gauge guessing

"Be prepared" is the Boy Scout motto, and it's a good thing to live by, in general. You save for retirement, you study for tests, you take childbirth classes before you go into labor, you never leave the house without at least three fresh diapers and a package of wipes (at least, I don't...not anymore). Being prepared, they tell you, gets you through life with less stress and anxiety than not being prepared.

Of course, life is unpredictable and being prepared doesn't always mean you're ready for what's coming. In my country, people's retirement investments are headed down the toilet. The only guy I knew in high school who never flunked a test was an insufferable know-it-all with photographic memory. No amount of time in childbirth class could prepare me for having a baby; for that matter, having baby #1 with lots of happy drugs didn't exactly prepare me for having baby #2 without so much as a Tylenol. And don't ask about the diapers - it was a long ride home is all I'm saying.

This brings me to swatching.

I'm a good, obedient knitter. More often than not, I swatch. It's a good thing, too, because lately my gauge is quite different from what is on the label. Take the dark blue swatch on the far right, for example. It's Dale of Norway Harlequinn, a deliciously soft tweedy cashmere blend. The gauge listed on the label is 18st=4" on 4.5-5mm needles, and I'm getting more like 22st=4". I could tell just looking at that skinny yarn that my gauge would be way off. Fortunately, it's not a problem for this particular project - a hat for Daniel's best buddy that I'm "designing" myself (if you can call a vanilla stockinette stitch hat with a stripe "designing," which I don't).

But having guage different from that listed is only the first issue. The other thing is figuring out exactly what your gauge is. I knit generous swatches for accurate measuring, but it's often hard to tell just how many stitches lie in that 4" span. At first count, it may be 20, but if you smooth out the swatch a bit, suddenly it's only 18, and if you fluff it up a bit and measure again, it might be 21. Blocking doesn't always clear up the issue, either. Does anyone else have this problem? So, swatch or not, I often end up just taking a guess and hoping things turn out. Since I knit things for little people as often as not, this usually works out.

Then, too, sometimes I don't swatch. Like for lace. I never swatch for lace because I know it will just get bigger. Speaking of lace, there's been a bit of progress on this:

I spent my knitting time the past three evenings tinking, re-knitting, tinking, re-knitting (lather, rinse repeat) until I fixed the problem. Note to self: don't knit lace during presidential debates. I probably could have saved some time just starting over, but for some reason I was determined not to give up on what I'd already done. I plan to finish this shawl by the end of the week. It's my mom's birthday present, and even though she knows about it, I want to save the nice FO shots for when she has it in person.

Now, then. Speaking of being prepared, I've got a recital to practice for!


Anonymous said…
I like swatching! Or at least, I like it now that I've discovered it's a way to start projects without fully commiting to them ;) Good for you for being a swatcher :D
Anonymous said…
That shawl looks beautifu! I'll bet your mom will be thrilled!


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