Saturday, January 30, 2010

Third Time's the Charm!

This morning we woke up to snow...for the third time this winter!  That's twice more than last year, and three times more than the year before that!  The flurries were so tiny I could only see them out of the corner of my eye as they swirled by.  In fact, it has snowed off and on all through the day, and has been cold enough to allow the wearing of scarves and mittens and hats.

Except that I don't have a hat.  Yet.  And so, for the third time this winter, I knit up a swatch of Lion Brand Wool-Ease in hopes of getting gauge to make this Cabled Beret, pattern by Debbie Bliss.  Now, I've never knitted a gauge swatch before.  I've never worried about gauge.  Most of the things I make are some variation on square or rectangular, so that size is easy to determine as you go along.  The few mittens and socks I've made must have had a thread of grace running through them, because I should have knit a gauge swatch first.

From reading blogs and books about knitting, it sounds like many knitters knit gauge swatches only reluctantly.  We're excited about the actual piece we're making, and if our yarn and needles match the yarn and needles in the pattern, why should we waste spend valuable knitting time creating a little square of fabric that won't ever be part of the hat or sweater or sock?

I wanted to do this one right, though.  So I grabbed my size 8 needles and cast on 18 inches plus a few on each side to keep the stockinette swatch flat for measuring.  I knit 24 rows, and then grabbed the ruler that was supposed to show my swatch was a four inch square.

It wasn't.  Which was, I suppose a problem, but really the bigger problem for me was that this was now going to involve math, a weary irony for this knitter who hasn't taken a math class since high school calculus.  And what good are sines and cosines here?!  The short version of a long story is that I knit up a second swatch on smaller needles, thinking that was the right way to get gauge.

It wasn't.  So I went up one needle size from the original swatch, and the third time was a charm!  Turns out, though, that other knitters have discovered the pattern knits up a little large, so after getting gauge, I'm going back down to the size 8 needle.  Next time it snows, I'll be ready!


Julie Nolte Owen said...

I've never done a swatch either. Lovely post!

mississippi artist said...

Oh, you make me so jealous! I do wish I could knit as well as you do!

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

I'm a VERY reluctant swatch-maker.

Cathy said...

In my humble opinion, most of the joy comes in the actual knitting. If it does not fit, it is grace for a charity box. If it does fit, it is grace for you!