Here's a continuation of how I do my gauge swatching. I left off with my gauge swatch still slightly damp after having been rolled up in a towel and having the excess water pressed out.
While it's still damp, pin your gauge swatch out in a square. You can stretch it more or less, depending on your needs. You'll want to measure it now to check, but keep in mind that, after being stretched out while drying/blocking, it will shrink back a little bit again when you unpin it. I couldn't be bothered to get out my very nice, but very heavy, blocking board for this, so I just pinned it onto a piece of foam board I got at a craft shop a couple of months ago to block my mother's shawl. Those nice, strong T-pins aren't really necessary for such a light yarn, but are great for holding down heavier ones. Leave the swatch pinned out until it's completely dry. Yes, I have cheated before by using a blow-dryer. Just don't dry it under direct sunlight - bad for the colours and bad for the fibres.
Here is the dry swatch, unpinned. Now is the time to do the final measurement. Do you have the right number of stitches and rows to four inches? Count half-stitches too, because even they add up if you're talking about a sweater circumference of more than 30 inches! If you have too many stitches/rows, your needles size is too small, so go up a size and try again. Yes, again, from the beginning. Now you see why I had to make resolve to do this, because it sure as heck doesn't come naturally! If you have too few stitches/rows, your needle size is too big and you need to go down a size. If it's way off, of course, you can guess-timate and go up or down two or more sizes.
After a while, you'll get a sense of whether you're a loose or a tight knitter. Moocow is a tight knitter. In fact, she snapped one of my Crystal Palace Bamboo double-pointed knitting needles. I'm a loose knitter, which means I usually have to go down two, even three needles sizes.
There, you see? I had to do two swatches before I got the right gauge. The first one (on the right), knit on 3mm needles, turned out too big (with too few stiches and rows per inch). The second one, knit on 2.75mm needles, is just right.
And, just so you know, both swatches are 40 stitches wide, so you can see what a big difference even 0.25mm in needle size can make over a short 4 inches.
As a finishing touch, I write the wool, needle size and gauge of each swatch onto a sticky label and stick it on the back of the swatch so I can refer to it later. You can't really tell from the pictures, but the Baby Cashmere is really soft, and has very nice drape. If I can get the colours I want, I think it'll make a great Union Square Market Pullover! I just need to finish my other projects first......!
Posted by Lana to Bumbling Bees - Girls with Purls at 3/28/2006 02:51:00 PM