Understanding Gauge and tension

Stephouche's picture

I'm working on my second cardigan. This time I closely read the instructions and paid more attention to the gauge.
Gauge mystifies me. I guess I work with a real tight gauge, so I need to knit swatches to see what needles I need to use.
And I thought knitting was going to be so simple. I'm learning that everyone knits differently, and one type and yarn and needles can yield a different gauge, depending in the knitter.
Oh well.
So I'm knitting my current sweater with a 5 and 7, rather than a 3 and five to get the recommended gauge.
Live and learn.


daveballarat's picture

It is so nice to hear other

It is so nice to hear other guys at the same level of proficiency as me... not exactly a beginner but a long way from being a master.

I am doing socks at the moment Jo-in Wyoning has been a wonderful support. I am enjoying doing them but ... all my double points are bent ... yes I knit tight ... very tight. I don't think it is an advantage but it does look nice in the end.

I've always been worried about gauge. Yes I've learnt the hard way that gauge can't be disregarded but ... what do you do when you have wool that doesn't match any patterns you've ever seen. I'm also wearing a lovely machine knit at the moment thinking ... I can do this... just copy ... change a bit here and there... but am too nervous to start out on a new project with no instructions. Mind you, I do have the 2 jumpers from last year that I need to unravel and start again ... I stuffed up the shoulders on both of them.

Anyway, best of luck everyone on your current projects.

michaelpthompson's picture

Dave wrote: I'm also wearing

Dave wrote:

I'm also wearing a lovely machine knit at the moment thinking ... I can do this... just copy ... change a bit here and there... but am too nervous to start out on a new project with no instructions.

I have to admit, it has never occurred to me to be nervous about starting out without instructions. My first project when I started knitting again was a scarf that I made up myself. I've changed and adapted nearly everything since then. I've just cast on a jacket for my niece. The pattern goes up to size ten. She's 10/12 from what I was told, so I need to scale it up. Meanwhile, my gauge, which should be 20 stitches to 7 inches, turns out to be 20 stitches to 5 inches. Strange, since I knit so loosely that I seem to be tighter than what's called for, though I don't have the same yarn as called for in the pattern. They're both bulky, so should be similar, but perhaps not exactly, eh?

I paid over twenty dollars for the Addi Turbo circular needle, size 10.5 to do this, and I don't want to pay even more for a bigger needle to match the gauge, so I mathematically figured out a different way. Twenty stitches to five inches is four stitches per inch, so I'm eight stitches short of what I need to be to make the same length. The pattern says CO 92 stitches for size 10, so I figure 100 or so for a bigger size. A hundred stitches at 20 stitches per 7 inches would yield fabric 35 inches wide. Twenty eight stitches per 7 inches instead of 20 requires 40 more stitches to make the same width. So I cast on 140 stitches instead of 92 as the pattern specified.

Long explanation, but the point is, don't let it intimidate you. If this is wrong, I've lost some time. I can rip it out and start over. I learn something new from every experience. Life is its own adventure!

Stephouche's picture

I'm contemplating socks as

I'm contemplating socks as my next project. The heel turn has me intimidated.

michaelpthompson's picture

Never done socks, but I

Never done socks, but I always remember Tallguy's advice. All knitting is done one stitch at a time. I learn best by doing. The best pattern is just words until I try it out and see what that means in practice.

Start some socks. Try it out. After a while, it can no longer intimidate you. Don't give it that power.

Stephouche's picture

I'm contemplating socks as

I'm contemplating socks as my next project. The heel turn has me intimidated.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Turning heels is pretty

Turning heels is pretty simple, once you actually start one. I put off socks for a long time, thinking the heel was hard but was amazed to find most sweaters are trickier to work. I recommend using the "Dutch" (or "German") heel as they are short rows worked back and forth from 2 fixed points. Once you get that mastered, you can always experiment until you find a heel that you especially like. Enjoy! -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

michaelpthompson's picture

I was knitting a shawl the

I was knitting a shawl the other day, and I tried wrapping the yarn around my little finger as I've seen in instructions. I often just let the yarn run free. I'm a thrower, so it means dropping the right needle and picking up the yarn every stitch, so I thought it would be better if I wrapped it. However, that made my tension so tight I found it hard to get the needle in for the purl stitches. I had to go back to my loosey goosey ways.

Maybe on another project I can do that, but this is the Trinity Stitch prayer shawl, and involves purling three together. It's hard enough to get three stitches on the needle as it is, with the increased tension it was nigh impossible. Took me forever to do a row.

I've also seen the recommendation that your swatch should be bigger than the gauge measurement. For instance, if you gauge is 20 stitches to four inches, don't knit four inches or exactly twenty stitches. Knit 6 or eight inches and measure a spot in the middle. Much better indication of how it will actually turn out when knitting.

twistknit's picture

My problem is that I knit a

My problem is that I knit a swatch to match a gauge until it's perfect to the designers recommendations. Then when I knit the project I find that my gauge no longer matches up. Very frustrating.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

By an interesting fluke, I

By an interesting fluke, I was just rereading what Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote about Gauge in "The Knitter's Almanac" this morning. She said basically the same as Cyberchip...it truly depends upon the individual person and the individual needles and yarn they are working with. All you can do is experiment and see what works for them. I used to knit soo tight I literally wore a groove into a pair of metal needles before I realized that I only had to let the needles and yarn work together to get Gauge. Conversely, one friend knits so loose that she would probably need size us000 doublepoints to match my gauge on us1 needles for socks. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

LOL I have to start with a

LOL I have to start with a laugh; it always sounds like bragging when I hear people have a real tight gauge. I'm the exact opposite. At times, I can barely make a pattern work for my gauge being so loose. Moving to smaller needles for me can make it even looser, so it's clear I have a tension problem, or would that be lack of tension? Oh well, I did take up knitting to relax; I can only say it's working. But, like my daughter and her boyfriend who recently started knitting, you have something in common with them. And here I always thought that only beginners knitted with a tight gauge. My daughter who has been knitting for a half a year is becoming quite adept... (sigh) and yet her knitting is still tight, nice and even. I'm going on five plus years and am highly jealous. I believe your sweater will look much nicer with that tight gauge and here's hoping the math works out for you. Good luck.