Monday, August 27, 2012

Knitting Gauge Woes - Trying To Make Things That Fit

Well, I've officially decided I am ready to knit a sweater! I know - I live in Florida. I'm not going to make a full on long sleeve cozy warm sweater. I'm going to make short sleeve cardigans and I will be able to wear them in the winter. Basically, I just want to make a sweater as it is a huge knitting milestone and it would keep things interesting since I haven't tried it before. Like I said before, I have knitting ADD and I have to keep things fresh and exciting or I lose interest fast. 

Anyway, I really want to make Stefanie Japel's Puff-Sleeved Feminine Cardigan, which I will one day but this would be a little too ambitious for a first crack at sweaters. I've read some reviews and even seasoned knitters said it was a little difficult, so I will make that my second sweater after I've gotten my bearings a little bit. I also want to make her Minisweater (a.k.a. Boob Holder, lol) and this one seems much simpler - mainly it's much smaller and doesn't have any lace details - so I feel confident i can handle this as my first endeavor. I even had purchased yarn for the 'boob holder' a few weeks ago so I was ready to get knitting.

One thing I have learned in my short career (so far) of knitting is that your gauge is very important. Gauge is how tight or loose your knitting is and it's incredibly important to synch up your gauge to the pattern you are using. Basically, the patterns will say 'this is knitted on a US size 9 needle with a gauge of 13 stitches and 21 rows being 4 inches'. In fact, this is the exact gauge I need to achieve for the 'boob holder'. This is the part of knitting garments that most people dread because it means you have to knit a swatch, a.k.a. a 4 inch square that won't be used for anything else. At first, I was like most of the knitting world and thought I didn't need to do gauge swatches. Luckily with my small projects I have done, it wasn't all that critical to be at a specific gauge. However my dislike for gauge swatches is definitely outweighed by my fear of spending weeks or possibly months on a sweater (not to mention the cost of that much yarn) only to have it not fit me in the end. I know this would cause me to never try a sweater again, and I really don't want that to happen.

So, I got out some needles and started my swatch. To swatch, you just knit in stockinette (knit of the front side, purl on the back side) until you have made a 4 inch square, and I have really gotten much better and faster at this - it was a nice surprise. 

However, once I was done with the number of rows and stitches the pattern states and pulled out my tape measure my happiness immediately disappeared. My gauge is much much smaller than the pattern. My square that should have been 4 inches square was 2.9 inches  x 3.50 inches! How is that even possible? I used the needles the pattern called for and everything, but I am almost a good full inch short. So, I switched to a larger set of needles (I used a size 10 instead of size 9) and made another swatch. I was still too small! I even tried to make my stitches looser, but I never got bigger than 3.5 inches. I literally came to a standstill with this project before I even started it. While I'm glad I made just a small square instead of, say, the entire back of a sweater before I realized it was too small, now I really don't know what to do. I don't want to use huge needles since it would make larger holes in my projects and I just don't like that look. 

I finally decided I had no other choice and I purchased a new Craftsy class - Knit Lab: Fit Your Knits. This is taught by Stefanie Japel, the same teacher I had in the first Knit Lab class (a.k.a. the person I learned to knit from) PLUS she's the designer of the patterns I am wanting to make, so I figured it was a great place to learn what to do. Even better, I can ask her questions directly in the class so I know I will be able to get help if I am still stumped later on. 

Anyway, sorry for such a long and technical jargon filled knitting post. I just wanted to voice my frustrations. I have watched the first few lessons of the class and I'm loving it so far. I've just got to get through it to know what to do about sizing everything. Wish me luck!

P.S. I will probably be doing more crochet for a bit until I get this figured out :)

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