Tag Archives: size

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?

Getting the Fit

I’ve only got time for a quick little post today. (It’s sunny!  SoI have to take this opportunity to do yard work without sinking up to my knees into mud.  Seattle is just the best.)

So, this is a tip that sounds totally obvious, and when I heard it, I totally kicked myself for not coming up with it myself:

When you’re picking the size for a new sweater, find a sweater or shirt in your closet that fits well, and is a similar style (in other words, if you are making a baggy sweater, go find a baggy sweater in your closet, if you’re making a tight-fitting sweater, find a tight-fitting sweater in your closet).

Lay the sweater flat and measure across the chest, just under the armpits.  Multiply that measurement by 2.  This is the finished chest/bust circumference.

Measure under the armpitsThen, look at your pattern, and pick the size that has the closest finished bust circumference to your finished sweater.

Why is this better than measuring your body?  Frankly, it’s easier to measure something flat on the floor, than something all bumpy and three-dimensional, like your body.  There’s less math.  You don’t have to worry about calculating ease for a sweater if you already have a finished garment with the perfect amount of ease.  And, it’s a great way to be sneaky about knitting a sweater for someone else.  Your kid/husband/friend/neighbor/dude-you-just-met-on-the-street will know something’s up if you ask to measure their chest, but if you sneak off to a quiet corner of the house with one of their sweaters, you can measure away to your heart’s content!

I’m Ease-y

When you are getting ready to start knitting a new pattern, you might come across phrases like “Meant to be worn with positive ease” or “Designed to have 1 inch of negative ease” or even “Zero ease.”  What the heck is ease?

Ease is a really easy (sorry, I had to) way for a pattern designer to tell you how fitted (or not) a garment is meant to be.  A garment with positive ease (like this sweater) is meant to be worn loosely.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A garment with negative ease (like these socks) are knit slightly smaller than my feet, so they end up nice and snug.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A garment with zero ease (like this hat) has exactly the same dimensions as my head, so the hat is neither too tight nor too loose.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ease is measured in inches (or centimeters, if you’re not in America).   To calculate the ease, you measure both the garment, and the person who will wear it.  Then you subtract the person’s measurement from the garment’s measurement.

For example, if a sweater has a bust line of 40 inches, and the person who is meant to wear it has an actual bust line of 36 inches, the ease for the sweater is +4 inches.  (40-36=4)

If a different sweater has a bust line of 35 inches, and if the same person wears it, the ease of this sweater is -1 inch.  (35-36=-1)

Got it?

Ease makes a huge difference in how a finished garment looks.  You wouldn’t want a fitted, structured sweater with positive ease- it would look baggy and too big.  And, you wouldn’t want a slouchy, cozy sweater with negative ease- it would look like you were trying to wear your little sister’s clothes.  And the last thing you want to do is knit up an entire sweater, only to have it look like you pulled it from the by-the-pound bin at Goodwill.  Ew.


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.