Monday, May 4, 2009

Adventure Sweater 1 - Gauge

Hello, and welcome to Mary's Adventure Sweater. Today we'll be discussing gauge.

You really need a gauge swatch for this sweater (you'll be improvising enough with the design since there's no pattern as such) so you might as well treat it like part of the overall knitting experience and enjoy yourself. Pick out some stitches you like and try different needle sizes until you find something you can see working with for a while:

Because I'm mixing yarns I found I had to drop a needle size in the self-striping yarn to match the stitch sizes, and that means my stitches per inch will be particularly important during the Adventure.

My gauge swatches are stocking stitch for three reasons:

I don't have a lot of yarn to work with and short of lace, stocking stitch gives you the most mileage.

I'm using two very beautiful self-patterning yarns that will stand alone without cables or fancy stitches.

The structure will be complicated enough without keeping track of cables and fancy stitches.

Size sort of matters here. You should probably make your swatch 6-8" square so you can really see what you're getting into, but I won't tell if you cop out at 4" because that's what I did too.

The swatch will give you stitches per inch and rows per inch. Helpful, yes. But wouldn't it be nice to know how many stitches you get to a yard? Here's the trick: partway into the swatch, at the beginning of a row, stop and measure out 36". Tie a slipknot to mark the spot:

Then start the row and keep knitting until you hit the knot. That's how many stitches you get per yard. Later on, if you decide you want to add more pieces - sleeves, for example - you can use a yardage calculator to help determine how much you'll need.

Now untie the knot and keep going. When you get to the end of the swatch, you should really cast off and cut the yarn, but if you're short on yarn like me, there is a cheat. Don't cut the yarn! Pull a big loop through the last stitch and secure it with something. I used a notched plastic stitch marker:

When you do your wet blocking, you'll be able to keep the ball of yarn and maybe even the loop out of the water.

But wait! Don't wet block yet! First, measure the swatch for stitches and rows per inch.

Okay, now you can wet block. Technically, you want to dry the swatch as you would the finished sweater, perhaps clipping a bag of marbles to the bottom and hanging up if you think it will be heavy and stretch out. If you don't like how it looks, you get to start all over again.

When the swatch is dry, check the stitches and rows per inch again. Spot any difference? My two swatches shrank just the teeniest bit, which tells me I should err on the side of big when eyeballing how many stitches I want to add in as I go.

I took a lot of pictures of my swatches before I ripped them out because I couldn't believe how beautiful they were. When I did rip them, they were very wiggly! I spent some time making pictures with the wiggles:

and when I was done trying to decide whether this one looked more like a Chinese dragon or a sailboat in a storm, I rolled them loosely back into balls. My evil plan is to let those two balls sit and go flat again for a while while I knit with the other ball in each colourway. I'd worry about whether or not that will work if this wasn't all meant to be an Adventure.

Well, that's about all we have time for today. I hope you've enjoyed today's look at gauge, and that you'll tune in next time for Measurements.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Go, girl, go!
Love the yarns, and I applaude anything with just that tiniest hint of the geeky (kind of like angostura bitters, it adds something faintly dusty but subtly wonderful)