Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips

Wedge Pullover: the gauge swatch

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2013 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Extra Credit (no due date)
For an extra credit, look back to the project you researched on day 2 and cast it on. Extra Kudos points for every step of the process from decision of project, to yarn, through the project in progress to finishing touches and completion that is blogged about. There is no due date, and this topic is absolutely only for those who choose to take part, but if you do it will serve as part of one of the topics next year, along with what was written about on Day Seven.

As this is one of the most ambitious projects that I’ve tried to date—not the knitting itself, but the re-designing and modification of the pattern—I figure this extra credit project will get me to take notes that I’ll appreciate later. Since I chose my project and yarn nine years ago (gah!), the story of which can be found at my Day 2 post, this is about the next step: the gauge swatch.

Wedge Pullover.
Recommended yarn: Reynolds Odyssey.
Gauge: 18 sts and 24 rows in stockinette st over 4″ (10 cm) on size 8 (5.0 mm) needles or size required to get gauge.

Thinking and decisions were needed already. First of all, if I actually managed to get both the stitch and row gauge, I’d be happy, but I wasn’t counting on it. I knit almost “squarely,” my row gauge only slightly tighter than my stitch gauge. Normally this isn’t an issue, but this project probably wants me to work those bands of short rows to a certain height, meaning the row gauge was going to have to be close to what the designer got. As that’s kind of difficult to control, I was going to need to be lucky. Secondly, Reynolds Odyssey is 100% merino wool. In my experience, merino relaxes the first time it gets wet, and the gauge loosens up. So even though I’m a tight knitter anyway, I went down a needle size and knitted the first swatch on size 7 (4.5 mm) needles.

gauge swatchSwatch gauge (before blocking): 18 sts and 24 rows to 3¾” (9.53 cm)

I used to take my measurements from dry gauge swatches and start my projects right there and then. I loved the near-instant gratification, but I had to drop this practice years ago, after a sweater that started out fitting me perfectly grew a whole size the first time I washed and dried it (it was 75% acrylic and 25% wool; the trigger was the dryer’s heat). So I soaked the swatch thoroughly, squeezed it to dampness, pinned it out to gauge, and waited for it to dry.

Swatch gauge (after blocking): 18 sts and 24 rows to 4″ (10 cm).

The next day, I unpinned the swatch, measured it, and was thrilled to see that I’d gotten both stitch and row gauge (wow!). Not that I could do anything right away, since I needed to decide on what alterations I was going to make to the pattern and start the rewrite before I could cast on. So the swatch ended up on my coffee table, where I could admire it, pet it, and just for the heck of it, pull my ruler out again and measure it.

Swatch gauge (after blocking): variable.

Okay, I get that it might have taken the swatch a few hours to relax after it had been pinned out for a day. The thing is, it didn’t shrink uniformly. Some rows are still at the desired gauge. Others have tightened up, some to 18½ stitches over 4 inches, others to 19 stitches. The row gauge is more consistent in its shrinkage, giving me a uniform 25 rows over 4 inches, but as I never really expected to get row gauge in the first place, I just can’t work up that much worry about it. Also, the weight of the sweater may pull the row gauge back to what it’s supposed to be, if not past that point (which will probably tighten the stitch gauge further, which isn’t helping after all).

I did give serious consideration to doing a second swatch on size 8 needles. After all, we’re warned repeatedly not to talk ourselves into thinking that close enough is sufficient. Horror tales abound of projects that  started off only slightly off-gauge and ended up unwearable. But for now, I’m going ahead with the 7s. This is meant to be a loose-fitting sweater, so I have a bit of ease to fudge with. Plus, this swatch is as drapey as I can tolerate. If I go up another needle size, it’s going to be downright limp.  There’s also the possibility that I’ll overshoot and have the opposite problem: a swatch that has something like 17 stitches and 23 rows over 4 inches. Since I don’t really trust my tension on gauge swatches anyway, I’m going to measure the gauge again after I’ve been knitting on the real project for a bit, and make my final decision then.


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