Every now and then I get inquiries or see posts about modifying my Arguyle men's sweater (gansey) pattern. People seem to really like it (whee!), but they sometimes want to use a different yarn weight, or switch around which charts appear on the sweater from what the size they're working ask for, or...that kind of thing. I've read things like,
- "If I go down a few needle sizes, and swatch a bunch first, think it's close enough to work?"
- "Can I switch this combination of charts with something else that adds up to the same number of stitches?"
- "I can figure out how to adjust the length and width, but what do I do about the gussets?"
And I always get really nervous and want to immediately tell people, "WAIT! STOP RIGHT THERE!" Because Arguyle is one of those garments where the different elements come together all interconnectedly; so if you make adjustments in one direction, you have to make them in a bunch of other directions, too. Therefore, making adjustments is sort of fraught with risk.
So I thought I'd write a post out about it, so that anyone who's thinking of messing with it can go into it with a whole bunch of "inside information" and hopefully avoid the rather painful situation of doing a whole bunch of knitting that has to be frogged near the end because it didn't work the way they wanted it to.
Possibly the most important thing
First and foremost, I cannot stress enough that whether you're following the pattern completely faithfully or making serious modification to it, SWATCHING and WASHING THOSE SWATCHES and GETTING THE GAUGE YOU WANT ON YOUR WASHED SWATCHES is extremely crucial. Please don't skip that part. I know, I know, it's a real pain in the ass, and trust me, I'm just as guilty of saying 'to hell with swatching' and just getting on with the business of making something most of the time, but in this case, it's super-important. Honest. And if you need visual proof of why it's so important to WASH the swatch, check out the difference between the following two photographs...
Firstly, there's this, which hasn't been blocked yet - it looks very lumpy and will clearly get bigger after blocking:
And then there's this, which has been blocked - the fabric has been stretched and is much smoother:
Big difference. So wash and block those swatches.
And now, the nitty-gritty
There are a few things about the sweater that are quite easy to adjust:
- If you want to make the sweater longer, no problem; just work more rounds before starting the increases for the armpit gussets. (And make sure you have enough yarn for the additional knitting.)
- If you want to make the sleeves longer, no problem; just work more rounds after finishing the sleeve decreases. (And make sure you have enough yarn for the additional knitting.)
- If you want to make the neckline wider or the cuffs longer, no problem; just work ribbing for more rounds than the pattern calls for. (And make sure you have enough yarn for...well, you know.)
That, however, is just about where the simplicity ends.
Let's say that you want to use a different weight of yarn. You could simply change needle size in order to get gauge - but (as with all knitting), this will affect the density of the fabric you knit. Using thinner yarn on a bigger needle may give you a fabric so thin that it's not warm enough for its purpose, or that it doesn't show the motifs very nicely. Using thicker yarn on a smaller needle may give you a fabric so thick that the sweater stands up by itself without anyone in it! So make sure that you use a combination of yarn and needle size that gives you a fabric you're happy with.
Once that's done, and you know your gauge, and if the gauge is different from what's specified in the pattern, it's time to start thinking about all the variables at play that you need to worry about in order to get the same measurements as given in the pattern schematic.
- A different gauge is going to affect your sleeve girth. Adjusting for that is tricky, because you'll need to figure out a completely different combination of the various motifs (cable coil, single argyle, double argyle, and textured diagonal striping) in order to get the correct sleeve girth measurement that you want. Further on in this post I talk about what rules you need to keep in mind when making new combinations. Also, don't forget that no matter what combination you use, there needs to be one cable coil right at the top of the sleeve as an extension of the shoulder saddle.
- A different gauge is going to affect the width of your shoulder saddles, so you need to compensate for that when figuring out how long to work for after the armhole split. Different shoulder saddle widths also mean a larger or smaller neck opening, which a) might not be a look that you like, b) means needing to figure out how many extra or fewer stitches to pick up around the neckhole for the neckline ribbing, and c) may mean needing to do more or fewer rounds of neckline ribbing to compensate for the different size neck opening (depending on the look you want, of course).
- You're going to either have to decrease at a different rate at the front neckline in order to have the neckline decrease section be the same height as if you were knitting the appropriate size with the specified yarn weight and needles; OR, get a different size neckline opening (in which case, see consideration #2 for what you need to worry about there).
- The armhole gussets are going to be a different width and height, so you'll need to completely rechart the gussets so that they will be the same width and height when worked with your yarn and needles as they would be when following the appropriate size directions with the specified yarn weight and needles. (You may want to go with a plain stocking stitch gusset in this case just to make things easier.) Also, remember that you'll need to incorporate whatever your gusset width ends up being at its widest point into figuring out how to rejuggle motifs to get your desired sleeve width (see consideration #1).
