Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rethinking How To Do Gauge!

It's been a few weeks since I've done my blog and it certainly wasn't intentional. As usual the craziness of my day to day life got out of hand and alas, it kept me from both my knitting and my blog.....

My classes at StevenBe's have been a huge hit and I seem to be spending more and more time there. That's not a bad thing but I will need to exercise a great deal of self control when all the fall yarns finally arrive. As you all know by now, my yarn stash is already bursting at the seams and the last thing I need is more. That being said, it's never stopped me before.

As I mentioned before, my classes have been going great but one in particular seems to be especially popular. The class I'm referring to is gauge.

We've all heard it before that gauge is the single most important part of knitting. Yet this is the one step that most knitters continue to ignore time and time again. I think one reason for this is that many knitters don't really understand how to do a gauge swatch and more importantly, fail to translate the information it provides into their actual knitting project.

Another reason knitters may forego the gauge swatch is that they feel the end result proves to be inaccurate. In other words, the garment does not fit even though the gauge swatch said it would.

In my many years of teaching, I have found that making the standard size gauge swatch is inadequate in determining what ones' true gauge is. This is because a knitter tends to "behave themselves" when knitting a 4 x 4 inch gauge swatch. What I mean by that is the knitter wants to get done and on with their intended project so they are extra careful and try to knit to the specified gauge the pattern is calling for. I call this "best behavior knitting".

To avoid falling into this trap, knitters should always make a swatch that is at least 6 x 6 inches. Some experts feel that a proper gauge swatch should be no less than 20% of the widest circumference of a garment. Why? Because the larger the sample means the knitter is more likely to fall into their natural rhythm.

The other pitfall that I see on a regular basis are knitters who don't block their swatches before taking measurements. Fibers change when they are blocked, sometimes significantly. Look at the samples below and you'll see what I mean. All of these samples were knit with the same amount of stitches and rows on the same size needle. Notice how much wider and relaxed the processed swatches are. Can you imagine how much impact this would have your finished sweater? Even if you choose to dry clean your sweaters rather than wash, the fibers will eventually break down.

Hopefully this helps those knitters that have had problems with gauge in the past. If you still have questions, get in touch with me and I'll be happy to help.

Finally, I want to share my beautiful hanging basket that is in it's absolute glory this year. So much so that I've decided to bring it indoors this fall and attempt to keep it alive until spring. It's a Wandering Jew and I would welcome any care tips my readers might want to share.

That is a rap on my knitting adventures and as always, I wish you well with yours!

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