A little bit of this and, a little bit of that, makes a little bit of me.

Love versus Obsession

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…)


Comments on: "Love versus Obsession" (6)

  1. Nancy L. Rogers said:

    Sarah, you inspire me to complete projects. Thank you for your many posts and photos. I’ve tried to add you to my friends on Ravelry, but there is a movie which begins with a road sign showing Wallowa Lake and Joseph that pops up right over the place where I could click to add you as a friend.

    Would you add me as a friend on Ravelry? You can find me as: NancyRogers

    Nancy L. Rogers in Hershey, PA where it really does smell like warm chocolate most mornings

  2. Such helpful advice for swatch-lazy people! Now why didn’t I think of that… (beating my head), let alone of many more clever suggestions and tricks you shared with your readers!

    You are a knitter par excellence, apart from your other gifts and talents! Thank you Sarah!

  3. Okay, Jen here. Hmmm… I feel like I must defend myself…lol. You see it’s like this: I’ve noticed my gauge is rarely consistant, from fiber to fiber, from needles to needles…and I have learned recently that it is important to use the same needles (bamboo or nickel coated) for the swatch as the sweater,,, butthere’s other variables too : Not realizing that when the garment is knitting up without thinking (like watcing a movie or reading something while knitting) I may be knitting tighter… blah blah blah.. (don’t watch horror movieunless you want to tighten things up. This is going to sound ridiculous, but no matter how well I think I’m swatching, I usually have a result that is too dense. Now, I think I am tempted to figure gauge, then purposely knit with the next size up needles. Yes, my red cardi is really dense and very tightly knit. If I am thinking about anxious things while I knit, it translates into the knitting… sweaty hands make more friction , and so on, than the relaxed carefree loose knitting of the swatch. So you see, I’m convinced that even if I were to swatch bigger and prewash, etc, I bet I’d still have too-dense fabric. What is strange is that this is so mostly with 100 percent wool, less so with cotton and blends. I know, sounds like I’m making excuses. I don’t think I really want to rip out the sweater as in it’s pre-steeked phase (still a pullover essentially) it really *does* fit… so, this is the second part of my defense : body image. Yes, body image seems to play into it a lot. For instance, I have put on a lot of weight in recent two years (blasted perimenopause!) and well, thinking one measurement seems right, oh, at the bust, say, and the waist. (but I am just knitting straight up, so I only took, the bust measurement , assuming (still) that it’s the widest measurement on my torso. Can you believe I am almost wrong???? I mean , that’s what’s crazy, the fact is the red cardi …I mean ‘pullover’, for example, just feels tight. Sure, the bust is snug, but the the whole torso does not fit like I want it too because I have been in denial about how tighter things fit. Get this : I only wear looser shirts and such, allowing myself plenty of room to deny. So back to my long-winded explaination of why I don’t want to rip. CUz I’m On a DiEt and LoSing Weight ! I don’t want this sweater to be knit all over again, because as it is now, I am going to have so much gratification of tossing it on (steek’d and all, with buttons (vintage wooden ones I bought) for *next Autumn*. So go ahead and boo and hiss Sarah, you have no idea , being so slender and gorgeous 😉 …. do you? 😉

  4. Oh wow, I can not believe I did not bow down and thank you from my heart. Sarah, the lessons you have shown me about gauge and swatching, well, let me just say, (Red Cardi aside) that I will ALWAYS do it the RIGHT way from NOW ON… for eternity. Thank you a million ZILLION times xxxxxooooxxxxxxx. (now, let me bake you a cheesecake to show my gratitude ! 😉

  5. I forgot to mention another thing. Forgive me for taking a third post to say this : but (Red Cardi aside) I really might consider frogging the sweater for another reason entirely. THis may sound really crazy, but , …. (backstory : being a lousy swatcher, I’m an equally lousy yardage calculator, and clearly need to learn how to knit at a very basic level around some of these issues. To make up for the fact that I am not confident about my all-over size, or yardage of yarn, I way over-buy to make up for it, and well, as things often go, by the time the sweater is finished , the yarn has been discontinued and I can’t return very well. Fortunately the balls were only $2.50 or something insanely inexpensive.)…. but…I have SIX balls left over, thinking I’d only have a couple or three. SO… that all said… I’m thinking, since I just love this yarn for the heather’d red that it is , that I’m salivating over a possible red Fisherman Sweater… like one of AliceSTarmore kinds…. so if I rip it out , it wont be to knit it up again into a fair isle seamless yoke, it will be to knit it into a textured cardigan. Just Sayin’ 🙂

  6. […] if I don’t get out as a person–I can be nice online too.  (Oh yeah, I made another Brainy Zany in wee size that fits a preemie/newborn….and it went home with my knitterly friend Sami […]

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