size matters

comparison

Both of the above partial skirts are made from one skein of cotton-ease, the same number of cast-on stitches and the same number of decrease rounds (two, though technically the top skirt is one round away from the 2nd decrease round).  The only difference is that the top skirt was knit on a US 8 needle and the bottom skirt was knit on a US 7 needle.  The top skirt has 34 rows and is about 40 1/2″  in diameter unstretched while the bottom skirt has 40 rows and is about 37″ in diameter unstretched.

Knitters talk a lot about gauge and swatches.  Some knitters are firm swatchers and others like to proclaim that they never swatch and it always turns out okay in the end.  I fall somewhere in between, sometimes I swatch obsessively (like I did for my FLS sweater) using up a full skein before making my decision on needle size, sometimes I don’t swatch at all.  If you are a new knitter and you hear someone say, “I rarely do a gauge swatch and my projects always come out fine” don’t believe them.  Or at least question whether their opinion of “just fine” is the same as your opinion of “just fine”.  My lack of actual swatching for Elenka cost me over 4″ in skirt diameter and 2 weeks of knitting time.

Not swatching for  something that starts out by casting on 204 stitches was a bad mistake. As a rule, IMO, the smaller the project the less you need to worry about gauge.  Also, certain projects are more forgiving: bags and non-wearable items are particularly forgiving, small diameter pieces like socks, gloves and hats are also forgiving.  Of course those small diameter pieces are sometimes uncomfortable if the fit is wrong – and why put all that time into a hand knit only to have a bad fit?

When I started working on Elenka, I consulted older swatches I had made about a year ago to pick my needle size.  I also used the knowledge that lately I had been going down a needle size for many of my projects.  I figured the fit of a loose fitting dress for a young girl was flexible, I couldn’t be too off.  But I was wrong.  When I last wrote about Elenka I was in the middle of the 2nd of 3 skeins.  When I measured it I realized the skirt diameter was significantly smaller than the size I was supposed to be knitting.  I had a couple options, a) keep knitting and find a new, smaller recipient and b) swatch again to get gauge and reknit for the intended recipient.  So I set the first Elenka aside, and swatched on a larger needle in-the-round and was almost spot-on gauge that time, more like 4 1/4″ for 17 stitches in stockinette instead of the 4″ for 17 stitches required.  And so once I had the right needle (I only had a 16″ circ on hand for swatching) I cast on again, using that 3rd skein.  I just finished up one skein on the size 8 and put both partial-skirts on enough needle cable (thank you 40″ circs) to lay them out flat and compare the size and drape of each.  I’m going to stick with the US 8 this time.  The US 7 worked piece is smaller, stiffer and heavier while the US 8 worked piece is bigger, drapes nicely and feels lighter (even though I’m handling both pieces knit with the same amount of yarn).  Oddly enough my current measurements say I am knitting tighter than I did on my gauge swatch but I’m still happy with the resulting fabric – and sometimes liking the resulting fabric is more important than gauge – but it does require thinking more about the math side of the pattern.

July 28, 2009. Tags: , . Knitting. 1 comment.

stuck at swatching

The February Lady Sweater is still waiting to be blocked, at least I have some Euculan now.  Since then I’ve worked on my marigold sock (almost done with sock #1) and swatching for a few projects.

IMG_0946

Too much swatching.  As much as I hate it I tend to get a little obsessive about it every since last summer’s sleeve fiasco on the Peapod Baby Sweater (in short, I had to knit two new sleeves since the first two didn’t fit the sleeve hole).  I started by swatching with Berroco Comfort worsted weight first on a US 7 and then on a US 6 (see the dividing garter ridge?).  It will eventually become a hat for a friend of mine (I think the hat IOU is about 10 months old at this point).

Then I dug into making a nice big swatch of Classic Elite Flame to help me decide between making Emerald Seas and Sassymetrical.  That is actually the 2nd swatch of Flame, first I enthusiastically cast-on for a 12″+ wide swatch, two inches and four days later I lamented that I could have been done by now, ripped it, wound it and re-cast-on.  This time the swatch turned out to be about 8″ wide (it used up half of my skein – which will probably be useful info at some point).  Two weeks later I finally blocked the swatch and measured again.  My gauge isn’t exact, but after some number crunching I decided it was close enough.  Hopefully this weekend I will get around to casting on for Sassymetrical.

And the two black swatches Lion Brand Cotton-ease, they are from last summer, probably no longer entirely accurate, but provided a good jumping off point (one on a US 10, the other on a US 8).  The yellow is also Cotton-ease, it was a swatch done in US 6, but that turned out to be too many stitches per inch for the intended project.  I was going to re-swatch (just a little obsessive) on a US 7 but then decided I had a round about idea of what my gauge would be and just jumped into the project.

IMG_0947

That would be the beginnings of Elenka.  I thought it was cute, but didn’t have intentions of knitting it right away.  Then I found LB Cotton-ease for a great price, so I bought just enough of the hot pink for my pink and purple loving S.  And since S just became a big sister I decided it was time I knit for her again.  Surprisingly I managed to get through the first skein in one week -that is good progress for me, but sadly that pile of yarn just above it is what I’ve been tinking all week.  Of course I just measured it and I think I’m farther off on gauge than what I thought I’d be.  Drats – the bottom of the skirt is measuring at 40″ instead of 44″… maybe I’ll have to knit that US 7 swatch after all.

July 9, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Knitting. 3 comments.

Swatching Ultra Alpaca

While I save all my swatches I have a bad habit of losing the pieces of paper with pertinent info (you know, needle size, etc) so I’ve decided I need to record it somewhere, somewhere that I can’t lose.  Though this trick of tying knots (number of knots= US needle size) in the tail works nicely to help remember needle size.

swatching-ultra-alpacaI don’t really like to swatch and so often I pick small projects where fit isn’t essential, but when I decide to swatch I go all out.  I’ve used an entire ball of yarn to swatch (and then it occured to me that I actually did 1/4 of the lace portion for an entire tank top).  Knitters have looked at me and said, “you do realize you could have knit the thing by now right?”.  But I do worry about fit a lot and now I am swatching for my first sweater for me.  Originally my first adult sweater was going to be the Something Red pattern, but the idea of all that stockinette and ribbing isn’t so appealing at the moment, plus my yarn choice wasn’t feeling love for the pattern.  And so I decided to make the February Lady Sweater.  Except I’m still having swatching issues that will result in the sweater being modified for my swatch.  That is okay.  (The boring stuff is after the jump).

(more…)

October 15, 2008. Tags: , . Knitting. Leave a comment.