Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Knitting Questions

I’ve been swatching. Yes, for a new project. I feel the need to have another one on the needles despite the, ahem, other WIPs. Don’t worry though. I hold too much guilt to really get a good start on a new project. In fact, I was so over zealous about Chase’s heel that I knit too much and am now frogging it back to size. I used the eye of the partridge heel flap (thanks, Renée!) from Yarn Harlot’s Knitting Rules book and I’m finding it a wee bit tedious to take back with all of those slipped stitches so Chase is hanging out on the dining room door at the moment. I’m also moving along on Iain’s chevron sweater. I’m going to run out of yarn, there’s no doubt about it. I’m still on sleeve number one but cannot figure out how I’m supposed to knit 10" of sleeve times two out of the yarn I have left. However, the eternal optimist in me is not going to rip it out and knit a vest until I first head off to my LYS and casually inquire as to whether or not there’s anymore of that once in a lifetime yarn left…from the summer. I doubt it but you never know. The Knitting Goddess might be smiling on me that day. It’s worked once before for me regarding some special quilting fabric. Let’s try my knitting luck.

I’ve been swatching in preparation for my Queen of Hearts nursing sweater from Natural Knits. The organic cotton (I'm using 'Sage Colour 83') from Blue Sky Alpacas is GORGEOUS! Like other cotton I’ve used, it has no ‘give’ but that’s where the similarity ends. You know those lovely pictures you’ve seen of cotton blooming in the fields and how soft it looks? Well, that’s how soft this yarn IS. I’m not kidding. It is amazing. I cannot wait for this sweater to be done. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve rubbed my swatch against my face, exclaiming over the wonder and softness of it. It’s going to be so lovely to cuddle my little boy in!

Speaking of that swatch, I have a couple of knitting questions for you knitters with lots more experience than I. Here goes. Seeing as this is somewhat revealing, I will start properly.

Forgive me, fellow knitters, for I have sinned…

Question One: How much extra yardage do designers allow for knitters to get gauge? I’ve only just realised (seeing as people have been asking what others do with their swatches. I, um, ripped them out and re-swatched and/or knit that part back into my project. Bad Patty!) that I’m not supposed to re-use the yarn I used to swatch. However, I’ve been known to knit up to five swatches to get gauge. The Natural Knits book suggests casting on 30 - 40 stitches and then knitting 4" from the cast on edge. If I knit several swatches at that size (the cotton is worsted weight), I’m afraid I’ll run out of yarn! Are designers allowing enough yardage for the likes of me? Can I re-use the yarn I’ve used for a swatch that isn’t to gauge? Yes, I understand that reusing the yarn might be difficult if I also, gulp, washed the swatch like a good knitter should…Should I be doing that too?

Question two: Regarding ‘checking your gauge as you knit’, I have to admit to not having done this before either. I’ve only knit one adult sweater in recent memory and I’m afraid to knit another one without understanding this concept. In general, I’m a very loose knitter (stop laughing) and am often a couple of needle sizes below what is called for in the patterns I’ve used. Therefore, I’m fairly sure my knitting loosens up as I become relaxed with a pattern. If I am keeping track of gauge and have noticed that, indeed, I’m loosening up, what do I do then? Go back and swatch and change needle sizes as per the new swatch? Do I then frog back until I hit a section where I was knitting to gauge? Help!

I will now immediately return to a WIP until someone is able to provide some answers. I’m afraid to start this lovely sweater without starting it properly!

Yours headed for (hopefully) knitterly purgatory,



Renee said...

This is long...sorry:

Wow. You are really hard on yourself! Here are my ideas (mostly based only on my opinions).

I don't know how much extra yarn designers factor in for swatches. My guess is none (but I really don't know where I get that idea). You can most certainly rip out your swatch and use that yarn. If you are a good knitter and dress your swatch, it isn't as easy to do but in an emergency I totally would. TOTALLY. You gotta do what you gotta do.

For question two, I think you have to play "knitter, know thyself". If you KNOW you are going to loosen up when you get comfortable you can either a) knit a swatch till you are at that comfortable place and then start b) if you are making a sweater, knit both sleeves at the same time. They'll look the same then. I think the biggest thing to tell you here is that as you get more experienced with knitting (not that you aren't already know what I mean) these issues sort of work themselves out a little bit. Yes, you may still change your knitting while in a project but it will happen faster and you'll get to know yourself better and plan for those little ways.

Knit on Jedi knight...knit on (and may the force be with you).

Yarnhog said...

Renee's response was great. I reuse my swatch yarn, unless I've washed the swatch (which doesn't happen as often as it should). I only wash a swatch after I get gauge, to see how much it changes. If it grows, I go down a needle size but don't reswatch. Usually I check Knitter's Review to see if my yarn is there and whether it grows before I start. Why reinvent the wheel?

I do check gauge while I knit, because sometimes things do loosen up. Mostly, I try to keep my knitting even, but if I am consistently getting a looser gauge, I will go down a needle size (with or without ripping back--I'm not always too picky).

Unlike a lot of knitters, I am not generally concerned about getting exact gauge. Yarn is elastic by its very nature, and almost all knits loosen with wear and washing and age. If I want something that will cling like a barnacle, I wear spandex. My knits are usually more relaxed, and I'm okay with that.

Elizabeth said...

I have reused my swatch yarn without trouble although I'll admit that I've never washed a swatch! As for checking gauge while knitting...that would probably help me LOL but I've never done it. Your nursing sweater sounds FABULOUS!!

Samantha said...

I reuse my swatch as well when I need to.

Alisha said...

I don't swatch much (bad Alisha)

I would definatly use the swatch if needed.