Gauge. To measure or not to measure? That IS NOT the question! When knitting, gauge is a must. This was not a revelation during my first years of knitting. It took me many projects, many hanks of yarn, many years, before I understood this strange concept and word. But rather than discuss the ins and outs of gauge, how to match gauges, what to do if stitch gauge matches but row gauge is off, etc., let’s talk about the bare minimums of what to do when you don’t give a darn about gauge!
Some knitters, I’m certain, can go (and have gone) their entire knitting life never concerning themselves with gauge. How? Well, if you’re prone to knitting the infamous dish cloths, or baby blankets, or infinity scarves and cowls, size doesn’t really matter. A scarf can’t be too long, right? Just wrap it around your neck an extra time and voila! A dish cloth just needs to fit inside your sink. And a baby blanket, or baby afghan, or baby king-sized coverlet…it’s not like you’re going to be wearing it!
So many times I’ve had people come to me with a pattern and the yarn they plan to knit with and I immediately ask what their gauge is with said yarn. I get the deer in headlights look accompanied by no response. Uhhhhhhhh. Most recently, it was a pattern calling for worsted weight yarn, but the knitter had this great chunky bulky yarn they were hoping to use. First suggestion (if you’re not wanting to fuss with gauge): be certain to use the same weight yarn as indicated by the pattern. This won’t guarantee your gauge will be an exact match, but you will be a heck of a lot closer to the suggested gauge than if trying to use, say, a bulky weight yarn. Here’s the reason: chunkier yarn is exactly that, chunkier, bigger, thicker. And if you use a chunkier yarn, so too will your individual stitch stitch size be. And if each individual stitch is larger, you will end up with a larger gauge, or a smaller number of stitches per inch of your knitted fabric. Meaning; if you were to take your ruler and place a stitch at the edge of your ruler and counted the number of stitches along a 4 inch line, you will have a lesser number of stitches in that 4 inch sample than the person using a lighter weighted yarn. Less stitches per inch means a larger gauge. More stitches per inch means a smaller gauge. We’ll use this information next week when talking about how to change your gauge accordingly. In the meantime, make sure you know where to find a yarn’s weight. Most commercial, large name fibers, have the weight printed right on the label. It’s usually a white number in a black square.
Second suggestion (if you’re not wanting to fuss with gauge): use the same size needles as indicated by the pattern. Again, this won’t gaurantee your gauges will be an exact match. But for obvious reasons, your chances of being darn close are good. Why? Say you’re using worsted weighted yarn, as the pattern indicates, but the pattern says to use US 7. The closest you have is US 10. Now, the larger the needle number, the larger the circumference of the needle. And the larger the needle, the larger your stitches wil be. But not only that, if using the same weighted yarn on a larger needle, your stitches will not only be larger, but the overall structure of the worked fabric (once knitted) will naturally be much looser and stretchier. Likewise, if you’re using a smaller needle size than indicated, the stitch size will be smaller and tighter. Instead of a nice slouchy fall hat, you now have a tight fitting beanie with no stretch.
Third suggestion (if you’re not wanting to fuss with gauge): just knit scarves!
Happy Friday. Happy Knitting!