I'm one of those rare math challenged knitters and I struggle with gauge. I'm determined to move past my annual sweater-sizing debacles in 2015 and I'm starting by swatching, which can be sort of fun when you get down to it.
This week, I'm going to cast on for this absolutely fabulous project, Norah Gaughan's Lace and Cables Capelet. The yarn I'm using is Madeline Tosh A.S.A.P. in the Weathered Frame Colorway.
The pattern calls for a stitch gauge of 12 stitches to 4 inches and for this project, and equally important row gauge of 16 rows to 4 inches. After reading the project notes, I saw that a number of other knitters felt the project was too short, if not too small around, so I realized row gauge would be important here.
I knit a nice big swatch on size 11 needles. I've knit a number of projects on similar bulky yarns and size 11 seemed to have worked in the past. When I swatch, I like to have room to measure, so in addition to the 12 stitches I was hoping to have in my 4 inch measure, I added an additional 4 stitches. I also added 4 more stitches, for a total of 20 in my swatch, so I could have a 2 stitch/2 row garter border all the way around my swatch — garter stitch doesn't roll like stockinette does, and this makes the swatch a bit easier to measure. I swatched and cast off without cutting my yarn off of the ball. I blocked using my handheld steamer, slowly and carefully saturating the fabric with steam on first the front, then the back and finally the front side again, before aggressively blocking the square. (Above).
Here is my swatch after blocking. Once unpinned, it's clear it has grown in size. You can see that I've put pins in — the red pins are to measure stitch gauge, and the green ones, which are difficult to see in this picture will measure row gauge. I've used a small ruler to put those pins in four inches apart, and now all that is left is for me to count.
Stitch gauge is going to be a problem. I've got 10 stitches over 4 inches, instead of the 12 that I need. It might not sound like a lot, but since I had planned to cast on 133 stitches for the body of the cape the pattern would result in a circumference of 44.33 inches, but my cape would be 53.2 inches.
This is the lesson from Monday's post: if you get fewer stitches to the inch than your patterns calls for, your finished item will be bigger than it should be.
My stitch gauge is dead on, coming in at that required 16 rows.
I have a couple of options here. I'm a loose knitter, so I can stick with the size 11 needles, but tighten up enough to get the extra two stitches per inch. That would require conscious effort but is possibly doable. I can also change my needle size, using a smaller need to get more stitches per inch, although I'll have to watch row gauge carefully.
As I noted at the outset, a number of other knitters have noted this pattern fits very small. Do I want to risk it and stick with my gauge and see what happens? I'm a fairly small person and one knitter noted the finished project was to small for her and only fit her 10-year old. And, the swatch is over stockinette, per the pattern, but I'll tighten up a good bit knitting lace and cables, which may help with gauge.
It's a slightly risky strategy, albeit based on a clear assessment of my gauge on this yarn and what other knitters have said about the pattern. Any thoughts about what I should do? I'm leaning towards tightening up and sticking with these needles, given the size comments from others, but I haven't made up my mind entirely yet.