Posted by: GourmetGirl | October 25, 2011

Gauge and More Gauge

I have said before: “You can never talk about gauge too much.”

Gauge is sooooo important when knitting something you want to wear. A shawl is forgiving – larger or smaller than the attended gauge will not make you throw it into the bottom of your closet. But to actually wear a sweater? Swatching and gauge is your biggest friend!

For years I thought I understood gauge. I was an accomplished knitter – I would just “correct the pattern” so it would let me have a happier outcome. Had I really understood and had taken time to swatch and block I would not of had to “correct” so much!

Also, another thing to remember is that not every employee at the yarn store understands gauge either! Once, with pattern book in hand and a yarn chosen that I thought was similar to the suggested yarn, I asked for guidance. She looked at the needle size recommended and told me to use size 9 needles – which I purchase along with the book and yarn.

Off I went to knit happily along. The yarn worked up lovely in stockinette – but I had to “adjust” because the sweater was looking on the large side. Now I know: with the size of yarn and needles I used why the sweater grew and always felt streatchy and baggy when worn.

Today, I would use size 5 needles with that same mercerized cotton yarn! It still would have worked up beautifully with a tighter stitch and it would have not “grown”. And the funny thing is – that the gauge would not have been that different!

Yarn can be tricky. Some is more “spongy” than others and can have a different feel and tightness when knitted. And then blocking can change the final outcome as well. Some yarns can have tremendous play when wet! Try knitting a gauge with 3 different types of needle sizes. One higher than you think and one lower than you think. You can even try one 2 lower than you think! Block and see if you can get the same gauge without over stretching or over smushing.

I know you can’t wait to cast on your new project! Your time up front can save you!

Remember, when you get more volume and weight when knitting your project – you can have a different gauge, too. That is why I am a huge fan of using smaller needles to obtain your gauge! Your drape will still be lovely (you should never “fight” to insert your needle into a stitch) and it will “grow” less.

Different yarn, different knitter, different tension. These combinations are for a long discussion! But can be crucial for your final outcome and final happiness.

And I always wish you – Happy Knitting, Nancy

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