June 6, 2009

size matters

I have had a frustrating week of knitting. And it's all to do with size, or 'gauge' as knitters like to say. The relationship of a particular yarn with a particular needle with a particular knitter for a particular pattern. I have a history of pretty good luck with the combination of the above, and I have a fairly fast and loose approach. I only sometimes swatch, which is to make a wee test run on a 4"x4" version of the project to see where you're at. I've understood the inherent risk of sometimes not swatching, and I've signed the waiver. Some projects (shawl, scarf) have a pretty good margin for error (I'll be OK if it ends up 2" shorter or longer or I can modify as I go), and with a good understanding of yarns and their properties I often go on my way without the "road map" of a swatch (which sometimes lie anyway. At least to me).

This week I have done nothing but test for size or been bitten on the butt by size and I have so pathetically little to show for it as a result. The blue thing up above is the start of a linen sweater. I am substituting yarn, granted (Louet Euroflax linen for the Debbie Bliss Pure Silk called for), but I had to swatch no fewer than 5 times and I still feel like I'm shooting in the dark. I also got 3" up the back on straight needles and keeping the tension firm enough on the purl rows was causing my right hand to cramp, so I ripped back and am starting again in the round. Much better. Vertical progress will be tediously slow but I'm committed.

The bottom photo is a sock I'm making as part of a knit-a-long. In my excitement to start I'll admit I didn't swatch. I figured I would see how it went and rip back if necessary. It was, as it turns out, but I was in denial (sock denial is a thing with me lately). The leg is way too loose. The foot is too short. These odd proportions are evident even without trying on said sock (which I did as I went. The toe shaping happened faster than I thought it would). I had a bitter moment or two with the sock last night but the fresh light of day is encouraging me to move on. Doing some yoga and deep breathing also helped. You can see the new sock (on smaller needles) to the right. I have hope. It also frees up my 2.5mm needles again to make the second forest mitten, which is a joyful project.

I'm also making a happy hat. I need balance.


  1. I am so sorry!! I have had some interesting results with swatching as well. A sweater that fit me and my daughter was one result :)

    I look forward to seeing your hat!

  2. Gauge, swatches.....bah! I admit that they are necessary for sure but I hate doing them too. Which is likely why I stick to hats, mittens and scarves.