Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Fudge Factor Part 1

When I worked in my local yarn shop, we often had customers coming to us for help in a specific situation. The knitter wanted to use a pattern and work in a gauge different to the one the pattern was written for. There were various reasons for this. Sometimes the knitter wanted to use yarn in their stash of a different weight. Sometimes the yarn in the pattern was no longer available. Sometimes they loved a pattern and hated the yarn it showcased. Sometimes they just couldn't match the gauge in the suggested yarn but still wanted to use it.
Most experienced knitters can easily rework the numbers on basic patterns that include good schematics. Some just knit a different size if their gauge is slightly off the pattern gauge. They do this by calculating their stitch gauge per inch multiplied by the width measurement desired and then they choose the size closest to the measurement they need. They use the length measurements of the size they really want. However in a yarn shop we see customers bringing in vintage patterns and patterns that do not include a schematic. Occasionally we see a pattern with schematics with only bare bones measurements that don't give enough detail for conversion. Periodically we will be presented with a pattern that has a unique form of construction and no schematic at all. Other knitters run into challenges when they get to areas of shaping such as armholes, sleeve caps and necklines. Bands and other sections where the knitting has intersections of stitches and rows can also prove to be problematic.
Knitters are looking for simple advice; in a short and sweet format. My peers and I all enjoyed assisting knitters with this but we all took a cautious approach as the process to make the conversions I'll review is not difficult, but it does require careful consideration when applied to specific patterns. Details need to be considered that can't be covered in a short surface level examination of the pattern. I'd like to mention here that complex and difficult are two very different things. Complex processes can be broken down into a set of very simple actions. Very experienced knitters often perform these steps so quickly, it appears magic is in play to the novice knitter.
It is important to determine just what feature in the target pattern is calling to you. This is necessary to ensure you reproduce that feature in a manner consistent with the original. If it is the stitch pattern, a swatch in your chosen yarn will tell you if it is still as appealing in a smaller or larger format. More importantly, will the stitch pattern show in a yarn of a different colour or texture? Remember, your substitution can yield better results than the original yarn a pattern has been executed in. Yarns for patterns are chosen for a variety of reasons which include editorial considerations, availability and marketing. It is entirely possible you will choose a yarn more appropriate to the project or for your preferences.
Ease considerations are critical to successful garments so they need to be evaluated carefully. The concept of ease refers to the additional fabric included above the body measurements to allow for comfort and movement. It is the space between the garment and your body. It is also a design feature which varies according to the fashion of the current time and can change greatly according to personal preference. Ease is a ratio so the amount required increases with sizing. A large man’s garment will therefore require perhaps six inches of ease as compared to three inches in a child’s garment in the same yarn and silhouette. The weight of the fabric is crucial when determining the amount of ease required. The thicker and or stiffer the fabric, the more ease required. A soft fabric with drape will flatter with a small amount of ease while a thick knit will require a greater amount of ease to flatter the body. Garments meant to be worn on top of another require more ease for comfort.
When we knit, we create fabric.  We create this fabric stitch by stitch and row by row. We call the mathematics behind the fabric the gauge, and, as we all know, if we ignore gauge we won’t be able to produce the garment in our pattern.
There is however, a way of substituting yarns of a different gauge into a given design. It is referred to as the “conversion ratio” or “fudge factor". As always, you must start with an accurate gauge swatch.
Many knitters get stitch gauge and then are unable to match row gauge. If the fabric created is acceptable, understanding the variation can help the knitter make the necessary adjustments. It is possible to use the fudge factor for only row gauge adjustments and correct the shaping differences changes in row gauge create.
I remember how to calculate the ratio with a knitter’s mnemonic of “Y - O”. It’s a short form familiar to knitters and reinterpreted in this application as “your” gauge divided by the “original” gauge.
The basic steps to converting a pattern are:
·   Consider the impact fibre changes will have on the end result.
·   Think about ease requirements, are they impacted by the yarn substitution?
·   Find your gauge and the gauge used in the published pattern. 
·   Calculate the two conversion ratios, stitch and row. The mnemonic is Y - O, your gauge divided by the original gauge.
·   Convert the rows and stitches in the published pattern to the rows and stitches you need to knit. Round off fractional numbers.
·   Analyze stitch repeats and re balance numbers accordingly.
·   Verify the accuracy of curves and angles using knitter's graph paper.
To find the stitch conversion ratio: take your stitch gauge ÷ original stitch gauge
To find the row conversion ratio: take your row gauge ÷ original row gauge

No comments:

Post a Comment