The upshot is that you'll have to regrade and redesign the majority of the darn thing. Sorry there's no easy fix for this! The whole thing is just that mathematically interdependent.
But let's say that you are willing to regrade, redesign, and/or shuffle the motifs around. In that case, you'll want to keep in mind some basic "ground rules" for putting the different charts together:
- You will need to know exactly how wide each chart measures out after blocking (this is why swatching is so important). You will also want to know how wide the "K1"s in between purls work out to be after blocking. For example, if you're getting the gauge specified in the pattern, the different elements in the body of the sweater work out to be...
- Chart A: 2.75" wide
- Charts B and C: 1.375" wide
- Charts D and E: 0.875" wide
- Chart F: 4.5" wide
- The "K1"s you're asked to do in between some of the charts: 0.25" wide
- The "P1"s that mark the halfway points of the round take up essentially no width at all because they recede
- Chart A: 2.75" wide
- If you ever want to place Chart A, D, E or F right next to each other, there needs to be a K1 in between, because each of those charts begins and ends with purls.
- However, you can't have a knit stitch immediately before or after a Chart B or C, because that will mess up those stitch patterns.
And there you have it. Go nuts!
The large size and the double-argyle motif
There's one more, very specific, modification that I want to discuss before I end this post, and that's the fact that there is no Chart F (that's the double argyle motif) used anywhere in the "large" size of the sweater. I've seen at least two people point out that this is a shame, and I have to admit, I agree with this sentiment completely. I love Chart F, and I tried super-hard to work it into every size, but simply couldn't figure out a way for it to be done in large.
One lovely person asked if they couldn't replace the "Chart A, K1, Chart A" combination in the centre front and back with "K3, Chart F, K3" or "K1, P1, K1, Chart F, K1, P1, K1", because it would still add up to 35 stitches. And unfortunately, the answer is no, because remember, it's not about number of stitches, but rather, overall width (47" in the case of the large size) when you put the combination together.
Here's how the body of the large size breaks down:
- Chart B (1.375”, running total 1.375”)
- Chart D (0.875”, running total 2.25”)
- K1 (0.25”, running total 2.5”)
- Chart A (2.75”, running total 5.25”)
- Chart B (1.375”, running total 6.625”)
- Chart D (0.875”, running total 7.5”)
- Chart C (1.375”, running total 8.875”)
- Chart A (2.75”, running total 11.625”)
- (this is the centre of the front or back) K1 (0.25”, running total 11.875”)
- Chart A (2.75”, running total 14.625”)
- Chart B (1.375”, running total 16”)
- Chart E (0.875”, running total 16.875”)
- Chart C (1.375”, running total 18.25”)
- Chart A (2.75”, running total 21”)
- K1 (0.25”, running total 21.25”)
- Chart E (0.875”, running total 22.125”)
- Chart C (1.375”, running total 23.5”)
- P1 (0”, running total 23.5”)
- repeat all that once more (23.5”, final total 47”)
You can see that, given the "ground rules" for combining the charts that I mentioned earlier, the replacement of "Chart A, K1, Chart A" with "K3, Chart F, K3" or "K1, P1, K1, Chart F, K1, P1, K1" wouldn't work, because then you'd have a knit stitch right after finishing Chart C and right before starting a Chart B (which is against the "ground rules"). So you're sort of stuck with replacing "Chart A, K1, Chart A" with simply "Chart F", which really doesn't work, because "Chart A, K1, Chart A" is 5.75" wide and "Chart F" is only 4.5" wide. That's a difference of 1.25". That means you'd have to put something extra on each side of the Chart F that's 0.625" each.
What I did think might work was replacing "Chart A, K1, Chart A" with "P2, K1, Chart F, K1, P2". The extra P2s would throw off the consistency of the spacing between the charts a bit (which is probably why I didn't think of it originally), but if you don't mind that look, it could be a winning solution! Again - SWATCH FIRST if you're trying to do this. If it turns out too big, you might try substituting "P1, K1, Chart F, K1, P1" instead; if it turns out too small, you might try "P3, K1, Chart F, K1, P3" instead...you get the idea.
At last, the end of this post
Anyway, I know all that is very long and complicated, but I thought that, for those who want to forge ahead with significant changes to the sizing, all this extra info might be helpful.
Enjoy the knitting!