Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The MOST important step for a good fit

I know most who read this will hate to hear it. But the most important step to get a good fit for a sweater is to knit a gauge swatch before you begin. You cannot depend on the yarn band to tell you what your gauge is because everyone knits a little differently.

Now that you know what I'm going to talk about, please continue reading anyway because I will give you a tip to make this much easier before the end. And it's a tip that I have not heard anywhere else, though of course nothing is really new in the 1000 year old craft of knitting.

Just to drive the point home, suppose the yarn band says the gauge is "20 sts = 4 inches" using Size US5 needles, but in fact your gauge is 22 sts in 4 inches with those needles. The band is claiming 5 stitches per inch, but your fabric is going to be 5 1/2 sts per inch. If you knit a sweater that is supposed to have a 40" chest circumference and the pattern calls for (40 x 5 =) 200 stitches around the chest, your 200 stitches will be only 36" inches around. Your sweater will be 4 inches tighter than you wanted it to be!

There is no way to be sure you will get the fit you desire if you don't start by getting accurate stitch and row gauges for your work. That means, knitting a swatch and blocking it the same way you will block and wash your sweater after it is completed, and then measuring at least 4 or 5 inches and counting the stitches or rows in that measure. Blocking can also change the gauge, so make sure you block your gauge swatch before measuring. Suzanne Bryan even suggests carrying the swatch around in your pocket or purse for a week or so in order to get it to be exactly the gauge your sweater will have after being worn for a while.

Why don't we all do it?

I know, we all have excellent reasons. But it basically boils down to this. You found a pattern you love, hopefully one you created here on Phrancko.com. Then you picked out the yarn that will make a spectacular piece of work. Now you just can't wait to get started on the real thing. Taking time to knit a throw-away little piece just seems like an unbearable task! But, trust me, you don't want to spend weeks knitting a sweater only to try it on and realize you have to find a much smaller or much larger person to give it to. The whole point of Phrancko.com designs is to allow you to create a sweater that perfectly fits the person you are creating it for. Please don't ever think that our custom fit patterns do not fit because you did not first work a swatch. I beg you!

Now the good news

Guess what! You do not have to knit a 5" by 5" swatch to get accurate row and stitch gauges. Instead, knit two swatches, one for the row gauge and one for the knit gauge. The row gauge should be enough stitches to create a 5 inch wide swatch, which you then work for 1 1/2 inches and bind off. Then you create a 1 1/2" wide swatch and work it 5 inches for the row gauge. I recommend 5 inches in each direction rather than 4 because the more stitches or rows, the more accurate the gauge.

The 5x5 inch swatch you may have worked is a total of 25 square inches. But the two swatches you will work is only 15 square inches! You have avoided 10 square inches of swatch knitting and you still have 5 inches of work to measure in each direction.



Surely it is worth the time to knit 15 square inches of fabric to make sure you will love the finished project.

The next question is, should you knit your swatch in the round? I answered that in a later post.

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