I've been trying to put these pictures up for days....almost weeks, now! Since Blogger refuses to let me put them all up in one post, I'm splitting them up.
Here's the Union Square Market Pullover I so adore from the Fall 2005 issue of Interweave Knits. I should have been doing other things, such as working on my aunt's scarf (finished, now. That's how long I've been trying to post these pictures!), or finishing one of my sweaters. But the yarns from Elann had arrived, and they were so soft and touchable, I couldn't resist. Since I'd made a New Year's resolution to make proper gauge swatches for all my sweater projects, that's what I proceeded to do. I'm trying out the Peruvian Collection Baby Cashmere in cashmere blue.
Here's the first step: knit a square using your chosen yarn and the stitch pattern called for in the gauge description. For example, the USMP calls for 27 stitches and 39 rows to 4-inches in stockinette stitch. You want to case on more stitches and knit more rows a) in case your gauge is too fine, and b) so that you have a good-sized area to measure. I knit 40 stitches and 45 rows. Since stockinette stitch tends to curl up at the ends, and to the back at the sides, I knit a couple of rows of garter stitch to start, and began and ended each row with a couple stitches in garter stitch. Once you have your square knit up, cast off.
Next: Wash the swatch the way you intend to wash the finished sweater. This will let you know if the colours will bleed, if it will shrink, pill outrageously or otherwise fall apart on you. If it does, well, you probably want a different yarn. Here I'm just soaking the swatch in some lukewarm water with a bit of laundry detergent added. Then I rinsed it in several lukewarm baths of clean water until no soapy residue remained. The other nice thing about washing and then blocking is that you can usually stretch it a bit (if the size of the piece/gauge isn't quite right). In fact, it probably will grow a bit, it you don't felt it, which is why you shouldn't skip this step. Also, this tends to even out any unevenness in your stitches.
Then: PRESS out the water. Don't wring the swatch (or, God forbid, your sweater). Support your sweater so that the weight of the water doesn't stretch it and pull it out of shape completely. Once you've gotten a good amount of water out, lay it out on a clean towel, roll it up in the towel, and press more water out. Once it's damp, but no longer dripping wet, you can probably stop. If you're blocking something like a shawl, where the yarn is really fine and it's likely to dry out before you can pin it all out, you can always re-wet it by spraying it with water.
As you might have noticed, this is not a set of explanations for knitting a gauge swatch for something you intend to felt. That's a little different. I'm moving to a place where I'll have my own washer soon, so I intend to do some felting then. Now, onto the next post for the follow-up!
Posted by Lana to Bumbling Bees - Girls with Purls at 3/28/2006 02:22:00 PM
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