The Little Whale That Would Only Fail

A few weeks ago I posted about the first baby knit that I made once I was feeling up to knitting, after the more miserable effects of my pregnancy had eased and I had started feeling up to just a few slow stitches here and there.

Today, however, I remembered that the little yellow kimono was in fact not the first baby knit that I embarked upon, though it was the first that I finished. In fact, the first baby knit (for my own baby) that I started is still not finished, and I doubt ever will be. It is my very own Fail Whale.
I hate this.After the confidence that the first scan gave us, I decided to let myself dream a little of the future, and imagine ourselves with a little baby, wrapped in precious handmade things, and in my head I envisioned a bright nursery with white and neutral brown and beige tones and a feel of the seaside, filled with whales, lighthouses, light and navy blues, driftwood and the sea-air lightened shades of summer. So, when I went looking for the first baby knit pattern I chanced upon what I thought was the perfect pattern: a little sailor-style sweater with a whale on it. We were months off of knowing whether to expect a girl or boy, but I thought that this cute little knit would suit both equally.

I liked the look of the somewhat oversized sailor collar, and so decided to pick up the $7.50 pattern as my knitting needles were twitching.

Sadly, I don’t think I will ever finish this pattern because of the frustrations it brought me. I know I should have read the Ravelry comments first, but I was away from home and on my iPhone and (excuses). Chief concern among many of the other completed projects on Ravelry is that this sweater does not successfully fit over a baby’s head. I ended up going back and fudging this a little by inserting a vertical neck opening to increase the space for baby’s head to go through, but in the original pattern the neck is continuous and joined across the collar: If you imagine sewing up the vertical neck opening and the space this leaves, it is not baby-head friendly.

I was going to edge the neckline I had created with either some applied i-Cord or a few rows of picked-up rib or garter, and then brace it with a little button-able tab, in keeping with the sailor style. I think this would have worked out, but I had other problems with the pattern, too.

I can see that all of the other projects on Ravelry have used the original intarsia chart for the sweater (the pattern comes with two: one for a sailing boat and the other for the whale, above), and I think if I hadn’t so much have wanted to use the whale chart I would have fared better, as then it might actually have worked, but as it was the chart just did not fit on the sweater.

I have been in touch with the designer who has twice said that it is my gauge (specifically row gauge) that is the issue, but it’s not. I am on gauge and actually it is the maths in the pattern.

The pattern gives a row gauge of 24 rows per 4″/10cm (so six rows per inch). The pattern gives to knit 5 rows of garter stitch (which is about ½”) then you are to knit 1″ of stockinette for the newborn size (so, keep track here: 1½” so far). The whale motif is 39 rows high, which at 6 rows per inch works out to 6½”, added to the initial 1½” gives 8 inches total by the time that the last row of the whale intarsia is knit. However, the pattern gives instruction to start the bind-off for armhole shaping for the newborn size after 6″ from the cast-on edge: 2 inches before, (using the pattern’s gauge), the chart would be finished. If using the sailing boat chart this would likely not present a problem, as the tapering triangle formed by the sails would bring the motif in at the sides enough to avoid the decreases formed by the armhole shaping. However, the motif of the whale runs right up to the top-left corner of the chart, and the newborn sweater makes use of the entire width of the chart up to the seaming line, so you’s have to sacrifice half of the whale’s tail.

I did contact the designer with the issues in the chart, but was told that it was my gauge at fault. I did email back with the maths of the pattern in the given gauge of the pattern, but was told it was my gauge and that many people had issues with achieving the gauge (I did not), so kind of gave up and decided to just improvise around the armholes as best as I could. But, by now, I was kind of fed up of the whole project. I like adapting and modifying things to suit a particular idea or preference of mine, but having to do so to be able to allow a sweater to go over an infant head or actually fit the chart in the given space was just fixing problems rather than putting a stamp of preference on.

When I ran through the gauge maths again the sleeves seemed to be a bit out of proportion. It really wouldn’t have been a big job to have just re-jigged the maths on the sleeves, but I was kind of fed up of the whole thing by this point, and then I didn’t like the way the collar was worked and sat on the shoulder at the neck edge, and then felt disheartened and put it aside until finding it today.
I could edge the sleeves and neckline and salvage at least a little sleeveless sweater from this project, but I don’t know if I have either the heart nor energy to give it any more of my time. It was the project that I’d hoped would bring me through the health problems that had plagued me through much of the pregnancy, but in reality I didn’t start the next project until a long time after casting this aside. Maybe if I find where I have put the cream yarn I was using for the motif and details I will edge the sleeve and neckline to see how it looks, or maybe I will just chuck it back where it was and concentrate on new knits.

16 thoughts on “The Little Whale That Would Only Fail

  1. I tried to knit this for my eldest a few years ago — the ship version not the whale. Just like you, I found the intarsia completely off for the front of the jumper. The ship did fit on, but was quite wonky over towards one side. By the time I realised I was quite far through, so decided to just keep on going. I did and then… …finished the neckline. And saw that it was barely big enough to fit an apple through the top, let alone a baby’s head! So, I too frogged the whole thing in the end, in frustration. Such a shame as it looked like such an adorable little knit.

    1. Those seem to be common findings: that the motif is not centrally placed and that the neck opening is not big enough for a baby’s head. As there are no stitches cast off at the neckline and it is folded over it also can’t be due to the knitter’s bind off being too tight but rather the maths of the pattern. I have a suspicion that the sample was knit in a particular size that did not encounter these problems and that they may have crept in when the pattern has been graded to further sizes without taking these considerations into account or mis-calculating the outcome (so a baby’s head:body ratio is different to that of a toddler or older child, so this might not be apparent in all sizes knit, but as with the motif placement might depend on the size made).

