Monday, November 26, 2012

What to do When you Can't get Gauge

Two swatches, same yarn, same number of stitches, same number of rows, same needles, knit by two different knitters.

I recently started working with a new sample knitter. She is a beautiful knitter so I was thrilled to be working with her as well as one other knitter that has been helping me since I went full time as a professional knitter. I'm trying to increase my production of patterns; knitting everything myself has been far to slow. 

We had a very interesting dilemma after Ms. X knit the swatches for the garment we were working on. I'm a loose knitter, she is a tight knitter. Ms. X matched my stitch gauge on the cable swatch but was out on row gauge. On the stocking stitch swatch she was one stitch out over the four inches. I got 19 she got 18. We used different needle sizes to get as close as possible. The rule is less stitches on the gauge swatch equal more inches of width on the sweater when stitch numbers stay the same. Complicating the usual simple calculation are the cable panels worked at a different stitch gauge on the front and back. Ms X did what all knitters should do after starting the back. She remeasured across the whole piece and got a garment one inch wider than the pattern called for. This happens to knitters as small differences in gauge can add up quickly. She stopped knitting and emailed me. I did some more number crunching and considered options. 

  1. Knit a smaller size.
  2. Adjust the stitch count in the reverse stocking stitch sections. The bands have a repeat that can only change in specific stitch increments.
  3. Rethink the sizing.

In the end I went with rethink the sizing. I can accept it as bigger or knit a smaller size. I recalculated based on the smaller size with the gauge difference and that would be too small. Knitting the same size with a different gauge means it gets bigger by two inches in total.

  1. I need the garment to fit me and more importantly to fit my mannequin for the photos.
  2. It's a worsted weight yarn with cables, the fabric is stiffer and therefore needs more ease than a fabric which drapes.
  3. I can photograph and wear it on top of a shirt.
Knitters have very idiosyncratic differences between them. Until you compare the same yarn, on the same needles, in the same stitch pattern knit by two different knitters we rarely understand just how different the results can be. It is not always going to be possible to create exactly the same fabric. We need to add some alternative solutions to our toolkit when these challenges arrive. On a pattern with a specific stitch repeat, a specific knitter's sizing may vary slightly.

Our solution for the next project....I'm going to write the pattern based on Ms. X's gauge swatch and we will test out those results and adjust accordingly.

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