Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gauge and blocking

Last time I blocked the swatches, I gave them a soak in warm water, squeezed them dry in a towel, and gently patted them out into shape.  They were nice and flat, mostly square, and all were within the gauge needed for worsted weight as required for Level 1 of the TKGA Masters Program.  

I wanted to see how the swatches looked after a more involved blocking, and to see how the stitch and row gauge was affected, if at all.  So this time, I opted for a foam pad, a ruler, a square, lots of pins, and a spray bottle of warm water.

If you don't have a set of  these foam mats to block knitting on, get to Lowe's and buy a pack!  They are usually under $20 for a set of 8; each tile is 2 feet square, and about 1/2 inch thick - deep enough to really hold pins for straight edges or points of lace items.  A single tile is big enough to block small pieces, or you can interlock several to block larger things like sweaters, shawls, and scarves.

I carefully blocked each of my swatches to 5 inches square, except for the Cascade Greenland.  It was the smallest of the swatches and stretching it out to 5 inches was just too much so I pulled it only a bit to hit 4 1/2 inches on all sides.

After the swatches were pinned out dry, and I was satisfied that all the edges were straight and the corners square (I used the old builders' trick of measuring diagonally; if it's the same both ways, then it's square and not a parallelogram), I sprayed them liberally with warm water, let them soak up the moisture for about 10 minutes or so, then gently blotted up the excess with a clean, white towel.

And I was generous with the pins; generally I put them on every other stitch, except for the Greenland swatch, which didn't need as many so it got every 3rd stitch pinned.

I left them to dry from Saturday morning until Sunday evening.  Then I unpinned them and left them alone to relax until this evening (Tuesday).  I re-measured the gauge and here are the befores and afters:
  • Paton's Classic, 20 stitches by 38 rows; 19 stitches by 36 rows
  • Lion Fisherman, 20 stitches by 40 rows; 19 stitches by 39 rows
  • Cascade 220, 19 stitches by 34 rows; 18 stitches by 35 rows
  • Cascade Greenland, 20 stitches by 38 rows; 20 stitches by 38 rows
All still within the worsted weight guidelines, but with very small changes in all of them, except the Greenland.  The drape and hand of the fabrics is about the same, although I do think the yarns have bloomed a bit more, except for Greenland again.  Because of the high twist, it hasn't gotten the nearly fuzzy feel of the other yarns, although the softness and drape of it has vastly improved with the second blocking.  And the biggest difference in the swatches is how they look: the stitches and rows are straighter, everything is much better aligned after being pinned and blocked, the edges are crisper and neater.  

None of these swatches will be in my final submission, but they've taught me a lot about gauge, how these yarns feel to knit with, how to block them, and how they react to blocking.  I still don't know which one will be the final yarn I use for my submission, or if I'll use different yarns for different swatches for different reasons.  

In fact, I don't think I'm ready to start knitting swatches for the submission yet.  One of the requirements is a report on caring for hand knits, including blocking, and I've decided to tackle that before knitting any of the swatches.  I see research in my future; lots and lots of research.  And possibly more swatches to block.


  1. I love that you are blogging about your journey. I will follow with interest.

  2. YOu are such an over-achiever! This is brilliant. I'm learning just from following your journey, and I've already gotten my Master's certificate!


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