size 6 needles, I was getting about 7½ stitches per inch. On size 7 needles? Also about 7½ stitches per inch. Both sets of needles are cheap aluminum straights.

I gave up on the aluminum needles and started swatching on a Knitpicks circular that I got for my birthday with size 5 tips. Size 5. Smaller than what the pattern recommends. Two sizes smaller than the largest size I’d tried.

I’m getting 6 stitches per inch.

I think my head is going to explode. Granted, the knitting is much easier and more pleasant on the Knitpicks needles. They’re smoother (and as an aside, I have actually worn the paint of part of the tips on the cheap aluminum needles, which was probably not helping matters any) and I seem to knit more loosely with them. But still. This is beyond weird.

Do I just go with it and do a bunch of math to figure out what size I should make on this needle? One st/in difference times 19 inches = 19 sts more to cast on, which would have me making the 46″ size rather than the 38″ size, and if either my math or my gauge swatch is wrong I will have a potato sack, albeit a potato sack with lovely short-row shaping at the bust and hip, and I will be forced to take to my bed in despair.

There’s also the fact that my first two gauge swatches relaxed a bit in washing, so maybe this one will, too, and maybe, just maybe I’ll have 5 stitches per inch after washing the swatch and can cast on the 38″ size.

Pertinent fact: I need the same size 5 circular for the lace shawl, so it’s got to be one or the other if I’m going to do the tank top on that size needle, though maybe I can use the longer cable for the shawl and the shorter one for the tank and just swap the tips back and forth.

Head. Exploding.