I need a shrug!

Fiery Bolero by Debbie Bliss  
The Fiery Bolero by Debbie Bliss (from Interweave Knits summer 2005)

My sister got married this summer, and we hosted the reception in our back yard. It was a ton of work, but so worth it—what a wonderful evening.

Any of you who've done it know that there are a million details when planning a wedding reception (or any big party), not the least of which is what to wear!

My sister and I found the perfect dress for her, and I found a dress I loved for me, but I really wanted a pretty shrug. I couldn't find one that I liked, though, so I ended up with a tee-shirt-fabric jacket-type-thing with longer sleeves than I wanted. But it was fine and I got lots of compliments on the bright colors that I don't usually wear.

The searching process made me get shrug-on-the-brain, and I've been keeping my eyes open all summer looking for the perfect one.

In preparation for this newsletter I got to have fun looking through back issues of Interweave Knits on CD. I came upon this shrug in the summer 2005 Knits, and oh, how I wish I'd found it three months ago!

It's called the Fiery Bolero, and it's by Debbie Bliss. Inspired by her love of flamenco, Debbie created this short, fitted bolero that's reminiscent of the cropped jackets worn by Spanish dancers. The bolero is knitted in a single piece: Cast on at the lower back edge, worked up to the shoulder, and then each front is worked separately from the neck down. This shrug is going on my list!

This design calls for a DK yarn but I need to make it bigger than the largest size (38"), so I'll use a worsted-weight yarn, or maybe even a heavy worsted.

Or will I? Maybe I want a looser, more airy looking shrug.

Or, should I make the shrug in even smaller yarn, like a sport-weight, and use larger needles to get that open look? I think I'm leaning that way.

So what I'll need to do is make a gauge swatch and rework the pattern a little bit.

A gauge swatch is the most important thing to do if you're going to change a pattern even a little bit, or change yarn. You have to see how the yarn will work with the gauge that the pattern calls for, and you need to base any changes you make to the pattern on your gauge with your yarn and needles.

     Gauge swatch   
  My Maggi's Linen swatch; 4 sts to the inch    

For example, I just swatched a cotton/linen yarn (photo at right) that's one of those yarns that you can knit with many sizes of needles and have it come out looking great (it's Maggiknits Maggi's Linen). I got  4.5 stitches to the inch on size 7 needles, and I wanted to get 4 stitches or or fewer to the inch, so I went up to 8s and voila: 4 stitches to the inch. I think I can live with that!

I also have to decide what to do with the border. I might want to do something a bit softer than a 2/2 rib. Maybe a small ruffle? Or maybe I'll increase at that point and make a 2/2 rib ruffle! We'll see when I get that far.

Tips for Making a Gauge Swatch

Since I've talked so much about swatching in this newsletter, I thought I'd give you some tips for making a good, reliable swatch. These tips are from Sandi Wiseheart, swatcher extraordinaire!

  • Always work the gauge swatch with the needles you intend to use for the final project. Even needles in the same size, if made from different materials or by different companies, can yield different gauges.
  • The gauge in most published patterns is measured after blocking, so be sure to block your swatch (using the same method you will use to block the finished garment) before measuring.
  • Use the exact same techniques in a swatch as you will use in the project. For example, if you are working a Fair Isle pattern, and always float the yarns across the back of your work, be sure to float the yarns in the swatch.
  • For lace, cable, and color work patterns, try to work a gauge swatch that is at least two full repeats of the pattern both in width and in length. Doing so results in a more accurate measurement of the overall gauge: You will see beforehand how the pattern repeats fit together and whether one part of the pattern draws in (or spreads out) more than the rest.
  • To measure gauge in the round: Cast on 30 to 40 stitches and divide them evenly between 3 or 4 needles. Join and proceed as for a flat gauge swatch, but work in rounds rather than rows.

Even the most carefully worked swatch can differ in gauge from a large piece of knitting. The cardinal rule is: The larger the swatch, the more accurate it is. Always check the measurements of a project after you've worked the first few inches to make sure the gauge of the project is consistent with the gauge of the swatch.

I was so happy to find this shrug pattern; I highly recommend Interweave Knits on CD. It's so fun to look through back issues and see the evolution of knitting design through the years, and how so many of the patterns are just as fashionable now as they were when they were brand new.


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