Thursday, 21 August 2014

Belcarra Beginnings

Hooray!  I sorted out the yarn, the hook; time to get started on my version of Robyn Chachula's Belcarra Cardigan.

Starting with the back of the cardigan, this post explains how to adjust the pattern for a different gauge.

To find out how I devised the yarn & hook combination for the desired fabric (DK yarn & 5 mm hook), please refer to my previous posts* about swatches.


The gauge of my swatch did not match that of the pattern.

There were fewer stitches per cm/inch than the recommended pattern gauge.
That meant my row of 20 stitches would be much longer than Robyn Chachula's row of 20 stitches. My test swatches (right) illustrate the difference on a small scale.

Both swatches are the same number of rows and stitches. The left swatch matches the pattern gauge.The right is at my chosen gauge.

If I followed Robyn Chachula's pattern precisely, without adjusting for a different gauge, I imagine that the left swatch could represent Robyn Chachula's pattern and the right swatch, my finished product.

If I crocheted the same number of stitches in each row as the pattern, my finished cardigan would be like the right hand swatch: much bigger than the intended size and it wouldn't fit at all!


Multiple steps: 
  1. Study the pattern (construction/method) 
  2. Determine the correct dimensions for my size 
  3. Work out how many stitches and rows I need at my gauge to achieve the same dimensions.

1. Study the pattern

I am a visual learner and I love it when patterns have a diagram (also known as a schematic).
The schematic shows me the shape of the finished piece, how it's constructed and how large it needs to be.

This cardigan "is worked in one piece from back to front … beginning at lower back working up and over shoulders, ending at lower fronts. The collar, body and cuff ribbing are stitched directly onto body."

Firstly, make sure the pattern has a size that will fit.  I am usually the smallest size or smaller (as in the case of the Petal Pullover).

The original pattern schematic has all of the dimensions for all sizes. The visual clutter of so many numbers can be confusing or tiring for me (having to sort through which is the right number every time I refer to the diagram) and increases the risk of reading the wrong information by mistake, especially with fatigue looking over my shoulder.

I always work from a copy of the pattern–never the original.  I carry my crochet projects around with me and by the end of a long project, my pattern notes can get quite scrappy and worse for wear (like a favourite pair of shoes at the end of their life).

Go through the copied pattern and circle or highlight all of the numbers pertaining to that size in a bright colour. I usually use red pen, but any colour that contrasts with the original text colour(s) will do.  My printer ink is water soluble so highlighters usually create a muddy mess for me.  Ballpoint pens dry quickly and don't seep through the paper to the other side.

I like to photocopy or scan the schematic on its own and enlarge it separately so I can write my own notes all over it without making a mess on the original pattern printout. I will either edit the scanned picture to remove unnecessary numbers or use correction tape or white-out fluid on the printout to cover them.

2. Determine the correct dimensions

On the blank schematic, add the dimensions suggested by the original pattern for the chosen size. Again, red pen is useful because it correlates to the red circles around the size numbers on the pattern and won't get confused with my own notes which I make in pencil.

For fine tuning, grab a tape measure and compare the pattern's dimensions with one's own body measurements and against similar garments that already fit properly.  If there is a difference, write the corrected or chosen measurements on the schematic.

I have chosen the smallest finished size where the garment circumference is 33 inches around the bust to fit the body measurement of 32 inches at the bust. For this size, the width of the back panel is listed as 43 centimetres (17 inches).

Green marker ring = right side
Purple marker ring = wrong side
I want my Belcarra cardigan to be a generous fit to wear over multiple layers.

I compared it with my denim jacket which is also worn as an outer layer.  The back panel of my denim jacket measured 46 centimetres and is very comfortable so I adjusted the cardigan schematic to make the back width 46 centimetres (18 inches) also.

How long should the back panel be?
On the schematic the front panels and the back panels were the same length as each other.

Using the pattern information, the total length of the cardigan from the top of the shoulder to the bottom edge of the ribbing is:

half the rows of sleeve panel across shoulder + back length + bottom ribbing

(33 cm / 2 or 16.5 cm) + 37 cm + 8.6 cm = 62.1 cm (round off to 62 cm)

(13" / 2 or 6½") + 14.5" + 3.4" =24.4" (round off to 24.5")

Total length of cardigan in smallest pattern size = 62 cm / 24½ inches

I am short;  no doubt about it.  I also use a wheelchair regularly.  A long jacket can be problematic either getting caught in moving parts or difficult to take off because I am sitting on it.

My ideal cardigan length is a compromise: long enough to keep me warm but not too long that it gets caught in my chair. I used the measurements of other clothes to decide upon 58.5 centimetres (23 inches) for the new length of my cardigan.

