Tag Archives: Gauge


Or, rather, I did think it through, I just don’t like the answer.

So, it’s my sweater from last week. I like it. The design is going to be solid (at least it is in my head). The yarn is nice and soft. It’s fun to knit stripes.

But here’s the thing: This is a not-small adult sweater being knit on US5s. When I finish the raglan increases (knitting around the chest and shoulders, just before I split for arms), I’m going to have more than 400 stitches on my needle. That’s more than I had when I was making my big blanket. Ridiculous. It’s going to take forever.

Here’s what happened: I’ve used this yarn before, and while Swish is a super soft yarn (superwash merino), it’s really not hard-wearing. I’ve used it for sweaters before and they end up pilled about fifteen minutes after you try them on for the first time. I’m hoping to combat that by going down a needle size or two. So here we are with US5s (4s on the cuffs). I think it’s the right decision in the long term, but, man. It’s going to be a heck of a slog.

But, honestly, there’s something to be said for just miles and miles of stockinette. Nothing’s more meditative. Right? …Right??

Have you ever miscalculated about how much work a project was going to be?

Black Magic

I swear my knitting’s been cursed or something.

(Or, maybe I’m just bad at measuring. But that couldn’t possibly be it.)

I’ve been cruising through my latest Flax Light. I used up one skein and added in another. This is my usual go-to baby sweater, but this one is for an older kid, so admittedly this one is taking longer than usual. But still, I was making plenty of headway.

So much so, that last night I pulled out the tape measure to check my progress.

The body should be 9″. I could have sworn that when I sat down to start knitting, it was at 8.5″.

After a couple episodes of Treehouse Masters (which is a delightful show, if you ever need something fun and silly to watch), I’d worked probably a half dozen rows. I measured again, sure that I’d be switching to my smaller needles for the next row.

8. Inches. Eight.

WHAT? How is that even possible? I had added rows. How could it be shorter?!

I angrily worked a few more rows and called it a night.

I pulled it out this morning to take pictures and write this post and, well. You can see for yourself:

What black magic is this? Who has hexed my sweater? Will it ever grow any longer, or has it been cursed to always be just a little too short?

(Or will I get frustrated, knit a bunch of rows tonight, then go and measure it again, and it will be 3″ too long? That’s also a possibility.)

Gauge Gripes

Do you ever get halfway through a project and start questioning everything.  Why did I pick this yarn? Did I really need to make the extra-large version?  Why is there just so much stockinette stitch?  And was the pattern designer a little bit of a sadist?

I’m halfway through a pattern like this.  (OK, full confession, I’m barely a third of the way through, but I like to dream.)

It’s a top-down sweater knit on US3s with fingering-weight wool.  The shoulders were fun, with lots of color-work, but the rest of the sweater is acres of stockinette.  IMG_1311It’s going to be lovely when it’s done, but man, I gotta wonder about the sanity of the designer.  Who designs a men’s sweater on 3’s and 2’s? I’m currently working on the body, and each row has almost 300 sts.  It’s not even that big of a sweater.

Oh… wait… It’s my sweater.  I designed it…  whoops.

I just hope it turns out OK, because my fingers are going a little numb from all the thousands of tiny stitches.

(Keep your eye out for this pattern some time next fall.  In the meantime, I’ll be plodding away through this tiny tiny gauge, and dreaming of worsted weight yarn…)

When’s the last time you over-estimated your enthusiasm for a pattern?

And Then You Win Some

I know you were all waiting with bated breath over the weekend-  Will Allison’s socks turn out?  Or will she be cursed to forever have lopsided footwear?

Well, I have an update for you.

But first, look at my artsy picture of my socks as they were blocking over the weekend.  I call this picture “Morning Sunlight with Wet Socks.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(OK, maybe I’ve had too much coffee this morning… or not enough.  One or the other.)

