Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gotta get good gauge

Did you ever work on something only to have to rip it out and it looks like this when you are done? *Sigh*  It was all because of gauge. Not that I didn't like the look of the thing or stitched pattern errors. Love to hate it. Gauge matters. It is king.

I was making the back to a sweater and had the bright idea to adjust the pattern and use my knitting machine to whip out stockinette rows in a flash. The clicking of the needles along the bed thrills me. I could never knit 80 stitches in 10 seconds on the sticks. There probably are speed knitters out there who could but I am not one of them!

Looking at a hand knit pattern and transposing it to machine knit is like doing homework in high school math class. You get the length and width measurement of your piece, whip up a swatch, count your stitches across, count your stitches up, divide everything by 4 to get the 1" stitch count, compare this with the pattern measurements, count how many rows you will need to make the desired length, start zipping them out on the machine. Yeah!

It's all set. I had started the waistband on the needles since they were cable twisted ribbing all the way across, and after row 12 the back piece was mounted on the needle bed of the knitting machine. Armed with my figures for the number of rows needed to bring the back to it's length, I banged it out in less than an hour, armhole and neck shaping too! Joy!!! Cast off and piece the thing together, add the buttonhole band - I could be wearing this in no time!

All that joy was gone when I realized that my gauge was miscalculated. It seemed kinda long. The stitches won't tighten up enough to make up for that. Then I realized that I forgot to divide everything by 4 to attain the 1" number. Holding up the neck shaping to my neck and the waistband dangled down by my knees, the thing was 4 times too long. Gack! How could I overlook that? Why did I keep going when the piece was so long on the machine that it needed to be wound up to keep from hitting the floor? Get it away from me - stuff it in a box. I gotta think about this when my thinking isn't so tainted.

A few weeks later, I start ripping out dozens of rows of stitches. The pile of yarn builds up on the floor. Still jaded over the mishap, it goes back in the box. This time it sits in there for a few months.

I found instruction on how to make a center pull skein of yarn with a Nostepinne. Great! This is the answer of how to deal with my big mess in that box that I was trying so hard to avoid. The love for the sweater I wanted to make recaptured my interest so out came the box again. Deciding to save the yarn, I got a big ol' wooden needle out to use it as a makeshift Nostepinne and started wrapping. Kinda pretty, isn't it?

It took 3 hours to untangle the pile and wrap up the homemade skeins.

This is what I wound up with (minimal pun intended). Six skeins of hand wound yarn that kind of creep me out because they have that look of a bunch of bee nests that you would knock off of the side of your house if you ever saw them there. So my entire afternoon of free time taken up by winding yarn. I can't help but think about the market-less women of ages long gone. Those generations without the convenience of buying premade yarn. They raised sheep, sheared them, cleaned the wool, brushed it, spun it, dyed it, wound it and then they could work on their imagined pattern of a pair of socks or a warm, winter woolen sweater. With a new found respect, I gotta give our predecessors alot of credit! They were true craftswomen.

The hard lesson learned from all this hoo-ha is to take the time to get good gauge. Double check it if you have to! Ripping out is just no fun!!

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