Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gauge and Tension

This week had me working on yet another swatch in the quest for the elusive "gauge" and settling on a yarn to use for the submission swatches.  

Greenland is a superwash, and while delightfully bouncy and a joy to knit with (I can hardly wait to make a sweater out of it), it just doesn't block very well.  Oh, you can soak it, pin it out, steam it, and it looks great.  Unpin that baby, and it bounces right back where you started from.  Nope, I need something I can block into submission.

Cascade 220 and Lion Fisherman were neck-and-neck in the running for a bit.  I love both of them, although the Fisherman is a bit thinner than 220.  In the end, by the time I got a nice gauge in stockinette, they both looked a bit thin.

After looking at the samples, I settled on the Paton's Classic Wool; it's nice and round which means it fills out the stitches well, it has a bit of bounce but not so much that it can't be blocked flat, and on US 7 straights it gives me near perfect gauge of 19 stitches and 25 rows over 4 inches.   The Yarn Council says worsted should be 16-20 stitches over 4 inches, and the ball band says 20 stitches and 26 rows.

The next battle was (and still is, to some extent) my tension.  Here's the latest swatch:

I tried several different methods of knitting on this swatch: Continental ("picking"), English ("throwing"), Combination ('some of each"), purling back backwards, various tensioning of the yarn through my fingers, and anything else I ran across.  What I found is that my usual Continental method gave me the best result; that's what's on the bottom third of the swatch above.  It shows much better on the back side:

From the bottom up:  about 1/3 way up inside the blue is my usual Continental; the middle 1/3 inside the blue is my English; the top 1/3 is my Combination (Continental knit and English purl).  The bit above the blue is pure crap; that's where I tried purling back backwards.  What I learned was not to do that last bit.

I also tried various methods of selvages.  The Masters does not allow my favorite: slipping the first stitch of each row.  Of course, I love it precisely for the reason they don't allow it: It hides all manner of tension problems.

Here's where I started: terrible tension and stitches of every size imaginable and it rolls to the backside even after blocking.

I tried making the last stitch very tight, turning, and making the first stitch loose; hoping they would even each other out as some knitters said they would.  For me, not so much; although I could get the selvage to face front and lay down with blocking.

I tried throwing the first and last stitches.  Yeah, that didn't work, either. And it rolled to the back, too.

Last, I tried wrapping the yarn clockwise for the first and last purl stitch, the knitting through the back loop on those two.  Still not great, but I think with a little practice, I can get a pretty good looking edge out of this one.  It takes some concentration (after mumble, mumble number of years wrapping yarn counter-clockwise) to remember to bring the yarn UNDER the needle instead of over to purl.

They say practice makes perfect.  I think it should be "Perfect practice makes perfect."  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some practicing to do.


  1. Thanks for sharing Bobbie! I am finding the story of your journey very interesting, since I am fascinated by the journey of refining ones techniques to becomean even greater artisan.

    1. Kay, I thought I knew a LOT about knitting - until I started this process! What I've discovered is that I know how do things but not necessarily the BEST way to do things. It's a wonder how much there is to learn!


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