Sunday, September 25, 2011

Knitting a Gauge Swatch - Ready, Set, Swatch!

Gauge.  I am not fond of that word; however as a knitter, it must be used.  On occasion, at least.  If you have followed me for a while, you may know that I tend to knit things where gauge is not quite so important.  Not only am I impatient and like to get started on my project right away, but I am rather mathematically challenged.  Calculating is not my strong point, therefore by choosing to knit scarves, dish cloths, etc. I don't have to worry about spending many hours knitting something that may not fit even after carefully calculating my stitches.  If you are a math whiz, then this will be a simple process for you.

If you are knitting a sweater, hat, socks, or anything else that needs to fit - then gauge is a very important step that should not be skipped.  If, however, you are knitting a dish cloth - why bother with gauge?  After all, gauge is just a square, and so is a dish cloth.  I think that is a waste of time, but I often see "To save time, be sure to check gauge" noted on many dish cloth patterns.  If you are a stickler for getting the exact same sized dish cloth as the pattern, then by all means, swatch away!

Gauge is typically measured over 4 inches of stockinette or garter stitch, although you will at times have a pattern call for the gauge to be taken over the stitch pattern used on the garment.  Since you are measuring 4 inches, your swatch should be larger than a 4x4 square - 6x6 is the minimum size I would recommend for swatching.  You should always treat your swatch as you plan to treat your finished item; for instance, if you are using a yarn that is machine washable and dryable, then you should wash and dry your swatch before checking the gauge.  If you are using wool or other natural fiber that you plan to wet block, then your swatch should also be wet blocked prior to taking measurements.

Now, once your swatch is ready to go, get out your ruler.  Be sure the swatch is laying flat, and you are not stretching or pulling it in any way.  Choose a spot around the middle of the swatch to lay your ruler.  Place some type of marker at the edge of the ruler (you can use a DPN, split ring marker, safety pin, etc.) and then another at the 4 inch line.  Count the stitches between your markers, and then divide by 4.  This number gives you your stitches per inch.  (See the pictures below)  Half stitches should also be included - do NOT round up or down to make it easier on your brain, no matter how tempting.  If you end up having more stitches than needed for your particular pattern, then swatch again using a larger needle; if you have too few stitches than needed, try using a smaller sized needle.

Gauge in the round is done a little differently, because your tension tends to be a little different than when you knit flat.  Your swatch should also be done in the round, or, use the trick in the video below to 'sort of' knit a round swatch.  Basically, the idea is just like when knitting an I-Cord, except that you are leaving a lot of slack on the back side instead of pulling it tight - by doing this, it will allow you to lay the fabric flat to get an accurate measurement - do not turn the work, but slide the stitches to the other end of the needle and continue knitting.  You always want to work on the front of the fabric, because that is what you do when knitting in the round.  Here are a couple of pictures of a swatch in the round, but please do watch the end of the video as this is better demonstrated than in written word.

Now, here are some pictures of both garter and stockinette fabrics and the SPI (stitches per inch) in each of these examples.

Place your ruler at the beginning of the first whole stitch, and a marker at that stitch, and another at the 4 inch mark.  Be sure you are measuring somewhere around the middle of your swatch, so  that any sloppy edges aren't interfering with your stitch count.
Count the top row of bumps between the markers as shown here; then take that number and divide by 4.  That is how many stitches per inch.  In this example, I have 14 stitches over 4 inches, which is 3.5 stitches per inch.
You can see here in this 1 inch,  I have 3 whole stitches, and half of a stitch

Just as with garter stitch, place your ruler somewhere in the middle of your swatch, at the beginning of a whole stitch.  Place your marker at this stich, and another at the stitch at the 4 inch point.  I have 18 stitches, divided by 4 is 4.5 stitches per inch.

For stockinette, you want to count the 'V's.  These are your stitches.  I find counting stockinette stitches harder than garter stitches - my eyes tend to go a little buggy.  In this photo, I have highlighted the stitches to make it easier to identify.

You can see here, I have 4 whole stitches, (highlighted in pink) plus half a stitch (highlighted in yellow) in an inch. 

Below also is a video on gauge, in garter, stockinette, and in the round.  There are articles a-plenty around the web.  I've also included some links for further reading.  Happy Knitting!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Knitting on the Beach

Hi fellow knitters!  I am on vacation right now on the Jersey Shore - no, not with Snookie! - and working on a beaded scarf using the Milanese Lace stitch from the second Walker Treasury.  You can check out my progress on my FaceBook page.  (I am Sapphiresn Purls on FB)  It's coming along very nicely.   Can't wait to finish.  Happy Knitting!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Simple Crochet Border

Sample knit with Baby's First by Lion Brand

Just thought I would make a little video on adding a crochet border to a knitted item.  If you aren't a crocheter, don't worry - you can still do this.  I don't know much about crochet, but this is simple enough for even someone like me.
Usually, I add a few extra stitches to my stitch pattern to make a border around my knitting, so that when I bind off, I am done.  However, if you decide you would like to add a border after the fact, this is an easy way to do it.
You should use a crochet hook appropriate for whatever yarn you are using, or, whatever hook looks closest in size to the knitting needle you used for the main part of your fabric.  You can use the last loop of your bind off as the starting point for your crochet border, or break the yarn and make the border in another color of your choice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Life Lines and Frogging

I never seem to learn my lesson - I am referring to using life lines when knitting.  I will not detail how to put in a life line, because I never use one.  There are articles a plenty on the net, including this one from Knitting Daily.    A life line is kind of like a book mark, and can save you time and grief should you make a mistake.  Just insert a life line to hold the place of the last row you know doesn't have a mistake, maybe every 5-10 rows or so, or whatever you feel comfortable with.  And should you make a mistake beyond that life line, all you have to do is rip back to that point.
Myself, I usually just work backwards until I reach my mistake; this is handy if the mistake is caught in the same row it is made, or just one or two rows back.  Many more than that, and if it won't cause a major change in the flow of the fabric, I tend to just let it go and deem it "character".  If I am not far along in the project, I just frog completely and start over from the beginning.  Or, set the project aside for so long I forget where I was in the pattern; in these cases, I just shrug and frog and put the yarn back into my stash bag.
You may know I have been working on a very big cabled afghan - if I calculated correctly this puppy will be 6 feet by 6 feet.  This is by far the largest project I have ever worked on.  I can't for the life of me figure out why I wanted to do this.  I've flubbed a few times, and this afternoon did it again.  So, deciding to make lemonade from my lemon, I decided to share with you how I work backwards to fix my mistakes.