This month we’re talking in depth about GAUGE, which is the size of your knitted stitches. If you don’t know what a ‘swatch’ is, or what gauge really means, start by reading our blog post about all the basics of gauge and how to measure it and why it matters. Then come back to this post and we’ll learn more!
Knitters sometimes come up against an issue when they have made a few swatches but can’t find a needle that will result in both the correct stitch gauge, and the correct row (or round) gauge in a given yarn.
For example, our free Barley Hat and Flax Pullover patterns from The Simple Collection are designed for a gauge of 18 sts & 22 rounds / 4″ in stockinette stitch. Some knitters, will make a swatch at 18 stitches in 4″, but when they measure the round gauge, they get a different number, like 24 or 26 rounds. Changing needle sizes up or down from this will change the round gauge… but then the stitch gauge will be off. The short answer to the question of what to do is that stitch gauge is nearly always the more important one, and you shouldn’t stress if your row gauge doesn’t match up.
Stitch gauge vs. row or round gauge
Which is which? Stitch gauge is how many stitches in an inch, or more commonly measured over 4″ (or 10cm). You’ll measure ACROSS the swatch, in the direction of knitting, along a single row. Row or round gauge is measured UP AND DOWN (perpendicular to stitch gauge and the rows), counting stitches as they stack up one upon the other in columns.
Why is stitch gauge is usually more important?
Most knitted items (especially the ones in which fit matters), it is the stitch count that determines the more important dimension. Hats are usually knit from brim to crown (or the other way around), and the finished dimension, the way it fits AROUND your head, is determined by the number of stitches and the gauge (size) of the stitches. So for a hat to fit the way you like around your head, you must achieve the correct stitch gauge. This is the same, and even more important, for a garment. Most garments are constructed with rows horizontal around the body, thus it is the stitch gauge which determines if the sweater is the right size around at hip, waist, bust (the important bits!).
Also, patterns are most often written with ‘knit to’ lengths rather than explicit numbers of rows or rounds. This means that regardless of the knitters row or round gauge, a garment piece (sleeve, body) will come out to a given length; some knitters will knit a few more rounds to achieve this length, some will knit a few less. In this way, patterns allow flexibility for differing row or round gauges.
When does row or round gauge matter?
Obviously there are cases when row or round gauge matters. The detail-oriented knitters of the world sometimes make an unnecessary fuss about this, and will probably tell you it ALWAYS matters. At Tin Can Knits we prefer to downplay the importance of row or round gauge because it generally REALLY doesn’t matter (knitting is stretchy, and has the lovely quality of just ‘working out’ so much of the time). Nonetheless, here are a few ways in which row or round gauge may matter in your project.
A different row gauge can impact the yardage required
Firstly, you should know that if your row gauge varies from that given in the pattern, you will require more or less yardage than stated in the pattern. This is because in order to create the same amount of fabric, you’ll be working more (or less) stitches to achieve the same fabric area. If the pattern gives a gauge of 18 sts & 22 rounds, and your swatch is 18 sts & 26 rounds, you can expect you’ll be using more yarn than the pattern calls for… possibly up to 20% more (26 / 22 = 1.18). And if you’re getting 18 sts & 20 rounds, you’ll probably use less yarn than the pattern calls for … but buy an extra ball just in case!
A different row gauge can impact finished length (and thus fit)
Certain parts of patterns give instructions for a specified number of rows / rounds rather than ‘knit-to’ lengths. In these cases there’s a small risk that a significantly different row or round gauge could negatively impact garment fit. Yokes are one example. In raglan or round yoke garments, the depth of the yoke is determined by the number of rounds or rows worked, so if your row gauge is way different than the design gauge, your yoke depth will be shorter or longer than that of the design.
In our experience, with thousands of knitters knitting proven patterns, this is seldom a real problem (knitting is stretchy! when it doubt, block it out!).
If your row gauge is really significantly smaller (more rows per inch than given), you may find your yoke comes out a little tight or pinchy at the underarms. This can be avoided by working a few extra rounds at the bottom of the yoke where you either before you begin to decrease the yoke (in bottom-up construction) or before you separate sleeves and body (in top-down construction). Some patterns, for example our free Flax pullover, address the issue of different round gauges by including a knit-to length for you to check:
If your round gauge is slightly different, knit more or less rounds so that your yoke measures approximately 5 (5, 5.5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10.5, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12.5)” deep, measured from cast on…
Some patterns give length in terms of a given number of pattern repeats (with cables, lace panels, etc. which have a longer repeat), rather than in ‘knit to’ lengths. In these cases, if your row gauge is significantly different, then the finished length of your sock cuff, hat, or sweater body will be significantly different than the finished measurements given in the pattern schematic. If you notice a significant difference, you may decide to work more (or less) full repeats of the pattern to compensate if the length measurement is crucial to you.
