Sleeve shaped swatch

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.

Drumroll please……

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…

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2 responses to “Sleeve shaped swatch

  1. It’s funny you should say, because I really never swatch, and I just ended up with a way-too-tight Kingdom glove on the first try because I was getting 11 sts/inch with 0’s. Started over with 2’s after some tries with 1s and 1.5s. I know I should reform, but I didn’t mind. First try with gloves. I finished the too-small one for practice, and now I know just what to do with the new ones.

    (Am TFJB on Ravelry, by the way.)

    • Hey! As long as you don’t mind ripping (or knitting a practice glove) then not-swatching isn’t the end of the world. I do highly recommend checking the gauge somewhere before the very end of the project though, just in case…

      The most important (and frustrating, to some people) detail with those gloves is that both the stitch and row gauge are important! Although I’ve seen people just leave out the chart at the knuckles if their gloves were going to be too long.

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