How maths made owls possible…



I recently undertook possibly my biggest knitting project to date. OK, so it was a jumper for a toddler, but still, it, like, had sleeves, and ribbing, and it wasn’t a bag. It was a big deal for me.

I had fallen in love with Owlet by Kate Davies when one of my Knit Night buddies pointed out her blog to me. I chose a marvellous yarn, Artesano Aran in a beautiful deep brown, aptly named Mahogany. Perfect for a winter sweater for Number One Son. I gladly purchased the pattern for Owlet and downloaded it happily, being pleased to note that the pattern for Baby Owlet indeed specified Aran weight yarn.

But oh! Number One Son is no longer a Baby (despite my embarrassing protestations that he will always be MY baby) and so I turned, with some trepidation, to the Kid Owlet instructions. Imagine my shock, sitting there with yarn in hand, when it specified Chunky weight yarn. This causes me an issue for two reasons. Firstly, the only Chunky weight yarn I possess is in a beautiful cream shade, and three year old and beautiful cream shades do not mix harmoniously. And I have vowed that I will only use yarn that I currently stock so that I know my product intimately, all the better to advise my customers with. With a virtual stamp of my foot, I set about wondering how to make Owlet with my chosen Aran weight yarn.

Naturally,  I set myself towards my 100k+ friends on the incredible yarny community Ravelry. I knew that yarn substitution was possible and I knew it would involve calculators but preferred to not undergo this adventure unaccompanied, so I asked for advice from my fellow knitty folks. It was possible, they advised, but a touch of maths was required. This set fear within me, with visions of knit stitches profilerating unimpeding and purl stitches never quite adding up, and no Owls created. My fellow adventurers calmed me though and I set about the maths which I share here in the hope that you will be encouraged in your own yarn and yarn weight substitutions.

Number One Son has a chest of the specified 22″ (handy, that, but it doesn’t actually matter)

In Aran, after swatching, I would get a gauge of 4.25 stitches to the inch.

4.25 x 22 = 93.5 stitches to cast on

It was important that I not just case on 94 stitches and hope for the best, because all future increases and decreases needed to be in the right locations. So I looked in the pattern for the “age group” that required 94 stitches to be cast on, and lo and behold, this jumper knit in chunky yarn and started from 94 stitches would fit a 7-8 year old. Number One Son is three (nearly) but at 4.30am following a particularly bad case of insomnia I came to realise the following profound truths: aran is smaller than chunky, 94 stitches in aran do not equal 94 stitches in chunky, and I would not create a tent but stood a chance to create a beautiful Owly creation that fitted if I knitted to the instructions given for a 7-8 year old. My Ravelry chums reminded me that I should not follow those “older” instructions for length because I would end up with something far too long, so where the instructions stated “knit until piece is x, y, z” I chose the specification for the actual age of my child.

Following some delightfully pleasant knitting thanks for the absolutely wonderfully soft Artesano Aran, a 50% alpaca and 50% highland peruvian wool blend, I insisted on NOS (Number One Son) trying on the partially completed project. OK, so the fact that it remained on my Knit Pro circular needles and the cable was a leeeetle tight did make me question my parental decision to gently garotte my child for the cause of testing it fitted.

And fitted it did. There was some frogging of the yoke thanks to more insomniacal knitting (not recommended) but following a very quiet Knit Night on my behalf where I took in all the hubbub but generally had my head down and needles a clacking, it was finished. Here it is in its nearly finished state, Owls showing proudly:

Owlet partially finished

Owlet partially finished

I chose a three needle bindoff to join the held stitches under the arms, thanks for advice from my friend at Artesano. And then came the big moment….

Owlet Fits
Owlet Fits


And Number One Son likes it!

So the morals of this story are don’t be held back by the yarns specified by any given pattern. Go with the yarn that talks to you, just make sure you’re chaperoned by your calculator 🙂

Happy Knitting

Twit Two Hoo!


One response to “How maths made owls possible…

  1. Pingback: Finishing Thursday! | yarnsville

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