What about patterns that list gauge over more than one pattern stitch?
Some patterns will list gauge over more than one pattern stitch (for example over stockinette and over a lace or cable pattern). Usually designers will list the more important gauge first… because that would make sense, right?! Well you can also decide for yourself which is more relevant by looking at the design. If it’s a sweater that’s mostly knit in stockinette, then it’s the gauge over stockinette that matters most to fit. But if the body of the sweater has an all-over lace or cabled pattern, perhaps with stockinette at the sleeves, then getting the stitch gauge correct over lace or cables is what will determine how the sweater fits where it’s most important (at bust, waist, hips). You should use your judgement in these situations.
In posts coming soon we’ll discuss how to measure gauge over stitch patterns, and how to swatch for gauge in the round, rather than gauge in rows. We’ll also cover how to adjust and knit a pattern to a different gauge than that given in the pattern, which will open up a wider range of choices when you pairing patterns & yarns.
Join in and learn something new!
2016 is the Year to Learn Something New here at Tin Can Knits, and we’ve been adding some inspiring tutorials on the blog. We’ve recently talked about choosing colour combos, how to wear shawls, getting started knitting socks or garments (and how much we love the Monkey Socks Pattern!). There’s more excellent info to come, so get our excellent email updates, and stay connected on your favourite social spot:
Ready to knit your first garment? Cast on now!
I am quite a big fan of shawls. Whether they are light and lacy or textured and cozy, I love to knit them and I love to wear them. They are the perfect way to fancy up an otherwise plain outfit, perfect for keeping cozy at the coffee shop, and the possibilities in stripes, colors, and patterns are endless! To knit, they are a rather portable item and shawl patterns come in a wide variety of difficulty levels depending on what I’m looking for at the moment. What’s not to like?
How to wear a shawl
The Drift shawl can be styled in a multitude of ways! A shawl pin is a key accessory for the avid shawl enthusiast.
A common problem seems to be that people aren’t sure how to wear their lovely shawl. They have knit a beautiful item but…now what? How to wrap it just right so it has that effortless flowy feel for a larger shawl, or a cute scarf in a smaller version. Here is a little inspiration to help you get just the fashion forward look you want!
The Road I Took shawl by Dieuwke van Mulligen is lovely and long, perfect for styling so many ways!
Wrapped around and around like a scarf, pinned in front as a boho layered top, pinned as a long shawl with the ‘arms’ in front, or simply wrapped with the triangle in front.
Still don’t see the look you are going for? Check out our Pinterest board for even more shawl inspiration!
So, how do you prefer your shawls? 1 skein wonders? A larger wrap around?
More charming lace from Tin Can Knits
Take a journey with quirky, hilarious Clara across the world and into the back-rooms of the knitting universe! Knitlandia is the newest book by Clara Parkes, part of her catalog that includes The Yarn Whisperer, The Knitter’s Book of Wool, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, and began with her creation of Knitters Review in 2000, way back at the beginning of the online knitting community.
Sometimes, to learn, you have to first admit your own ignorance! Even if this can be embarrassing at times. On a recent visit to London, I had the pleasure of meeting author and knit promoter Clara Parkes and hanging out with Ysolda Teague (name-drop much?!). I’d been at the same shows as Clara before, and had seen her books all over, but I wasn’t really aware of her place in the knit community.
So what did I learn as I haltingly attempted not to reveal that I wasn’t already a long-standing fan? Well first of all Clara is a hilarious conversationalist. Every sentence included a witty joke or fascinating perspective! Secondly, she makes the MOST AMAZING salted caramels… I of course made the faux pax of asking for the recipe, and got a ‘… if I told you I’d have to stab you to death with my knitting needles’ type response! Afterwards, I asked Ysolda, who has known Clara for years and who explained a bit more about her long-standing contribution to the knit community.
Since it’s The Year to Learn Something New, I set a goal to read at least one of Clara’s books, so that the next time we rub elbows at a knit event, I won’t feel like quite as much of a fan fraud!
Knitlandia : a knitter sees the world
I really enjoyed this book! I loved Clara’s frank and colourful descriptions of knit events and personalities. From snowcapped vistas in Loveland Colorado to New York, Paris, and Iceland, I was intrigued by this down-to-earth travelogue, and the quirky knit industry folk she describes.
