It would be putting it lightly to say that I love knitting. It is more of an obsession. I am never (well, almost never!) without my knitting…or various numerous other hobbies, namely spinning, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, beading, paper art, sketching, photography, and wee bit of writing as my portable hobbies.
My favorite type of knitting has to be, admittedly, lace, cables, and color-work; which I have been obsessed with for a few years now. My favorite type of patterns to knit from are the ones that I make up as I knit. So much room for expression! And self discovery a la mistakes! When I mess up, well, it becomes a part of the pattern! I know. You have heard this from me over and over again. No perfectionist here! My family often teases me about my needles smoking…they say I knit fast. I suppose I do.
The other day, Jen and I exchanged some constructive dialogue on the gauge topic. Her swatches have been telling her falsehoods. Her near-finished cardigan has little to do with the swatch. That’s how I understood it. Right, Jen? Off hand, I think it has to do with internal tensions. Whatever…it is a big pain. I do feel for you, my friend. Gauge becomes important when we have something that needs to fit; as opposed to scarves where exact width isn’t terribly important and you work to desired length. Some folks feel that a small project, such as a hat, doing a swatch is almost as much work as doing the hat. So, based on experience, they’ll choose yarn and needles that are likely to give them desired gauge and just go ahead and start the hat. If it’s too big, turn it into a bag. If it’s too small, then donate it to charity (if it’s machine washable.) By the time you start making sweaters, you’ll be very glad that you learned about gauge!
An easy way to learn gauge is–if I have a finished item where I know the yarn that I used and the size needle that I used. (Even if I don’t remember, it’s still a god exercise in measuring.) Spread it out flat on a firm surface. Make sure I have an area at least 4” by 4” where it’s nice and smooth. Get a good ruler (tape measures can be awkward to use.) Measure a section 4” across and put a straight pin into the fabric at each end of the 4”. Now, count the stitches between two pins. It tells me how many stitches I’m getting in 4”–typical way a gauge is expressed in patterns. If I have too many stitches in the 4” patch, then I need to go up in needle size. For fewer stitches, I’d go down in needle size. Do the same for the length (row count)–which often isn’t as critical as the width (stitch count) because the length is given often in inches (ie work 6”.)
Why the holes in my swatch shown below? It’s an indicator for the size of needle used on the swatch. I used Size 8 needles to accomplish gauge tension in this case. I am very visual. This system is helpful for my design wall. I don’t have to wonder what I used in a swatch down the road. Tying knots at a yarn tail isn’t always safe as knot can get untied over time. Plus, having it right on the fabric surface seems easier to read. For 1/4 size of needles, I would add a purl stitch…two purls for an half size. Get the picture?
Reason for my hanging the washed-and-dried swatch side-way? That’s ‘cuz the design is in such orientation as you’ve seen in the finished cloche. Clothespins were added to the bottom edge after the piece’s been dried. Call me crazy…I like to get a feel how the knit-fabric drapes and behaves before investing time and money in a sizable project. I want to mimic as much in my swatch as I foresee in a finished knit. It saves me a lot of time and undesirable headache in the long run.
Before Jen frogging the beautiful red cardigan, what is her current gauge? Was her swatch washed and dried as the finished sweater would be? Did she knit the swatch as she were going to knit the sweater? Most people’s gauge changes from knitting in the round to back and forth. So if you are going to knit in the round, the swatch needs to be too. With flat knitting, you have some purls in there with stockinette stitch and those may pull your knitting tighter. Don’t short change yourself. Think of this as a huge gauge swatch. When I get ready to knit my sweater again, I will know how this yarn swatches (make sure to keep good notes!) To be a knitter is to rip occasionally (or a lot, depending on life situations.) I find it so true when I am designing.
I vote for Jen to unravel the cardigan and knit it again with proper swatching. You can do it, Jen! I’ll cheer you on. Promise! How do you all feel about Jen’s cardigan? To rip or not to rip?
Happy crafting and keep those creative juices running!
(still doesn’t do texting, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, DiggIt…)