It’s How-Tuesday, or as I like to call it, How-To’s Day. (Yes, I know it’s like The Oneders. Go with it.) My topic is…gasp…getting gauge.
I know what you’re thinking. You either gauge nothing or everything. You have this wonderful yarn that your hands are itching to work into that amazing pattern. How could you be expected to wait while you check gauge? That is, of course, if you’re not one of those asking what is gauge anyway?
Gauge is simply how many stitches per inch in your project. The pattern will generally tell you how many stitches per inch you should have. Simply grab the yarn, grab your needles or hook, and cast on. Gauge is usually measured on a 4 inch square. I usually aim to make a 6 inch square, and, when knitting, I take it off my needle when I measure it since the needle can stretch your swatch. If the swatch is the wrong size, try the next size up or down in your hook or needle.
If you’re one of those who gauge everything, you probably learned the hard way that being off gauge one stitch (or even one quarter of a stitch) either way can mean your sweater doesn’t fit. Unless you use the same pattern, yarn, and needles every time, you need to check your gauge if fit is important. This is because the pattern, the yarn, and the needles all affect gauge. So does your mental attitude, distractions such as TV and kids, and even how much coffee (or wine) you’ve had.
So, what do you do if you can’t wait to start your project? Usually when I’m finishing up on one project and dreaming of the next, I’ll start a swatch when I can do some brainless knitting. I’ve swatched at ballgames, during TV shows (like NCIS) that put my regular knitting at risk of frogging, even at church. Making my gauge swatch before I’m ready to start the project usually prevents the temptation of starting without making a gauge swatch.
One reward of a swatch, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the yarn in your project, it gives you a chance to see how the yarn works up. Sometimes a yarn looks yummy in the skein, but when you knit it the drape is wrong, the colors pool oddly, or you just don’t like how it works out. Working a swatch gives you a chance to see a new yarn in action. It’s well worth the time you put in if it saves you from frogging a project later.