Knitting in Progress, the Great Gauge Debacle 2015

Posted on | April 9, 2015 | 5 Comments

The temperature is slowly starting to rise in NYC signaling that maybe this long, long, long terrible winter is finally at its end. The greatest thing about Spring weather in the city is I can still wear a sweater as a layering piece. It’s still a little chilly in the morning and most of the time, I’ll forgo a jacket for some toasty wool instead.

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About a month ago, I started on a lighter weight sweater from Wool People 8, Flight by Sarah Pope. I got a chance to try on the sample last October at Gauge + Tension and fell in love. It’s an easy style with cute details: a pop of color on the inside hem and cuffs, a Bauhaus inspired yoke, and princess line shaping. It’s also knit up in Loft, the fingering weight offering from Brooklyn Tweed, making it a perfect Spring layering sweater.

I cast-on without ceremony and knit away until I was up to the armholes. That’s when things got dicey. My gauge was off. Terribly off. My sweater was huge.

And here’s where I confess that I, the queen of gauge swatches, did not swatch. It’s kind of funny actually. Me of all knitters. Just goes to show you that even experienced knitters who know better make mistakes.

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The sweater is knit on size 4s, I went down to a size 3 for the first try, and went down to a size 2 after swatching properly. I’m up to the underarm once more, but now I’m afraid that my gauge is too tight. However, I do know that Loft relaxes quite a bit after a good blocking, so I’m not too worried yet.

Why did my gauge change so much between a size 2 and 3? Well, I not only changed needles sizes, but I changed needle materials as well. I went from bamboo to metal.

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This info graphic from Alexis Winslow sums everything up more perfectly than I ever could with words. While you should always do your own test to see how your gauge will react with each needle material, the info graphic is a great place to start. The next time you have trouble getting gauge, maybe instead of changing your needle size, try your needle material instead. Very helpful information, no?

So do tell, what is your worst gauge debacle?

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  • Caitlyn Myers

    My previous and current sweater projects both had gauge issues, although not the same one. The previous sweater involved knitting a swatch with recommended needles and then tricking myself into thinking that it blocked to size, knitting to the armhole split, and then having to rip it all out because it was way too small. I knit a new swatch in the next needle size up and knit halfway to the armholes again when I panicked and actually knit a third swatch mid-yoke just to reassure myself. Everything did work out in the end. For my current sweater I’m using a CustomFit pattern, which is built around my gauge, so I shouldn’t have had gauge issues. But somehow I blocked/measured my swatch incorrectly, so I made it as far as knitting all of the pieces and seaming about half of them before admitting that the superwash yarn grew more than expected and the whole thing was way too big. I’m 70% through the re-knit. Fingers crossed it turns out okay, although I probably won’t get to wear it before the weather gets too warm. *sigh*

  • Samantha Nagtegaal

    This was by far my worst:
    I knitted a whole Shellseeker sweater (minus sleeves) only for it to be absolutely gargantuan! I totally empathise with your situation. The best thing is definitely (in my opinion) to begin again immediately you’ve finished ripping out, otherwise the motivation may never return. The funny thing is, I re-knitted it, and it fitted well, then I lost a lot more weight than I expected after having baby number two, and now the sweater is too big again!
    x Sam

  • Melissa Wehrle

    Wow, that is pretty comical! At least it looks like the gauge wasn’t too tiny. Too bad the sweater is too big yet again.

  • Melissa Wehrle

    That is the worst when gauge swatches lie. It usually helps when they are large, like 8″ x 8″, but it’s not always a guarantee. It all has to do with how you move your stitches over a smaller piece versus the actual sweater.

  • Caitlyn Myers

    I agree on all counts. In both cases the swatches were about 6″ x 6″, but I’ve accepted that going forward they’re just going to have to be more like 8″ x 8″ as you suggest. I also read somewhere recently that doing “warm-up” knitting can help. You work on something already in progress to relax and get into the rhythm before you swatch for a new project; it’s supposed to help you avoid tension changes that can occur when you start out cold and then slowly build momentum.