I may have mentioned – my friend Amy and I are doing a Gwendolyn knit along right now. I’m using Beaverslide, a wonderful worsted weight merino yarn which I’m COMPLETELY in love with. I looked over the pattern, I checked the needle size it called for, the gauge, and for any funky construction points. Nope – all very basic. Garment worked flat, set in sleeves, 5 sts/inch, plenty of places to knit to X length (thus making row gauge matter MUCH less)
So (after resisting the urge to roll around in my yarn) I cast on. Nope, no gauge swatch. I get gauge 90% of the time. I know that’s not supposed to be possible, but it’s true.* I’m a gauge-matching miracle. The only swatches I ever knit are for my own patterns, where I have to do the math before I can cast on.
I started with the sleeve. It’s a habit I picked up last year during my sweater-a-month phase. Starting with the sleeves means that when you finish the body you’re DONE! Well, except for the finishing. I love that. I hate getting through the body, feeling all accomplished, and then realizing I’m only 60% of the way there.
So I knit the ribbing, and then I thought “Gee, this looks a little big” but the schematic says the cuff is 10 inches, and my wrist is only 8 – so of course it’s going to be a little loose. No big deal. I kept knitting, the cable chart slowly transitions to cables on a reverse stockinette background. So by the time the sleeve was 10 inches long I could actually CHECK my gauge.
I’m getting 4.5 sts per inch, not 5. That doesn’t seem like a big difference, does it? It’s just half a stitch. But let’s do a little math, shall we? 4.5 sts per inch is going to be 18 stitches per 4 inches – as opposed to the called-for 20sts/4in
The sleeve calls for 53 stitches, and we’ll figure 3 of them are used in the seam:
50sts divided by 5sts/in = 10 inches for the cuff
50sts divided by 4.5sts/in = over 11 inches for the cuff.
Not so bad, right?
Now let’s look at the bust. Combining the front and back halves it’s 186 sts total, minus 6 for the two seams.
180 divided by 5 = 36 inches which leaves me just a touch of negative ease = perfect!
180 divided by 4.5 = 40 inches. That’s 3 inches of POSITIVE ease. Some people might like that, but I enjoy a more fitted sweater. Now I know if I keep knitting on the US8’s I’m going to end up with a sweater I’ll never wear.
And that’s today’s lesson folks! A pesky half stitch per inch difference can leave you FOUR inches off in the final sweater. This is why it’s so important to check gauge.**
So I ripped it out and moved down a size to US7’s. I dislike ripping, but I’d rather rip half a sleeve then an ENTIRE SWEATER. Let’s just call it a 12×10 inch, sleeve shaped, gauge swatch… Good news is I’m back up to the elbow, and getting 5sts/in exactly! Yay me!
*I’m not kidding – when I sub yarns of a different weight I think to myself “DK weight yarn on US 5’s? That’s gonna be about 5.5sts/in” and just take that and run with it. Worst case scenario involves ripping and re-knitting so really, what have I got to lose besides time?
**do as I say, not as I do OR be prepared to rip stuff out – which is what I actually do…