An understanding of the pattern design and garment construction can help you to choose where to make your modifications. I will adjust the length of the cardigan in the back and front panels.  By keeping the ribbing and sleeve panel the same as the original pattern, I can work out the new back length like this:

New total length ˗ ribbing ˗ half sleeve panel rows = back panel length

58.5 cm ˗ 8.6 cm ˗ 16.5 cm = 33.4 cm (round off to 33-34 cm)

23" ˗ 3.4" ˗ 6½" = 13.1" (round off to 13")

New personalised back panel length = 34 cm / 13 inches

3. How many stitches and rows?

The answer lies in the gauge measurements which were tabled in the previous post "Tension Headaches". It is best to decide whether to work in centimetres or inches and stick with the same measuring system throughout a project.  My examples have been calculated separately in metric and Imperial measurements respectively to give you examples of the maths.

Swatch E has a tension of 17 stitches across 10 centimetres (4 inches). From that information I can work out (A) the average size of each stitch and (B) how many stitches will fit into 1 centimetre (or inch).

 (A) divide the number of centimetres ( or inches) by number of stitches

10 cm / 17 sts = 0.588 cm (round off to 0.59 cm)

4 inches / 17 sts = 0.235" (round off to 0.24")

(B) divide the number of centimetres (or inches) by the stitch size

1 cm / 0.59 cm = 1.69 sts per cm

1 inch / 0.24 = 4.17 sts per inch

When gauge = 17 sts across 10 cm (4 inches):

(A) each stitch will measure 0.59 cm (0.24") across

(B) there will be 1.69 sts per cm (4.17 sts per inch)

Use the same basic formulae to work out (C) average height of each row and (D) how many rows it will take to measure 1 centimetre (or inch).  Swatch E measured 11 rows over 10 centimetres.

(C) Divide the number of centimetres (or inches) by the number of rows

10 cm / 11 rows = 0.9090 cm (round off to 0.91 cm)

4" / 11 = 0.3636"  (round off to 0.37")

I love the patterns created by dividing by 11. Can you see them? 11 is a fascinating number!

(D) Divide the number of centimetres (or inches) by the row height

1 cm / 0.91 cm = 1.098 cm (round off to 1.1 rows per cm)

1" / 0.37" = 2.703" (round off to 2.7 rows per inch)

When gauge = 11 rows over 10 cm (4 inches):

(C) each row is 0.91 cm (0.37") tall 

(D) there will be 1.1 rows per cm (2.7 rows per inch)

With these vital figures, I can adjust the pattern to meet my personalised specifications as noted in Step 2.

Recycling: large bread tags make cheap and convenient bobbins.

4. Practical Answers

On my pattern notes, I will write down the gauge measurements that we just discovered above:

1 st = 0.59 cm (0.24")
1 row = 0.91 cm (0.37")
1 cm x 1 cm = 1.69 sts x 1.1 rows
1" x 1" = 4.17 sts x 2.7 rows

My cardigan's back panel needs to be 46 cm wide: 

Foundation = 46 cm x 1.69 sts = 77.74 sts

(Foundation = 18" x 4.17 sts = 75.06 sts)

"But you can't crochet a fraction of a stitch!" Of course not! Round it off to either 77 or 78 stitches or the nearest whole number that satisfies the number of repeats or multiples in the stitch pattern.

In this case, the stitch pattern is based on multiples of 2 + 1 which will give an odd number.

Therefore, my foundation chain will be 77 stitches long. (75 sts would also work but I like to err on the bigger size in this instance.)

That's where I began and kept on crocheting without worrying about the rows until I had reached approximately a third of the way through to the desired length.

My back panel was pretty much a giant swatch of sorts. The bigger the swatch, the more accurate the gauge. I took time to double check my gauge from the test swatch (that I made weeks before) against the gauge on the actual garment (and I'm glad I did).

Back panel (up to yellow ring marker) with the beginnings of the sleeve shaping.
It's just like a giant swatch!
The stitch gauge was the same but the row gauge was different. (This is when I discovered mistakes in the swatches - I was supposed to work into spaces but had worked into stitches instead thus making the test gauge inaccurate.)

I could work out the corrected row tension based on the new information that 30 rows equals
25 cm. The previous measurements were abandoned and I wrote down the new reference in big dark letters:

The back of my cardigan was 40 rows high.
The row counter is connected to the garment with a stitch marker.
The counter doesn't fit on my hook and 

would get in the way there anyway. 
I have completed 42 rows and am ready to start Row 43 of work.
1 st = 0.59 cm (0.24")
1 row = 0.83 cm (0.33")
1 cm x 1 cm = 1.69 sts x 1.2 rows
(1" x 1" = 4.17 sts x 3 rows)

The cardigan back needs to be 34 cm (13 inches) long:

34cm x 1.2 rows = 40.8 rows

Depending on the row pattern, I could work 40 or 41 rows. Since the pattern is repeated every 2 rows, I chose to work an even number of rows.

I worked 40 rows and then checked the size against my body and my jacket before commencing the sleeves. Looking good.

