For the most part, I don't follow patterns. It's not that I can't, rather, I usually just have a pretty good idea of what I want to make and how to get there from here. Often, when other needleworkers learn this about my work, they think that it's pretty impressive and a sign of being highly skilled. More accurately, however, it just makes me more prone to "brain farts."
So, a couple of weeks ago, I started crocheting a vest from a pattern written by Practical Crocheter. I was careful in selecting the yarn, choosing the size to make, and making a gauge swatch (yes, I do swatch--designing your own patterns will do that to you). My gauge was dead on, the size I had chosen looked perfect, and I know that my gauge usually does not change over the course of the project. So, on an evening when I was feeling particularly productive, I made the back. The next day I measured it and, saw that it was NOT good. I puzzled about it for over an hour. I had done everything right: my gauge, my number of stitches. What could possibly have gone so wrong that the vest was over three inches too small around?!
Eventually, my tired eyes got their second wind, and I finally saw that I had used the numbers, not for the size medium (which I had sooo carefully chosen), but for the size small instead. The evening was consumed by frogging.
The next day, I made the back again, this time following the correct size. The following day, I made the left front. On the day after that, I completed the right front. On the fourth day, I sewed the seams, tried it on, and saw that it was STILL not good. "What now?" I thought, as I told myself that the three inch gap between the fronts had nothing to do with weight gain (a reasonable assumption, I later learned, as there had been none).
As it turned out, I had relied too much on the pattern. I failed to calculate the measurements of the individual pieces, and simply relied on the total measurements given. The size I chose had the perfect measurement across the shoulders, but not around the bust. Out come both fronts. I used my guage to figure out how many more stitches I would need on each front to make the vest work, and remade the fronts according to my new numbers. So now, I'm a little burnt out on this project. I did finish remaking the fronts, and I completed the collar, I just can't quite muster the energy to do the plackets and edging.
The moral of the Twice Made Vest? Being careful in following a pattern exactly is all well and good, but relying on one blindly doesn't work very well. When you find the size you want to make, and figure out what hook or needle will make gauge, use the gauge to figure out how big the various pieces are by themselves. Use those numbers to compare specific pieces to specific parts of your body. In other words, blind faith doesn't work.