The chapter entitled ‘Cashmere Dreams and British Breeds’ describes Clara’s trip to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. As an expat who has made a home here, I can totally relate to how she “rejoiced in how romantically dreary” her morning arrival into the city was. Scottish dreariness is even more romantic when you’re on holiday! From hipster cafes to the overwhelming hustle and bustle of the yarn festival, she captures the flavour of Edinburgh perfectly.
Clara visited Edinburgh around this time last year, and describes “mid-March crocuses and snowdrops, the beginnings of daffodils, blooming Lenten roses, a low, still-bare tree sporting bright pink panicles of flowers. I saw lush green grass and I smelled moist earth. So different from the frozen Maine I’d just left.” This describes the wonderful early spring in Edinburgh so clearly. It’s like this outside right now, amid what British people call the ‘cold north’ we have such amazing early flowers blooming, an antidote to winters where our northern sun sets before 4pm.
Clara also tells the story of her friend Ysolda’s professionalism and fame growing, from a pattern published in Knitty to a vastly popular international brand, and how she did it differently – by retaining all the rights to her patterns. Having had the pleasure to spend time with Ysolda myself, I know how inspiring her story is, and the sheer force of her creative and professional drive.
Finally, Clara meditates on the meaning of travel, describing how “Travel lends a glow that makes liars of us all”, and quoting Paul Theroux, who said “Travel is a state of mind,” that “has nothing to do with existence or the exotic. It is almost entirely an inner experience.”
Because I have also lived in many cities, and visited dozens more, her perspective on travel, life, and knitting holds for me a satisfying ring of truth, an honesty that immediately liked. I look forward to reading more of Clara’s work in future.
For other knitters and designers’ perspectives on Knitlandia, check out the blog tour:
Feb 22… Knit and Tonic
Feb 24… My Sister’s Knitter
Feb 26… Mary Jane Mucklestone
Feb 29… Knit Circus
March 2… Yarniacs
March 4… Leethal
March 7… Tin Can Knits
March 17… Marly Bird (Yarn Thing Podcast)
win a copy of knitlandia!
The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian entries only. (I’m so sorry all of you in the rest of the world! Not my choice). The contest closes Sunday March 13th at midnight (PST) and we will announce the randomly chosen winner on Monday March 14th.
Monday March 14th… UPDATE… A winner has been chosen & contacted! Thanks so all who participated… I had no idea that the Scottish animal was the Unicorn!?!
what are you reading this year?
The campaign to Learn Something New this year has expanded, for me, well beyond knit techniques. If you follow our blog, then you know that we don’t typically do book reviews, but the serendipity of meeting (and being fascinated by) Clara, then having the opportunity to review Knitlandia made this new thing happen!
On a COMPLETELY different topic, two other books I’ve read this year that have already made a big impact on me are How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (read it right now), and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (get ready to go down a rabbit hole… and emerge on the other side, happier, with a smaller stash).
TCK socks we hope Clara would approve of
With the ‘Year of Something New’ well underway and new techniques abounding, we invite you to push yourself even further (I know, we’re harsh task masters!), and try something completely new. Not just a new technique, but a whole new type of item! Never knit a hat before? Now is the time! New to socks? Cast on! Is it time for your very first garment? Dig through the stash for some worsted weight yarn for a wee Flax sweater!
two projects that strike fear into knitters hearts
There are a couple of project types we hear about again and again that really seem to daunt newer knitters. Many seem to believe that these items contain magic and secrets that cannot be unlocked by mere mortals. These items are sweaters and socks!
While this fear may seem silly to the initiated, it can be a real barrier to those who have not yet turned a heel or worked a button band. We challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and tackle a new project type, and hope that our helpful tutorials will guide you.
scared to knit a sweater?
With sweaters, it seems that most of the fear comes from worrying about getting a finished item that won’t fit right. I get it. It is a lot of knitting and you want something that will come out making you look like a million bucks. That’s the dream right? Well, let me tell you, my first sweater was just terrible (too long in some places, too short in others, too wide overall, basically the worst sweater imaginable) but I have gone on to knit a lot of successful sweaters!
start small… and be realistic!
First, take those expectations back a notch. Start with a wee sweater (there is always a baby who needs a warm sweater right?) to learn any new techniques your chosen sweater pattern may have. Then try a sweater that doesn’t need to hug your every curve just right, maybe something with a little positive ease, or one you can try on as you go. Get some yarn you like (if you don’t like the yarn you definitely won’t like the sweater) and cast on! All of our sweater tutorials can be found here for a little extra help!
ready to conquer socks?
