Monday, October 12, 2009

When You Can't Get Gauge

Knitting teachers tell people to knit swatches until they match the gauge in a pattern, but sometimes you absolutely can't get that gauge. It's not necessarily your fault -
  • The yarn might be discontinued
  • You might have yarn you want to use - it's suitable for the project, but that yarn just won't get this gauge.
  • Sometimes one color of yarn, or batch of yarn, knits a different gauge from another

One thing you could do is strive to get the stitch gauge, then adjust the pattern for the row gauge. This is an especially good solution for very similar yarns.

If that's not an option, you could refigure the pattern by doing the math. I've got a shortcut that I've used many times:

Your stitches DIVIDED BY Pattern's stitches = ______

The answer is the conversion factor (or, technically, your "magic number"). Multiply it by stitch counts in the pattern. For instance, if you are getting 25 stitches in 4" and the pattern says to get 20 stitches in 4", then 25/20 = 1.25. Use that 1.25 times the number of stitches to cast on, the number of stitches at the shoulder, etc., and you've got the number of stitches you need to use in each of those places.

You have to figure out the rows, too. You can't use the conversion factor for the stitches to figure out the rows! You need a magic number for the rows:

Your rows DIVIDED BY Pattern rows = ______

And there's your magic number for the rows. In the example, above, suppose you were getting 32 rows in their 4" gauge square and the pattern says 28. Divide 32 by 28, and you get 1.14. Multiply that by the number of rows when the pattern specifies rows, and that's the number to use.

It stands to reason that if your stitches or rows are smaller than the pattern's, you need more stitches or rows to make the same size piece of knitting.

Maybe your stitches are larger. If so, you can use the same method. Say the pattern is telling you to get 5 stitches per inch, 20 in that 4" gauge square, but you're getting only 16. Take yours and divide by the pattern's: 16 / 20 = .8. If they tell you to cast on 100 stitches, you multiply that by .8 and get 80. You need to cast on 80 stitches. Because your stitches are bigger, you need less of them for the same size piece.

For hand knitters, I suggest at least a 4" gauge square. Cast on more than enough stitches and knitting more than enough rows, then measure 4" in several different places on the swatch.

Gauge swatches are NOT a waste of your time or your yarn. You can reuse the yarn in your project, and besides, your gauge swatch will help ensure your success.

Machine knitters should make a bigger swatch, because it takes so little time. After all, the more accurate your measurement of the gauge is, the better your results will be.

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