Knitting Lab #1c: Multiple fronts, letting go and the infamous 4 inches

Week 3 of our sweater lab has been happening last Wednesday. I must admit, this was (mostly) about mindless knitting so most people were casually “in the zone”. It’s not too late to join us though: the more we are the better!

Lesson #1: Take advantage of your pattern and try-as-you-go.

I started my sweater with the sleeves. While I was doing the ribbing, I was a little afraid that the fit would be a little snug. No worries: I pushed the stitches on the cable (one of the many reasons why I magic loop), and tried the cuff. It looked adequately stretched and I was relieved that my cast-on had the perfect amount of give. I tried the sleeve on every 20 rounds or so, to see if the increase rate was adequate.

Take the time not only to understand how the garment is constructed, but also how the shaping is introduced. In my case, introducing the new stitches into the pattern was self-explanatory, so I didn’t have any trouble making the sleeve fit perfectly. If the shaping increases are part of the overall pattern, get a pen and paper and work the math out (Can I afford to skip 1 increase round? Or increase more often? How will it look?) Consider the texture of your yarn and how conspicuous the shaping is and don’t hesitate to make the garment your own.

Two half sleeves and a few rows of ribbing. Looking good!

Lesson #2: Unravel if it’s not your thing.

I like making sweaters. 🙂 It doesn’t mean everybody does. You won’t know until you try. Olivier started with all the right steps: chose a yarn, swatched, found a pattern he liked, customized the overall look. Then, he stopped.

He wasn’t feeling it anymore.

We made the sweater lab to provide support and guidance though the process, and deciding not to finish is an option. It is a hefty investment of time and money that could be used elsewhere. Don’t like where it is going? Unravel and start something else! Nobody has to know that your new shawl/hat/pair of mittens was a sweater-to-be before.

And maybe you’ll want to try again later. That is also allowed.

(The fact that Olivier got a new awesome sewing machine might also be a factor. Stay tuned for the introduction!)

Lesson #3: Be consistent when measuring your gauge.

I hate when people give a gauge for 10cm/4in. They are not the same thing. For small items like socks, the difference might be negligible, but let’s work an example together where it starts to matter. The math isn’t so hard, so bear with me.

Important numbers:

  • 4 inches = 4 x 2.54cm = 10.16cm
  • Gauge: 24 stitches by 4 inches
  • Width of the garment: 48 inches
  • Pattern uses imperial measurements and asks for 48 inches x (24/4 stitches per inch) = 288 stitches

Let’s say you are a metric person, and calculated 24 stitches by 10cm. You followed the pattern and casted on 288 stitches. How wide will your sweater be?

  • (10/24 cm per stitches) * 264 = 120cm

120 cm is 47.2 inches. Before even doing anything, you lost a little under an inch — 1.92cm to be exact. Nothing terrible, but if you’re making a fitted sweater, it can make it a little too snug.

For those more inclined into maths, recall that 4 inches is approximately 1.6% more than 10cm. You can see the difference here in this Knitter’s Pride ruler: on the magnifying part of the ruler, see the 10cm mark (on top) and the 4in (on the bottom).

If your pattern asks for metric measurements, stay metric the whole way. Most rulers will have both scales available, so use that to your advantage and stay coherent. Easy peasy.

Lesson #3b: Gauge is easier with whole numbers

When calculating gauge, you don’t have to use 4 inches as your measurement. Reading fraction of stitches I usually try to get a whole number of stitches to fit a major mark of my ruler (the ruler photographed above has quarter inches) and then readjust my gauge.

Reading fractions of stitches isn’t very reliable. The V shape of the stitch makes it hard to evaluate half (or third) stitches. It is much easier to measure “13 stitches on 5 inches” than to try to hit “10.4 stitches on 4 inches”. A simple rule of 3 will restate your gauge in pattern-friendly terms:

(Number of stitches / Measurement ) x Wanted Measurement

Taking our example:

(13 stitches / 5 inches) x 4 inches = 10.4 stitches (by 4 inches)

This is especially useful when measuring gauge over pattern stitches (4 patterns over 5 inches > 3,2 patterns over 4 inches) and is invaluable when knitting lace. Your gauge is already knitted, so why not take a few seconds to try this method?

This might be a little overkill for most projects, but it is worth keeping in the back of your mind. I find that careful measuring gives me the necessary boost to start the project.

We hope that those bite-sizes lessons are helpful. Do you have any tricks when knitting garments?

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