The other item that seems to strike fear in the heart of knitters is socks. It can’t be the cuff, that’s just a tube right? And it can’t be the foot, that’s just a tube with a closed end right? So what’s left? That magic heel turn!
While heel turns may feel like magic, I promise you that doesn’t mean they are really all that difficult. Just follow the instructions, step by step, and voila! You will get a heel turn. Every time. Check out our step-by-step tutorial!
worsted weight socks are a quick and cozy way to begin
If you are still a little worried, start off with a pair of Rye socks. We have an in depth tutorial that will take you all the way through, from cast on to Kitchener stitch! Once you’ve done them, you could take your inspiration from the Chinese zodiac (it’s the year of the monkey), and cast on a pair of Monkey Socks.
Lovely lacy socks by Tin Can Knits
Well it’s been a great KAL on the Tin Can Knits Ravelry group!
With 2016 the Year to Learn Something New here at Tin Can Knits, for our first KAL we challenged you to complete a project which included a technique that was new to you.
yarn + pattern prizes!
Winner #1: One skein of Rainbow Heirloom Twinkle Light in ‘driftwood’ plus a Tin Can Knits pattern of your choice! This lovely combo goes to packerfan36
Winner #2: One skein of Rainbow Heirloom Merino Light in ‘orchid’ plus a Tin Can Knits pattern of your choice! This lovely combo goes to Shannon41
Winner #3 (Alexa’s choice): One skein of Rainbow Heirloom Solo Light in ‘cherry’ plus a Tin Can Knits pattern of your choice! This lovely combo goes to maplethedog
She made the Drift shawl , beautiful eh?
what did knitters set out to learn?
A lot of folk (myself included) learned to knit brioche! I made Stephen West’s Syncopation Adoration hat, but I cut it a bit short so it would fit Max. I experimented with all sorts of colourful scraps of Rainbow Heirloom Sweater.
Some of the colour combinations are a little jarring, some are beautiful, but I love the overall scrappy effect. I think I probably need to knit another brioche project or two, to practice increases and decreases further before I’m 100% comfortable with this technique.
Once the hat was finished, it was difficult to choose which should be the ‘right side’ and which would be the ‘wrong side’. I wanted to add a pompom, or the hat could have been reversible. Which do you think is better? I chose the one on the right in the end… but both have their appeal.
other lovely #TCKnewtricksKAL projects
There were a lot of knitters who made Gather hats or cowls to learn the smocking technique (it’s EASY and very effective… check out our tutorial here). And many others tried steeking for the first time. Socks were a popular new technique, some people knit them for the first time, and others learned methods like knitting socks TTAT (two at a time) using the magic loop method. Here are a few photos of the finished projects, but you can check them all out here.
Some tiny joggers: lovest’s rocky
And so many beautiful hats and cowls… mamaholmes’s gather, mysparklyshoes’s castlelaw, crochetgeekgirl’s sitka spruce, bhandsaker’s bespeckled beanie, thesejoys’s liguria, and yarnbird’s icelandic star cowl
‘New Tricks’ projects from TCK:
As you may know, Emily and I love a good rainbow. One of our very first designs was the i heart rainbows sweater and it is still true today: we heart rainbows! And who doesn’t love a beautiful rainbow blanket? Emily, Emily Read, and I all love to create rainbow blankets, below are just a few of my favorites!
Our new Bounce blanket, of course, lends itself completely to the idea of rainbow stripes. It is time to explore the world of rainbow palettes to choose from!
It may surprise you to find that there is more to rainbows than meets the eye. There are so many ways to customize the classic ROY G BIV rainbow. Choose a teal blue over a true blue, or a chartreuse over an emerald, and the whole vibe of the rainbow changes. You can work in citrus shades or jewel tones, pastels or neons, and each has it’s own mood and effect. Here is a little rainbow inspiration for you!
On the left we have a funky rainbow with teal, hot yellow, and chartreuse, with purple. On the right, without the purple. You can see the difference it makes if you remove just one color from the rainbow!
On the left we have a pinky rainbow (no red) without the yellow. On the right we have the same rainbow but without the green. Removing colors from the rainbow is a great way to come up with a nice tight palette.
If you are looking for a little more rainbow inspiration you can check out our Pinterest board here:
So, go forth and create your perfect rainbow palette for your next blanket, sweater, or wild socks!
Rainbow inspired patterns from Tin Can Knits: