I was pretty sure at the end of the last post that the Basketweave sweater was going to be ripped out. I’d rather reknit and get it right than live with a garment I don’t love, and I half expected to start ripping as soon as I finished writing the post.

And yet.

Something, somewhere in my brain said to wait and think about it. So I did.

I asked Branden to try the sweater on again. And again. And again. (He is a very patient man.)

Each time, I tugged and pulled and stood back with tilted head and folded arms to take a good look. Each time, I came back with no clear solution, and no clear idea what I was looking for. But something said to keep looking.

I left the sweater out on a chair in my office. I picked it up and looked at it disconsolately a few times a day, then shrugged and put it back. As I refolded it for probably the 100th time, a little tug at the back of my brain said that it looked shorter than it had just after blocking. Well, that was odd.

I laid the sweater out to measure it again, and it had indeed changed. The length was 33″ and the width was 25.5″ just after blocking, and now the length was 31″ and the width was 24 inches. Shorter and narrower. Hmm.

I’m constantly making my research students crazy asking “is it repeatable?” Bad data is worse than no data, and it’s important to be sure that your measurements are really correct. (Especially if your first measurements were strange.) So, I went back and measured again.

The sweater was a bit shifty in its answers; changing by more than an inch in either direction from one measurement to the next, depending on how I happened to lay it down. I took 4 different sets of measurements, and it did seem to have settled in at about 30.5″ and 23.5.”

Ok, then. But is it repeatable?

I blocked again, this time stretching the sweater wide and then scrunching it down again. Laid out as the wet fabric wanted to (before any interference from me), it was 36″ long and 20″ across. With some scrunching up, I got it back to 33″ and 25.5, intentionally leaving it a little wider for a more relaxed fit.

After drying, I picked it up and shook it, stretched it around a few different ways, had Branden try it on again, and then subjected it to random investigations over the next few days. It’s now measuring 31″ and just under 25″.

So, what exactly is going on?

Well, I think it’s something like this. The basketweave stitch is basically a ribbed pattern, and ribs are very elastic. But they’re not elastic when wet. The wet fabric flops and stretches any old way, behaving more like the loose stockinette that makes up the ribs, but when the fabric is dry and worn, the elasticity comes back into play, sucking it back down to its preferred size.  (Ever tried to squeeze just another inch out of some ribbing by blocking aggressively, only to have it spring back to its original size when you wear it? I have.)

The floppiness in the wet fabric probably is an indication that I knit the sweater at a gauge that’s slightly too loose. If this were stockinette, I’d be sunk, and there’d be no question about ripping back. If the yarn were slippery or didn’t have a lot of bounce, it would also be finished. But the combination of the bounce in the yarn and the structure of the stitch pattern seems to have balanced out the loose gauge and the extra weight. (Of course, the wet the fabric is even heavier and the yarn has no bounce to it, so it just grows all out of proportion.)

Even in its “bounced back” state, the sweater is still about 6 inches too long, so I’ll have to pull back a couple of repeats and reknit the ribbing, but that’s a small adjustment compared to reknitting the whole sweater body. It should also decrease the weight considerably, and it answers any concerns about yardage, since the fabric used in the body is about the same amount needed to finish the second sleeve and I’m quite sure that I have enough left in the skein to finish the first sleeve.

And so, surprisingly enough, it seems that this story has a happy ending after all. I wasn’t expecting this plot reversal at the end of last week’s post, but I’m happy to accept the “miracle” ending. I’m glad I held off on the frogging long enough for the recalcitrant sweater to communicate all that it had to say!