Once they were dry I took them down, and they looked OK.  Maybe a little lopsided, but not too bad.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know it’s silly, and something that I should have gotten over so long ago- after all I’ve been knitting since I was a little kid.  But, I can never get over how pretty blocked fabric looks.  Especially socks.  All those precise little stitches.  Aren’t they just beautiful?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Anyway, enough stalling.  Long story short, the socks came out fine.  They’re almost the same size- one is still a smidge big, but no one other than me would notice (or care).  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIsn’t it funny how your gauge can change over time.  I used the same needles and the same yarn (I know because they were all packed away nicely waiting for me in a little project bag).  I did the same number of rows and stitches, and for whatever reason I was way more relaxed for the second sock.   Sigh.

I guess it’s just another reason to avoid Second Sock Syndrome, I suppose.

Has your gauge ever led you astray?

You Win Some, You Lose Some.

And sometimes you end up with mismatched socks.

If my Ravelry page is correct, I started these socks in January, but I think I probably started them earlier- probably over Christmas.

I finished one right away, then did the toe of the second one…. then…. nothing.  I stashed these socks away  “just in case,” then promptly forgot about them.  So, when I was packing for my trip, I decided to bring them along.  After all, a sock-in-progress fits in my purse, so they’re great for traveling.   The pattern was super simple (just stockinette with a single row of purls around the toe and ribbed cuff), so they wouldn’t take away from looking out the window.  And they were almost done, so they’d go pretty fast!  Win-win-win.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey turned out pretty cute!  Nothing fancy, but they’re a pretty color, and they look ok.

Except if you try to measure them against each other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne sock is fully a half-inch shorter than the other one.  I swear I measured- I even counted rows!  But, something must have happened to change my gauge between when I started these socks six months ago and when I finished them last week.  Blergh.

I don’t think I’ll try to re-knit them, or rip them out… they’re not fancy enough for me to really be bothered, and they aren’t going to be a gift.  I think I’ll try blocking them out, and hopefully that’ll fix the problem.  After all, blocking hides a multitude of sins.

Have you ever ended up with significantly different socks? What did you do?

Design Series: Halfway there!

We’re almost there, guys!   I’m itching to go buy yarn and cast on!

If you’re just joining us now, we’ve been designing a knitting pattern together.  We decided to make socks, and we wanted them to be warm and cozy.  And, last week, we decided to make them with a simple gray and indigo-blue pattern.

This week, I have two questions for you.

First, do you want the socks to be made at a standard sock-yarn gauge, or should they be slipper socks, worked at a larger (DK or Worsted) gauge?

And, of course, what do you you want our simple stripes to look like?  here are 4 variations to choose from.

Design Project Socks

Vote!  Quick!  I really want to go visit the yarn store and start knitting on these socks!


(And, don’t forget to enter your name into the drawing for a copy of “Cute, Cuter, Cutest!”  You’ve got until Friday before I pick a winner!)

Sock Week: Your lucky number

Are you ready to get started?!  I know I am!


But, before we really start knitting, we need to get your SOCK NUMBER.  It’s super important, and getting an accurate number will ensure that your socks fit properly.  All you need to do is make a swatch, measure your foot and do a tiiiiny bit of math.  Then we can get down to the business of making your socks!


OK, so first, make a stockinet stitch swatch with your yarn and needles that you’ll be using.  You can look at this post if you need a refresher.  Come back when you know the gauge (in stitches per inch) for your swatch.  I’ll wait.




Cool!  What’s your gauge?  Mine is 7 stitches per inch.  You should write this down somewhere so you don’t forget.  Muy importante.


The next step is to measure your foot (or the foot of the person for whom the socks are intended).  Measure the circumference of the widest part of the ball of the foot.  I like socks to be a little snug, so I can wear them in sneakers, so I try to keep the tape measure tight when I measure my feet.

I am wearing a sock in this picture.  You should not wear socks when you measure your feet.  My feet are disgusting (I roller-skate a lot, so my feet are covered in bruises, blisters and callouses), and I like it when people read my blog, so I decided to hide my feet for your viewing pleasure.  You’re welcome.


