Monday, 11 February 2008

Got gauge? Jazzy sings the blues

"Born under a bad sign/ been down since I learned how to crawl/if it wasn't for bad luck/then I wouldn't have no luck at all"

Homer Simpson from The Simpsons Sing the Blues.

Normally, I'd scoff at Homer Simpson's fatalistic caterwauling, but that was before last week (after my vacation in the Land of the Navel), and my gauge swatching. I've been swatching samples all week. I have yet to start my thermal because my John Lewis didn't have the amount of yarn I needed. So I've sent off for some. Meanwhile, I'm swatching and singing the blues.

Normally, the reason why it takes me so long to start a project is substitution and gauge. Most times, I tend sub the yarn used for varying reasons, but all have to do with the fact that I live in the UK, and I have to work with what I've got. Also, I tend to obsess over gauge and make sure that it's perfect, including calculations and everything, so once I start to knit, I never look back.

With my swatching of these squares, I've come to some inalienable truths:

  1. My gauge/tension is tighter on metallic needles.
  2. My stitches are much neater on wooden/bamboo needles.
  3. I spend a lot of time swatching.
So, what am I swatching? To the left in that purple/blue yarn is a short sleeved top by Filati, I think. I like the design but not the original yarn. Stepping into the substitute box is Debbie Bliss Stella - a silk, cotton, rayon mix. It's light and papery smooth to the touch, and the colour will work on me. Of course, the yardage sucks, and the yarn is 'high end', but I want it.

My swatch is on point for this yarn.

In the middle with that plum yarn: a Vogue top- raglan sleeves, with bobbles on the sleeves and a cable and bobble front. I love the bobble detail on the sleeves, but not in love with the bobbles on the neckline. I'm using Bergere de France magic. The 'magic' is supposedly for 5-5.5mm needles, but it's really chunky, and handled the 6mm nicely to form a good fabric. However, on my Aldi turbos (6mm), the tension is too snug, and on my 6.6mm bamboos, it might be a tad too big. I should have some 6.5mm circulars about, so we will see.

That teal yarn there? That's Cascade superwash 220 in Spruce. On my monitor, the spruce was a darker green blue. The tone was rather mysterious, like shadows in the snow in a coniferous forest. In real life, it's a TEAL yarn. I've nothing against teal, but dang. Anyways, it seems that the superwash is a bit thinner than its non superwash comrade. Crap. So, instead of me getting 18 sts to 4 inches on 5mm needles, I'm getting 20 sts. I don't want to go up a needle size (5.5mm), because it will look like lace.

Crap again.

Not many people make bamboo circulars, and once you go metallic circular with fine cords, you never go back. Good thing I don't mind knitting with straight needles.

Hopefully, I'll get something sorted, because I do want to wear more knitted stuff. Once you start wearing home made knit garments, its hard to pay scads of money for acrylic based clothing, really.



JayJay said...

Ugh, I am also having swatching issues lately. I am avoiding it by working on projects that don't require gauge to exact, like baby items and scarves. I admire your precision and dedication to the process!

michou said...

Argh, you make me feel bad - swatching? Well, I do swatch. Kind of. I take a look at the pattern I'd love to make, take another peek in my stash and hopefully find something I like for the pattern.
Than I am going to knit not more than 25 stitches for, say, 10 rows, change the needle size, go up for another 10 rows - ok, 5 rows and see if I could make it. Normally it fits, I might have some experience by now and cast on - mostly I chose the smallest size because of my loose tension. Except for leafy - ths small Phildar sizes are really small :-)

If I am working from a vintage pattern, I just grab some 4 ply and go ahead - if there are more than 110 stitches for the hem and going up to more than 125, I just use a 2.5 metric needle. If less than 125, I use 3.0. And that's all the effort I make. How bad is that? None of my sweaters will ever be perfec-perfect ...