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November 2011
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January 2012

The Importance of Getting Gauge

So ... I started my vest after doing a gauge swatch. I'm getting 5 stitches per inch with size 5 needles; it's a DK weight yarn, a bit on the heavy side, but it is ok. It's kind of thick and thin, which is funky feeling, but that's ok too. I think he's going to like the resulting fabric. It feels good and it's got some interest.


The yarn is Farmhouse Silk Blend (DK weight) -- 34% silk, 33% cotton, and 33% American-grown lamb's wool. It is 350 yards per 4-ounce skein, and I have 5 of them, or 1750 yards. Presumably, that's enough yarn ... but just in case, I have a back up plan to buy more, hehe. It's really nice to work with, and I'm loving it. I wish I had appreciated it more when I sold it. I'm making up my own pattern; it's just a simple V-neck vest, so gauge was really necessary to planning how many stitches to cast on.

How many people just start knitting without doing a gauge swatch? I was always amazed when someone would come in all teary-eyed and say, "It's too big!" -- or too small, and then say, "Oh, I never do a swatch, it just seems like a big waste of time" ... or my favorite, "I always knit to gauge!" Duh. Like their gauge being off is somehow reflective of their ability to knit. Well, it isn't. It's how that particular yarn acts with their tension, and if the size determined in the pattern is going to be the size they want, they better have the sensibility to see what size needle to use to get the same results as the designer did. Pretty basic.

Except ... what if people don't know how to test their gauge? One of the things that became really clear to me when I had a yarn shop was that people who have been knitting for years really didn't know how to check their gauge, or they were afraid to because it was Math and Measurement and Science and stuff, therefore to be feared. The relief I'd see on their faces when I'd say, "Just knit a little piece about this big--" showing with my fingers about a three inch square -- "and bring it in; I'll check your gauge for you" told me this was something they hated and feared. They didn't hate knitting a gauge swatch ... they hated not knowing what to do with it after they had knit it.

When they came in with their swatch, dutifully washed if possible, I would mark off with pins the number off stitches per inch they were supposed to get, and measure between the pins. If the number was right, they had the right gauge and could knit on with a clear conscience, sure that they had gotten the gauge right. If it was too small, less than an inch, they had to make the stitches bigger by using a bigger needle. If it was too big, measured more than an inch, they had to make the stitches smaller by using a smaller needle. Usually one needle size makes a half a stitch difference per inch per needle size. I could tell them what size needle would probably get the desired gauge, but I told them they should knit another gauge swatch. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't. They always left happy, though, and they could finally get the gauge thing. It wasn't scary anymore.

And no, I didn't wash my gauge swatch, so he only gets to wear it if it comes out of the wash ok. Doh!

After Christmas

I got my socks done, three pairs of them in fact: the navy blue ones, a taupe pair, and a greyish-green variegated pair, all for Men with Large Feet. But ... I forgot to take pictures of them. Oh well. 

Now I am finishing up -- making little catnip mice for my three cats, who are mad because it snowed and was cold, although it's 48˚ today and all the snow has melted. I am trying to get all the sock yarn scraps made into an increasingly large afgan. And then there's the laceweight mohair scarf that I knit on a little bit here and there. 

I was surprised (and pleased) when my husband came downstairs with some yarn in hand and asked if I could make a vest out of it. You could have bowled me over. I said yes, yes I could, ummmm ... is there enough yarn to do it?

He replied that there were 5 skeins, just enough for a lovely light weight vest.

Wow. He knew how much yarn it would take, too. 


I got some new knitting books for Christmas! One is Beyond Toes: Knitting Adventures with Judy's Magic Cast-On by Judy Becker. This beautifully photographed book (photography by Vivian Aubrey) has a lot more than socks in it, which is what I have used Judy's Magic Cast-On to make. She also ventures out from "Port JMCO" to investigate other types of cast-ons and their uses. I am planning to try out what things I can. But right now it hurts my brain, hehehe.

The second book is Ultimate Mittens: 28 Classic Patterns to Keep You Warm by Robin Hansen. I remember when Fox & Geese & Fences came out; I was just getting into two-color knitting, and Elizabeth Zimmerman, and I was agog at the wonderful world of knitting that lay before me. I must have knit most of her mittens and hats! Just talking about them makes my fingers itch to knit them again. Robin Hansen's new mitten book has the same effect on me now as Fox & Geese did back then. I am amazed at how many ways to knit a warm, soft, and stylish mittens there are ... and then throw in your own color combinations, and it becomes a bit overwhelming! But in a good way.

My goal for 2012 is to knit with two colors again. I miss it. I think I can do it, maybe not with the joy I did it with two hands ... but I am going to try. And I am going to try to knit a sweater too, and sew it up (I might need help with that!) So much to work on ... luckily I have all the time in the world.

Knitting Quickly Now

I finished my watch cap:


It seems like one little watch cap wouldn't be much knitting, but it was ... 168 stitches on size 1 needles. I'm still having trouble NOT doing knit 2, purl 2.

My black socks, which are really very dark blue, a real Navy blue, are 90% done.


Hopefully they will be done this afternoon. I still have two or three pairs of socks and some Christmas catnip mice to knit if I get the time -- but it will still be a good Christmas if I don't. We shall see :)