Wednesday, October 05, 2005

on gauge (or not)

I think I started the mittens in March. Back then, I did swatch for them. The funny thing is, it didn't even occur to me to re-swatch when I picked them up again this week, 7 months later. It probably would have been a smart thing to do, seeing as I've completely changed my fair isle technique since then. (Not that I actually had technique back then, as much as flailing and frustration.)

I just whipped out my ruler, and my gauge is off. I'm supposed to be getting 9 stitches and 9 rows per inch, but I'm getting something between 7.5 and 8 stitches per inch. Row gauge, surprisingly, is spot on. (Actually, maybe not so surprisingly. If anything, my row gauge tends to be tighter than it "should" be in relation to stitch gauge, for most patterns.)

The mittens seem to fit well enough, and I'm not completely set on keeping them for myself, anyway. I actually think my stitch gauge my shrink (grow?) to be more like 7-7.5 SPI with blocking. There is definitely some stitch unevenness and puckering, so it's hard to get a super accurate measurement. Plus, I only measured across one inch, instead of 2 or 3 or 4. My measurements might not be 100% accurate.

Why this talk of gauge, anyway? I want to use the same yarn (Brown Sheep Naturespun sport) for Ingeborg, and was curious to see if the gauge I'm getting on the mittens is anything like the gauge I'll want to get for Ingeborg. For Ingeborg, I should get 9 rows per inch and 7 stitches per inch. That's pretty close to what I'm getting now. Not surprisingly, they suggest size 3 needles, and I'm using size 2. I'm not going to use the mittens as a gauge swatch for Ingeborg, but it is reassuring to see that the yarn will work for 'Borg. I've been really set on using this yarn as I like it, I have half of what I'll need, and I can afford it. I've been a bit worried that the Naturespun sport would be a bit too light, as it has more yardage per 50g. than a lot of sportweight yarns. I am no longer worried.

What will I do if I get the same gauge (7.5spi, 9rpi) when I swatch for Ingeborg? Well, I could go up a needle size to get closer to stitch gauge, as row gauge doesn't seem to matter much at all for the pattern. I have only read through it quickly, but it looks like you stop knitting when you get the body and sleeve lengths that you want, not when you're up to a specific point in the pattern repeats. If my row gauge is off, I'd just have to recalculate the sleeve increases, which is fairly trivial. On the other hand, a slightly tight gauge and a good, sturdy blocking is also appealing. In my limited experience, fair isle looks best after it's been tugged around a bunch, and having to block 7.5spi to be 7spi might be good for it. I guess I'll cross this bridge when I come to it.

By the way, for those of you with more fair isle experience, what are your experiences in swatching in pattern? I always see fair isle patterns that tell you to swatch in the pattern being used. Does the pattern you're using actually affect gauge? Maybe one day, when I'm really bored, I'll play around with this.

Oh, and Tipper asked about the yarn I'm using for the retro rib socks, whose heel flap is in the previous post. The yarn is GGH Marathon. I don't know the name of the colorway, as the label is either hiding or lost. I wasn't sure whether I'd like the yarn, but it's fairly nice to knit with, and the colors are more interesting and nicer than I thought. I got it in a trade, and it was somewhat of a gamble for me. It isn't that well suited for fancy patterning, but as this is my third pair of retro ribs, I don't much care that the pattern isn't as apparant as it would be in a solid color.

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