Monday, January 9, 2017

What Does Your Gauge Say?

Trying to help knitters knit sweaters that fit is all for nothing if gauge isn't part of the calculation. Gauge is something the knitter has to 'get'.  Both on the needles and in the head.  And there are so many knitters who do not get gauge.  Oh the stories I could tell.

Like Knitter  A,  who asked a fellow knitter what size she  knit because Knitter A  wanted her sweaters to fit just as nicely.  As if the size chosen was the only factor involved in the fit.

Or like the knitter  who said she was searching for cotton yarn because her pattern called for cotton.  As if that was more important than the gauge recommended.

Gauge is all important.  Knowing how many inches around you want your sweater to be is a start. But you can only be sure that  your knitting will give you the correct number of inches IF you knit to the same gauge as the pattern gauge.

Think of gauge  - stitches to the inch - as the number of apples in a box.  The smaller the apples the more it takes to fill the box.  Conversely, the bigger the apples the  fewer it takes  to fill the box.  Apples in a box  -   stitches in an inch.  The smaller the stitches, the more you have in every  inch.

So how does this affect fit?  Well - you know how many inches around you want your sweater to be to fit you nicely because you measured a sweater that fits you nicely.   But you will only achieve that number of inches if your knitting gauge matches the pattern gauge.  If the pattern calls for 5 stitches to the inch, but you are knitting 4 or 6 or 3.5 or 8 or anything but 5 stitches to the inch, your knitting will not end up measuring the same  as the pattern.

To know if you are knitting the same number of stitches to the inch as the pattern recommends, you must DO A GAUGE SWATCH.  And the swatch must be large enough to be read-able - accurately read-able. Not like the knitter with a pattern that called for 11 stitches over two inches, so she cast on 11 stitches and knit two rows.   Really?  Do two rows of knitting in any way provide a good test for a sweater?  Are the same influences at play over 11 stitches as over an entire front or back of stitches? Of course not..

So here's my recommendation for a good gauge swatch.
Yarn and Needles:  Same as you intend to use for the sweater.

How Many Stitches??  Ten stitches more than the pattern gauge calls for.  If the pattern calls for 20 sts/4 inches, cast on 30 stitches.

How many rows?? Knit garter stitch for 4 rows.  Knit stockinet stitch for 40 rows, keeping the first and last three stitches of each row in garter stitch.  Finish the piece  with 4 rows of garter.  What you have created is a piece of knitting which will lie flat because of the garter stitch edges.  A nice flat piece of knitting allows for a nice accurate measurement to be taken.

Treatment:  Before measuring, wash the piece as the ball band on the yarn recommends.  Leave to dry.

Measuring:  One or two stitches into the stockinet section  from the left garter stitch edge, place a straight pin alongside a stitch.  From that pin, measure four inches across the piece and  insert another pin.  Count the stitches between the two pins.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner???   If your stitch count, pin to pin, across four inches is the same as the pattern recommends - YIPPEE!  Start knitting your sweater.
If not, you will have to repeat the gauge swatch with a different needle size.  But how do you know whether to go up or down in needle size?  Well, back to our box of apples.  If there are fewer than 20 apples  in our four inch 'box' that means the apples  are too big to fit 20 of them into that box. We need smaller apples    stitches.  To get smaller stitches, use a smaller needle.  Perhaps the  opposite is the case and there are  more than 20  apples in  the box.   That means the apples   are too small.  You need bigger apples  stitches.  To get bigger   stitches, use  bigger needles.

All this info from the last few days, comes with a guarantee.  If you follow the measuring instructions, the tweaking instructions for waist, bust, belly and back variations, and the gauge instructions and still your sweater does not fit, here is my guarantee:  Grab your sweater, your yarn and your needles, get on a plane, train or automobile  and get yourself to my house.  We'll spend a weekend re-doing your sweater so it's perfect.  There will be refreshments and Fred will wait on us hand and foot so all we have to do is knit.


Vera said...

Thanks Brenda. Now I have a problem....I don't own a cardigan that fits well :-( would it be OK to measure a t-shirt that I like and wear all the time and use that measure,ent for a well-fitting cardigan?? Hmmmmm

Sigrun said...

Well done,Brenda. But knitters also have to remember to monitor gauge all throughout the project, since gauge may change as you become familiar with the stitch pattern, with stress or joy, and after you put the work down for a while. And if say, the body is knit back and forth, but sleeves are in the round, gauge will likely be different between the two knitting styles.
Also, if the project is to be knit in the round, the gauge swatch should be done in the round (or by the faux-in-the-round method).
I really agree with making a larger swatch. But in the Master Knitter program we had to maintain gauge right to the edges in our swatches, so we measured gauge from 1 stitch in from the edges.

Sigrun said...

I hope Brenda doesn't mind me replying to Vera. What you suggest is highly recommended, but still requires a good gauge swatch. The only other provision would be in the case of a large bust compared to shoulder size. In this case some short rows in the bust area (like darts in sewn garments) might be in order. Using a garment works well if the garment is about the same weight of fabric as your knitted fabric will be. If your Tshirt is a light weight one, but you are knitting an Aran or bulky sweater it won't be accurate because the drape of the fabrics isn't the same.

Vera said...

Thanks Sigrun. I just saw your comment now. I did my gauge swatch and am glad I did because I needed to use a smaller needle. Now my top-down cardigan is done until an inch under the armhole. Hope it turns out better than my last one 😁

UplayOnline said...

I don't own a cardigan that fits well :-( would it be OK to measure a t-shirt that I like and wear all the time and use that measure,ent for a well-fitting cardigan?? Hmmmmm

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