I have never liked arithmetic. That, and actual numbers and the awful, cold formulaic logic of numbers. Maybe I don’t like them because I’m a total failure at using them. When I first took the math SAT, my score was so low that I was asked to do it over. My score didn’t improve much on the second take.
I have never mastered how to do percentages on a calculator. I can set up spreadsheets to keep track of expenses and such. But I don’t see the bigger picture of what the numbers mean. Basically, I’m innumerate.
Definition of innumerate: marked by an ignorance of mathematics and the scientific approach
: unable to understand and do basic mathematics
I’m not just ignorant and unable to understand, but actually terrified by numbers and my knowledge that I can’t make sense of them no matter how hard I try. Thankfully, I have a best friend who is a whiz at math; he can do things like percentages in his head! And he’s patient, very patient. I also found a financial planner to handle my money because I’m so clueless.
But being innumerate has far-reaching consequences, even effecting my craft. Take, for example, knitting…
“Obtaining the correct tension is perhaps the single factor which can make the difference between a successful garment and a disastrous one. It controls both the shape and size of an article, so any variation, however slight, can distort the finished garment.”–from Rowan, The Lima Collection.
On the left, the photo in a Rowan pattern book of a cardigan sweater I just loved and decided to make–despite not making things for myself. The sweater looked so cute, so gamine.
So I bought outrageously expensive yarn (Classic Elite Yarns, Kumara–85% extra fine merino; 15% baby camel), and jumped right into knitting the sweater. Knitting without doing the “swatch” one needs to do BEFORE knitting a whole sweater.
Patterns are very specific as pattern makers actually want you to make something that fits, and that looks and fits just like the sweater they painstakingly designed. The swatch ensures that the sweater you make–with the yarn you have chosen, and with the size needles and the tightness of your knitting–will end up fitting you. You really do have to succumb to making a swatch if you want your long hours of knitting and the expense of the yarn to come out as something you can wear.
But I can’t make a swatch! I’m innumerate! I have NO IDEA how to do the math to adjust my knitting to match the pattern! (I do love that the swatch directions are referred to as “tension.” OF COURSE there is tension! Look at all those numbers!) From these directions, one allegedly can see exactly what adjustment is needed to have the sweater come out correctly. You could, for example, knit on larger–or smaller–needles. Or see that the yarn you bought won’t do, and find another that will work. I suppose there are many options. Options for the number savvy majority.
For the innumerate, there is only a flooding sense of shame at our inability to understand what it all means and how to adjust. Better, therefore, to lunge ahead, skip the swatch, pretend we are gifted with an innate sense of “what will work,” and knit the whole thing on a lark and a prayer, put it all together, purchase expensive buttons, and then, and only then, try the thing on, assuming–really, just wishing–that it will fit.
The loose, shroud-like, very expensive garment in the photo on the right, shows the sweater I made without a swatch. It has been sitting in the Closet of Shame for about 4 years now. It’s too big. The sides of the cardigan don’t button up evenly, so one side droops. The neck is as big as the waist of the sweater and yawns wide and shapelessly. In the shroud, my breasts look like the humps of the now-grown camel whose fur went into the yarn that I knit the sweater with. The overall effect of the sweater is singularly unattractive.
But, as I said, it’s expensive. I had purchased everything high-end this one time: pattern book, yarn, and buttons. And, it’s also soooo soft. It wouldn’t be right to give it to Goodwill in this unfinished, droopy shape. And I did make it as a treat for myself. I have to salvage it somehow. Without any numerically-charged directions.
What am I thinking? There are no directions at all for fixing this garment-gone-wrong, this shroud knit without a swatch! I’ll have to make something up. How can I go wrong?
(Any suggestions on how to “fix” this sweater? Leave them for me in Comments.)