Hey, look!  I have feet that are about 9 inches around.  (I wear size US 12 shoes, for reference.  So if you have little delicate lady-feet, you haven’t measured wrong.)

If you’re making socks as a gift for someone else whose feet you don’t have access to, here’s a pretty good reference for foot sizes.


OK.  So now you have your gauge (mine is 7 sts/in) and your foot measurement (mine is 9 in).  Now we have to do a tiny bit of math.  I promise it’s not scary.

First, multiply your gauge and your foot measurement:

7 x 9 = 63

Then round this number to the nearest multiple of 4.  If you want a sock that fits snugly, round down.  If you want a sock that’s a smidge looser, round up.  I like my socks snug, so I’ll round down to 60.


That’s it!  That’s your Sock Number.  My Sock Number is 60.  What’s yours?
On Friday, we’ll actually cast on, and start knitting.  I can’t wait!


Swatches are lame. And dumb. And I don’t like doing them. But I do them. Because you have to. They are important. Like vegetables. Or doing sit-ups.

I get it; you’re all excited for your project to start. You got out your really cool knitting bag, and you have your lovely new yarn next to you, and those great new Addi Turbos, and you’re just itching to jump in and start knitting up that fantastic new sweater.

Making a gauge swatch is like measuring twice and cutting once (didn’t your teacher/dad/grandpa/random authority figure ever say that to you? OK… Just me). Without the proper gauge, your super beautiful, complicated cabled sweater is going to end up fitting your kid sister, or being too big for Shaquile O’Neil. And that would be sad. Making a gauge swatch is quick (ish) and painless (or at least more painless than having to tear out an entire sweater after you finished).

Cast on enough stitches so that you have about 4 inches of knitting.

Knit in the pattern called for in your pattern. For example, if the gauge says “4 sts/in in garter stitch”, knit in garter stitch. If the pattern says “7 sts/inch in lace pattern #1”, knit lace pattern #1. Work the gauge until it is roughly square. Bind off loosely, or transfer the live stitches to a piece of scrap yarn.


(For some reason I decided to be fancy and add a seed stitch border to this swatch.  This just adds more work, but if that’s what you want to do, I won’t stop you.)


Once you have the squareish swatch, lay it out flat. People who actually are good at this stuff say to wash and block the swatch the way that you will treat the final product. That is too much effort for me. Yes, doing that will give you a more exact result, but I don’t wanna. *pout* I just give the swatch a couple tugs in either direction to make the stitches sit nicely, and lay the square out flat on a table, couch cushion, or my leg. If the swatch is being particularly squirrely and trying to roll up, I might throw a couple pins in the edges to hold it flat, but not pull it too tightly (Pin it to the couch cushion… not your leg).

Then using a ruler, tape measure or gauge counter, I’ll measure three or four spots in the middle of the swatch, and see how many stitches will fall in an inch. If I get different numbers of stitches, I’ll average them out to get my working gauge.


(See how there are 5 stitches  for every inch?  I even marked some of them for you.  This swatch has a gauge of 5 sts/inch.)

If you’re swatching a pattern (like a lace or some sort of fancy-pants ribbing) you’ll do things a little differently. Instead of counting how many stitches in an inch, you’ll count how wide a single repeat is. Since you know how many stitches are in a repeat, you can use that to get a gauge.  For example, a lace pattern takes 15 stitches and is 2 inches wide. Then, your gauge is 15sts/2inches, or 7.5 sts/in.

So now you have your gauge. Is it right for your pattern? If the gauge is too big for the pattern (a lower number than the pattern’s gauge), go down a needle size or two to get the right gauge. If the gauge is too fine for the pattern (a higher number than the pattern’s gauge), go up a size or two, and try making the swatch again.

I know… it feels like busy work, but it’s totally worth it.

