If it’s not working, fix it.

So, I promised a post about this sweater, but it’s not an FO post. See, after finishing the sweater, and blocking it, I realized that the sleeves just…don’t fit right.

Not quite finished, because the sleeves are too baggy.

They’re not awful, but they’re just a little too big at the underarm, and end up being a little awkwardly loose throughout the sleeve. They kind of “bag out” awkwardly, especially between the underarm and elbow.

awkward elbow bagginess.

I’m pretty sure I know what went wrong. I’d noticed that the last two sweaters I’d knit from patterns had sleeves that ended up pretty snug on my upper arms, and was trying to avoid that in this sweater, too. So when I picked up the held stitches at arm openings, instead of decreasing away the extra stitches I picked up to close the gap, I left them. Which on a sweater with smaller gauge might’ve been fine, but at 4sts/in, I’d added 1.5” to each sleeve circumference at the upper arm. I just wasn’t thinking!

As for the other sweaters with their tight sleeves – I think that for Wardie, my row gauge on the body ended up being a little bit shorter than the row gauge called for in the pattern (by a tiny fraction of a stitch, but that does add up over the many rows involved in knitting the armscye, so I think the arm openings themselves were a bit on the small side, and then (thanks to stress, I think) my stitch gauge also compressed a bit on the sleeves relative to the body. The sleeves ended up snugger than intended, but still quite wearable.

Likewise with Honeydew, though I think the cause there was the kind of gauge compression that I sometimes get when knitting small circumferences in the round; I didn’t notice any gauge change on the sleeves of my kangaroo-pocket sweater, but I think with thinner yarns/smaller needles, I do tend to get a slightly tighter gauge on small-circumferences in the round.

Anyway, neither of those issues was really at play in the kangaroo-pocket sweater; I’d calculated the size of the sleeve opening and it was what I wanted. I just let a bit of paranoia that maybe my upper arms were thicker than I thought (despite measuring) get to me, so thought I should fudge a bit and add some extra stitches. I mean, my upper arms *have* gotten thicker in the last couple of years, just because that’s a thing bodies do, but I hadn’t realized the extent to which I was letting clothing convince me that something was wrong with my body. Nope! I know how to measure, I know how to calculate gauge, and I just need to trust my measurements and my math.

So…I’m going to be ripping out the sleeves. It’s not going to be fun – I already wove in the ends and blocked it, so it’ll be pretty annoying to try to dig out those ends and unravel them. But if the alternative is a sweater I’ll never wear, then obviously I need to do the annoying hard thing so that I can instead have an awesome sweater that I love wearing!

Baggy sleeves - gonna rip and reknit!

Which brings me to a current topic within the knitting community: the redesign of Ravelry.com (I am deliberately not linking to the site for reasons that will be obvious). I have been a Ravelry user since nearly the beginning, and while I was never a big forums user, I absolutely love being able to organize my projects, my stash, and my library of patterns, and to search through all of the patterns, projects, yarns, etc. It is hands-down my favorite place to visit to just scroll through pretty things and do a bit of knitting daydreaming. Until the redesign, that is. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m a bit neurodivergent. In particular, I have visual processing/visual attention issues and wonky stereopsis, and am photosensitive. I’m also prone to migraines.

Well. My experience of the redesign was one of immediate pain, visual sensory overload, nausea, and the beginning of a migraine. And sadly, I am not alone in that experience. I’m glad that they eventually made it possible to select the “Classic” view (though even that seems slightly different than it used to), and I’m lucky that it seems to be remembering who I am and not forcing me to log into the new design to re-select “Classic” view, but I know many others are being put in that situation, and are having even stronger harmful reactions to the new design. (As many have pointed out, needing to log in through the new design to access the toggle to switch back to Classic View is like saying “the inside of our store is wheelchair accessible – just go up these stairs to enter!”)

As knitters, we are so familiar with the experience of putting a lot of love and excitement into a project only to find that it isn’t working out the way we wanted it to. And we have a few options, when that happens: we can shove the project away in a drawer and give up on it, we can power through with finishing it and then end up with something that isn’t usable, or we can do the painful thing and rip it out to fix it.

I certainly hope that Ravelry does not take the “shove it in a drawer and give up on it” approach – the site has become absolutely central to the knitting community, and though the Ravelry team itself is still very small, there are many, many people who depend on Ravelry for their livelihood. This does make me wonder about how wise it is to be dependent on tools which you do not control for your livelihood. Ravelry wouldn’t be what it is for anyone, including the people who run it, if it weren’t for how easy they made it to sell your patterns, and to have people find your patterns in the first place; in other words, they wouldn’t be what they are if not for the users, and they wouldn’t have those users if they hadn’t made the site the way they did. There are many designers who wouldn’t have the careers they have if not for the existence of Ravelry. But this has created a set of dependencies that make it so that any change made by the small team at Ravelry has incredibly big ramifications for those who use the site, whether that’s because it’s the source of their livelihood, or a large part of their social world, or simply the place they go to unwind…it is not a trivial thing for any of the folks who use the site to lose access to it, but that’s effectively what has happened as a result of the redesign.

Sadly, though, based on the communications coming from the Ravelry team, it seems that the approach being taken is the “power through with finishing it anyway, and then end up with something that isn’t usable (for a subset of their users)”. And look, I get it – a lot of love and work was poured into the redesign, and I am completely sympathetic to how much it hurts to put in all of that work on something you think is beautiful and then have people tell you it doesn’t work for them. But if you knit a sweater for someone, even if you loved the pattern and put in tons of work to knit it, you wouldn’t force the recipient to wear it if it didn’t fit them, would you? If it actually *hurt* them? No, you wouldn’t – you’d rip it out, and you’d work with them, take their measurements, get their input, and try to create something that actually works.

Accessibility needs to be a central goal of any website that wants to claim to be inclusive. And it is especially important given the central role that Ravelry plays in the livelihoods of so many in the knitting community. I hope that Ravelry will work with web accessibility experts (these people do exist!). And I hope that they will show the same willingness as with knitting to “rip and reknit” as needed until they have a site that does not exclude anyone.


2 thoughts on “If it’s not working, fix it.”

  1. This is a really good take on the Rav situation. I, too, hope they “rip and reknit”. The NuRav didn’t affect me (though I prefer the old look) but I’ve heard too many stories like yours, and was really disappointed with their reaction, starting with how long it took them to address the complaints at all.

  2. That is such a great analogy. The whole situation with Ravelry right now — even more than the redesign itself, their lack of meaningful communication about the issues is something I find extremely troubling — is leaving me feeling very disillusioned, but there’s just nowhere else to go to have access to all those patterns and exposure to such a wide range of designers. I really hope that some sort of genuinely workable solution can be found somewhere, somehow.

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