Links & References

Belcarra Cardigan, designed by Robyn Chachula, Interweave Crochet, magazine, Winter 2010:

Chachula, Robyn, crochet designer

*Related Posts

Lupey Loops, "Cardigan Swatches", blog entry, 30 July 2014:

Lupey Loops, "Tension Headaches", blog entry, 7 August 2014:


  1. Hi! I just wanted to thank you for your lovely sweet comment on my blog about the book Maaike made (to make a long story short :-)). Yes, the original idea is still there, so maybe somewhere in future I'll end up making my own book. :-) Have a lovely day! Best wishes from Holland, Annemarie

    1. Groeten uit Australië, Annemarie!
      Ik wou dat Maaike's boek in de winkels hier was. Dan zal ik dat boek kopen om iets van Hollandse haken op mijn boekenkast te hebben.
      Ik heb ook een voorgevoel van een leuk boek met jouw naam daarop! :-)
      I also hope my Dutch makes sense! Ik heb vielen woorden vergeten, hoor!
      I do hope you get to see your ideas in print. I, too, have some book ideas but have a lot of work to do before they are ready to be published.
      A toast to future enterprise - cheers! Thank you for taking the time to visit Lupey Loops.

  2. That looks great already! So much work though (the reason why I didn't dare to make clothing so far...)! Looking forward to see the finished product!

    Take care

    1. Thanks, Anne. It isn't *that* much work. It just looks like a lot because I have included extra calculations for people who like to work in inches.

      I work in cm most of the time except my blocking board grid is in inches! If I wasn't posting the maths on the blog, I wouldn't have done the imperial calculations at all.

      The swatch stage felt like a lot of work because I kept putting them down and coming back to them in between other things so my mind wasn't very focussed on the swatches. Normally, when I am testing my tension, I do it at once with no other distractions.

      I tried to include a lot of detail in my explanation because that is what I appreciated when I was first learning to work these things out. I am hoping that future posts about garments will be more streamlined, possibly in note form instead of prose.

      I do appreciate your encouragement and don't let my complications put you off garments. If you can fit into a standard size and have the right yarn/gauge, you won't need to make any pattern adjustments at all - just grab your hook and go! :-)

  3. The colour you're using is so pretty, love it!

    I've also been scared to do actual big clothes like sweaters, but one day.. One day I'll be brave enough ;) Can't wait to see how your cardigan is going to look when it's finished!

    1. Don't be scared, Amber!
      Precisely what is it that worries you:
      - measuring and fit?
      - construction and sewing?
      - something else?
      My suggestion is to start simply and/or start small.
      This will help you to understand the basic concepts without a big commitment of time or expense.
      I will post some more ideas in a separate post soon.

  4. Thank you for sharing!
    Swatching is one of the things that is still intimidating to me, and more often than not I'm just too lazy.
    But for garments it is absolutely necessary, so I'll save this for future reference!

    1. Oh dear! You should not feel intimidated by a swatch or the making of one (or three (or six like me!)).

      I hope I haven't made it look more complicated than it is. The basics are simple.

      Using the pattern's recommended yarn, work a swatch of a decent size (at least 10 x 10 cm) in the stitch pattern recommended with the recommended hook size. Then compare the pattern's recommended gauge/tension with your own swatch.

      If you have too many stitches per cm/inch (i.e., your stitches are too small), you need to change to a bigger hook.
      If you don't have enough stitches per cm/inch (i.e., your stitches are too big), you need to change to a smaller hook.
      If your gauge matches but the fabric is not what you like...then change to a different yarn!
      If the fabric is too stiff, substitute a finer yarn; if too floppy or lacy, substitute a thicker yarn.

      That's the simple way. My project was complicated by the fact that I didn't have anything like the correct yarn in the first place and so needed to change the gauge entirely to get the fabric drape I wanted.

  5. Hello Jodie,

    Thanks for your lovely kind comments on my new blog! So here I am, visiting you in turn! Wow, the above post seems very informative, I must admit my own kind of working sometimes is a bit impatient, I often start without an actual swatch! However, I can see if the amount of stitches is right or wrong after a few rows. This is because so far I have been making up things as I went along and only this summer have started to follow patterns!!! But of course being a bit more methodical makes sense if the size is important.

    Love that purple colour!!!
    Looking forward to seeing your project progressing!
    Have a nice week ahead!
    Ingrid xx

    1. Welcome Ingrid,

      There is a certain freedom in being able to make things up as you crochet. I do enjoy that process of discovery and creativity too. Some people can work from patterns to the letter but find themselves "all at sea" when it comes to making something up from scratch. Everybody has their own strengths.

      Swatching and preparing to make a garment should not be as complicated as it turned out for me but there were many reasons for it this time: partly the yarn rating in the pattern may not have matched the yarn properly, I was fighting fatigue and not totally focussed in the important planning stages, resulting in a "tension headache"!

      These posts are documenting all the silly errors and thoughts that arose from that experience to remind me for next time! :-)

      I am making good progress with my cardigan and learning lots along the way. More pictures soon.
      Jodie :-)