Actually, it is the size of the boat that matters

Gauge is a tricky concept to talk about, because it’s kind of abstract, but it’s not a tricky concept to understand. Gauge really means the size of the stitches of the knitting that you are producing. It’s usually measured in stitches per inch (for example, if you see a ball of yarn that says “4 sts/in” on the label, that means that the yarn manufacturer thinks that the yarn works best at 4 stitches per inch).

Gauge can play a HUGE role in how a project turns out. For example take a look at these two hats:


These hats are (I kid you not) exactally the same. They were both made with the Chunky Hat pattern that I posted Wednesday. The only thing I did was change the yarn and needles to change the gauge. The blue hat was knit at a gauge of about 2 stitches per inch, the red hat was knit at a gauge of about 8 stitches per inch.

So how do you get different gauges? You change two variables. Your yarn and your needles. First pick a yarn that will get you close to your gauge (by looking at the label on the yarn package you can get a rough estimate of your expected gauge). Then, through trial and error, try different needles to get your desired gauge (again the yarn label will suggest a needle for you to use).

The yarn you use will dictate (to a point) what needles you can use. For example, the bulky blue yarn is super thick, so you could probably use needles from about a 10 to about a 15. 15s are going to give you a loosely knit (large gauge) fabric, and 10s are going to give you really dense fabric with a tighter gauge.  If you tried to use smaller needles (like 5s or 3s), you’d have almost no chance of being able to knit, since the needles would be so much smaller.

Pattern: Super Hat

Looking for a super-quick hat to knit up?  Who isn’t at the end of April?

This hat is made with super-chunky yarn to knit up super-fast.  The finished product is super-warm for the coldest parts of winter.  It’s knitted flat, which makes it great for super-beginner knitters who are afraid of knitting in the round.  The ribbing is worked super-long  to give a nice flipped-up brim.  Super!

(I think I need a thesaurus.)

If you’re looking for a child-sized hat, use worsted-weight yarn and medium-sized needles.  If you want a doll-sized hat, use sock yarn and matching needles.


Person-sized hat:

1 Skein Lion Brand Bulky Yarn or other super bulky yarn

Size 13 needles, or size needed to get gauge

Doll-sized hat:

A small amount of Mini Mochi, or other sock yarn

Size 2 needles, or size needed to get gauge

Scissors, tapestry needle


Person-sized hat: 2.5 sts/in

Doll-sized hat: 8.5 sts/in


Cast on 10 stitches, work back and forth as follows:

  • Row 1 (and all other odd-numbered rows): Purl
  • Row 2: K1, (K1, inc 1) 8 times, K 1 (18 sts)
  • Row 4: K1 (K2, inc 1) 8 times, K 1 (26 sts)
  • Row 6: K1 (K3, inc 1) 8 times, K 1 (34 sts)
  • Row 8: K across
  • Row 10: K1 (K4, inc 1) 8 times, K 1 Row (42 sts)
  • 12: K across
  • Row 14: K1 (K5, inc 1) 8 times, K 1 (50 sts)

Work in stockinet stitch for 15 more rows (ending with a wrong side row).

Begin ribbed brim as follow for 20 rows as follows:

  • Row 1 (and all odd-numbered rows): P2 (K2, P2) across
  • Row 2 (and all even-numbered rows): K2 (P2, K2) across
  • Bind off and cut yarn with a nice long tail.

Using the tail from the cast-on edge, sew up the crown of the hat, making sure the seam is on the inside (the purl side). Don’t forget to close up the hole at the top of the hat, too! Hide the end of your yarn in the inside of the hat, and cut off any extra yarn.

Using the tail from the bound-off (brim) end of the hat, sew up the brim, making sure the seam is on the outside of the hat. This seems weird and backward, but since this hat is designed with a fold-up brim, the outside of the hat is actually hidden when the hat is worn.  Sew in the tail and cut the yarn, making sure the remaining tail is on the inside of the hat.