      Sorry to hear of the frogged knit: I hope the yarn became something else wonderful!

  2. Bummer!! I hate when prope can’t take constructive criticism and instead blame things are the incorrect issue. Take pride in your design and help others achieve it!

    1. I will put full notes of the problems I ran into when I put the project on Ravelry. I have decided to add a little cream edging and then will see how it looks – my worry is that the arm openings will look too big as they are (which is odd, as according to the pattern they should have been bigger still – shortened the arm openings to allow for the motif…).

      I can’t be bothered to frog and re-use the yarn simply as by the time the motif, edge stripes and various pieces are put together I am going to be left with a load of lengths that I don’t think I will re-use with any joy. 🙁

    1. I am going to edge it either in some cream rib or maybe knitted-on iCord, and I’ll see how it looks. The ends are too numerous for me to frog and re-use this yarn with any happiness. I think you might be right – it might just about fit Giantmonk. I mean, it won’t go over his head either, but I hope that I’ll find his head far more malleable and slightly less delicate than that of the baby 😛

  3. Personally, I would be a bit miffed at the designer. You’ve done the actual math, based on her given instructions (gauge)……the math doesn’t lie. Even if your gauge were off, the math is sound.

    I was worried when I made a sweater (newborn size) for Stormageddon…..worried that it wouldn’t fit over his fat little head, that it was too short, that it was too long in the sleeves….no, that one was written perfectly and it was a little tight over his head (but there were directions on how to fix that, which I dutifully ignored)….but it was a perfect fit. I should have made one size bigger, though.

    You can’t really argue with math, though. ::sigh::

    1. I did present the maths to the designer with notes on why the gauge given in her pattern could not work with the dimensions also given in the same pattern, but was told that it was my gauge that was off (or rather that a few knitters had mentioned that they had found it difficult to achieve the pattern’s sated gauge, and that was why they were running into difficulty), which of course is not the actual issue at all.

      I think it might be a problem in the grading of the pattern: I think that the elements of this pattern likely work on one particular size, and the size of the chart, neckline, etc have not been graded to other sizes to take this into account (so, the chart will fit on the larger sizes, but not on the smallest, which is the one I had knit). The neckline may be the result of similar grading issues, though looking at the projects on Ravelry this seems to have affected knitters who have made all manner of sizes.

  4. Don’t feel badly about abandoning the project. Your time is precious and life is short! There are so many patterns out there it isn’t hard to find something new to get excited about.

    1. Absolutely! I have knit a good number more little baby sweaters since this first failed one, and this has pretty much just lay forgotten until I found it, moving stuff around for the nursery. I’m going to add a little edging to the sleeves and neck and see if it fits Giantmonk, as per a couple of the other suggestions 😀

  5. this is such a relief! I’ve been fighting with this pattern for months, I thought it was because I’m not really an expert as a knitter, but hearing that much more experienced knitters had issues too makes me feel so much better!!thank you!!

    1. It’s surprising how many people have commented to say that they too have had issues with this pattern! It didn’t seem to have many projects listed on Ravelry, but perhaps it is one of those patterns with many attempts and few uploaded results, perhaps because of the issues.

      he designer did say that they were going to re-write it because knitters were finding problems achieving the pattern’s given gauge (which isn’t the actual issue, but anyway…) but this was a good few months back when I started the pattern and the version I had tried is still live, so this hasn’t happened yet. Maybe when it does it will be without the problems, though I think there are quite a lot of them that need fixing. If you have a look on the accompanying Ravelry projects page and read the comments in some of the projects there you will see that you are definitely not alone. It’s not much comfort, I know, but concentrate your efforts on happier knits! xxx

  6. How annoying! It is a silly designer that does not take heed of constructive criticism from experienced crafters. The only value left in the pattern is a whale motif to be used on something else like a blanket etc. I would be ripping it out with indignance straightaway otherwise it is just a waste of good yarn. What a huge disappointment. You have given us lots of lessons in this post. Thank you for shedding light on the problems in this pattern because it will help everybody else.
    Mary-Anne is right – it is not ok to sell a flawed pattern for $7.50 and you are right that this pattern is not worth your time or energy or yarn any more.

    1. I don’t even think I’d use the chart for anything else. Really, I got it the wrong way around: If I’d had my wits about me a bit more before casting on I should have worked through the maths and seen it was off and could have drawn up a quick whale chart of my own devising*, but at the time I think I was just in need of something where I could follow the pattern and not modify or adjust too much as I was still very poorly.

      * I say ‘should have’, but what I mean is ‘should have if I had wanted to ensure that the pattern had worked’. Of course, really nobody should need to work through the mathematical validity of a pattern to check that it actually makes mathematical sense before casting on. I think the thing that threw me slightly was when I did present the maths to the designer I was just told that my gauge was off (or, rather, that many people had problem achieving the pattern’s given gauge, and that was why I was having difficulties, which isn’t the case at all: the pattern’s gauge does not work with the rest of the pattern). I think it was back in March or April that I had taken the issues to the designer and was told then that it was being re-writted due to the problems people were having with the gauge, but I had a look before writing this post and (at the current time at least it is still the same version of the pattern that remains).

      Hopefully if it is re-written it will work with the gauge given in the pattern, and also the neckline issues that so many people seem to be struggling with will hopefully be resolved, because the idea itself is quite charming little design.

  7. That is frustrating. Could you somehow turn this into something else? Tink back to the arm hole shaping and make a traditional bottom-up sweater? Or a small accent pillow for the nursery? The sailor collar is such a cute idea though! (sjn821 on Rav)

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