Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Playing the gauge game

Okay, time to ask for some help / opinions / words of wisdom. About gauge. I hate trying to get gauge, and to tell the truth, I don't even bother for things like scarves and dishclothes and stuffed animals. I mean, what's the point?

But I'm ready to start Hourglass (okay, I do have a million other things to work on, but I really really want to start Hourglass). I've always been a loose knitter, so I usually go down a size from the suggested needles and my gauge comes out fine. Not so with Hourglass. I need 19 stitches in 4 inches. I knit up a swatch with my size 6, and 19 stitches only comes to 3 1/4 inches. Okay, I tried again on the recommended size 7 needles. Argh, still only 3 1/2 inches. Maybe I'm becoming a better knitter and therefore don't knit so loose anymore. (Hey, a girl can dream!)

So now what. I'll try on size 8 or 9 needles. But then again, the size small sweater is too small and the size medium is too big, so I need to knit between sizes anyway. So how the heck do I figure out what I need my gauge to be???

I am throwing myself at your mercy and asking for any words of wisdom you might have. Help me, please!!


Jillio said...

what does your gauge swatch look like? i read that you should make swatches with garter stitches along the edges to keep it from rolling as you measure. perhaps you can pin the swatch out flat to make sure your measurements are accurate?
maybe adjust your tension? i believe if you're using the corresponding needles with the right yarn, it may just be your tension. going up in needle sizes usually makes the stitches taller, not wider, (for me, anyway) so when i pull them to even them out on the needles, the width doesn't really come out.
you should also wash and dry the gauge swatches to see how they behave. i know sometimes you'll get gauge before washing, and then lose it after washing. or who knows, it might not be at gauge before, but be spot on after washing?
good luck! i rarely swatch, but gauge hasn't been all that critical in most of the projects i've i'll be lookin' for pointers along with you on this one!

Amie said...

Make a BIIIIG swatch - at least six inches, more if you can. Do knit a garter edging, and take your measurement as close to the middle as possible, without pinning or stretching the swatch at all. And try changing needle material too - that is, if you're swatching with wood, try metal, or plastic, or vice versa.

And hey - "better" doesn't mean tighter! The needle gauges they give you are not the gauge of a "great" knitter - they just happen to be the gauge of that particular test knitter.

chris said...

Hmmm...I'm a loose knitter, too, so generally, going down a size or two helps. But seeing as you've done that already, I was wondering if there was a row gauge for this sweater and if your swatch met the row gauge but not the stitch gauge with the 7's. I think knitting a bigger swatch (over 5 inches) will help you get more accurate measurements, too. That's probably the best advice I've followed, and it really made a difference for me, because my gauge in the first few inches wasn't necessarily the case after several more inches. I'm sure other people have better ideas, so I'll be checking back to learn, too. :-)

Jen said...

You probably don't want to listen to me about gauge seeing as I have a tendency to screw up my gauge every time, but here are my $0.02.

Do like Keohinani says and make sure to wash and dry your swatch flat. I try to swatch out a nice even number that's larger than 4x4" in the gauge you're trying to get, so in this case, I'd probably go for something like 24 sts. Hopefully, you'll get a final swatch that's something larger than 4x4" total, so that you can measure out 4" from the middle and count how many stitches that is.

If the swatch makes a fabric that you like, I say go with it since you're not spot on with one of the sizes anyway. Multiply out the stitch count for key areas like bust, waist, and upper arm circumference for one of the sizes you're close to by your gauge and see if it's a measurement you're happy with. If not, do the same for the other sizes. If you're still not happy with any of the published sizes, well, then your choices are either to change needle sizes or rewrite the pattern to your gauge.

Sorry for the rambling, but I hope this helps...

Jen said...

Oh and another thing... this pattern is done totally in the round, so I'd say to swatch in the round as well. Get another ball or two (stash enhancement, yay!) of the same yarn and make a hat. Just make sure you make the body of the hat in stockinette too. If you're like everyone at Chez Knittingspaz, your purls are probably a lot looser than your knits and you'll end up with a different gauge knitting flat than if you knit it in the round, and that will screw you up, too.

ooh, a dirty word verification... ghxstc (good husband...xstc!!!)

knittinmom said...

Well, I don't have much to add here, except the bigger the swatch the better because your knitting really will be different in the middle than it is in the first few rows. I used to skimp by just knitting up a few rows, but this was NOT a good idea. Also, like Jen said, make sure you swatch in the round for a sweater knit in the round. One way you can do this without knitting something big in the round is to knit on DPNs and carry your yarn across the back (like knitting a gigantic i-cord but leaving the yarn loose across the back instead of pulling it tight). Good luck!

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