As I may have mentioned before (like here) I absolutely love knitting for new babes. When I found out my cousin was pregnant I pulled out my lovely stash of Tanis Fiber Arts and started plotting a Bounce blanket (Emily had just finished designing it and I really didn’t need much of an excuse to cast on).
I didn’t get very far in my knitting before I was reminded that there are now several ladies in my family who knit, and perhaps they would want in on this knit fest! So I went back to the stash (it’s a big stash, I’ll tell you all about it some time), to find yarns for booties, a sweater, and a hat, all coordinating with my blanket.
While I waffle quite a bit on my own ‘favourite colour’ or ‘favourite palette’ from one day to the next, it is quite helpful when knitting for someone to know when they do have a favourite. For Gillian (the mama) that colour is teal. She has always loved it and always will. So I was confident, boy or girl, teal would fit well in the little bundle’s wardrobe.
And so, while I finished up the Bounce blanket, Holly worked a wee Umbilical Cord Hat from the Stitch and Bitch book, Emily knit the most adorable pair of Little Squirrel Socks, and my mum knit her ‘go to’ sweater, the Baltic Baby Sweater by Lisa Chemery. We wrapped up our package for wee Harrison (Gillian’s happy, healthy boy) and sent our love to Calgary.
Emily and I have always loved baby knits, in fact, it launched us into the world of knitwear design with our first book 9 Months of Knitting! We also created Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe, inspired by my youngest, Bodhi, and Emily’s first, Max.
So, what are your go-to baby knits? Do you prefer an accessory? An heirloom blanket? A sweater for a wee tyke?
More baby knits from TCK:
Earlier this year we brought you a new lace design – the Bounce Blanket. We included instructions on how to work a swatch and determine your gauge over lace in the pattern, but we thought we might elaborate on measuring gauge over lace here!
how to swatch and measure gauge over a lace pattern
- Work a swatch which is a number of pattern repeats wide, at least the number you think will give you a swatch 4-6 inches wide and tall. If you are confused about pattern repeats, review our tutorial on reading knitting charts.
- Take care to cast on and bind off quite loosely, which will allow the swatch to block out properly.
- It’s not as important as your gauge after blocking, but I suggest you measure gauge before blocking, taking note of stitch and row gauge. This is your ‘unblocked gauge’.
- To measure gauge in lace, I find it most useful to mark points in the pattern which repeat. For example, if there is a central line vertical line, mark it with a pin, then mark the same spot one or two or three repeats to the left or right. Measure the distance between the pins accurately, and take note of it. Then divide the number of stitches you know are in the repeats by the distance (inches). In the example shown below, you’d measure the distance (we’ll say it was 6″), then divide the 24 sts by 6″… 24 sts/6″ = 4 sts per inch. If you multiply this by 4 you get 16 sts in 4″, the distance over which gauge is typically stated.
- Use the same method to determine row or round gauge. Choose a clear point in the pattern (for example the top point of a lace leaf), and mark it with a pin. Then mark the same point one, two, or more repeats up or down from this point. Measure the distance and divide the number of rows by this distance. If the distance in the example above was 4.25″ for example, then we would divide the rows (24) by 4.25″ = 5.65 rows per inch, or 22.5 rows / 4″. The gauge for the unblocked sample above would be stated as 16 sts & 22.5 rows / 4″.
- Wet block the swatch in the same way you would the final lace piece, allowing it to dry fully before unpinning. We’ve got tutorials on the basics of blocking, and how to block a lace shawl that you may want to review.
- Finally, measure the blocked gauge, following the same steps as above. The blocked gauge is the important one, since your finished item will be blocked; so you should swatch until you’ve achieved the gauge called for by the pattern.
Once you determine the finished gauge that you’ve achieved in your swatch, you can determine whether to proceed with the project on the same needles, or adjust to a larger needle size for larger stitches (and a smaller sts / 4” number) or a smaller size for smaller stitches (a larger sts / 4” number).
Some patterns (the Redcedar stole for example) will list gauge in a different way, by giving the finished size of a lace repeat rather than a number in sts per inch or sts per 4″. The pattern states that the lace panel, 19 sts wide by 42 rows long, should measure 6.5″ wide by 7.5″ long after blocking. In order to work a gauge swatch in this case, you would work the 19 stitch panel (plus a few edge sts each side) for at least 42 rows, wet block and dry the swatch, then measure to see whether it does in fact measure as stated. From there you’d adjust to larger or smaller needles as required or desired.
gauge in lace: sometimes it matters, often it doesn’t
Thankfully, often with lace, gauge doesn’t matter too much, because we often see lace in shawls, stoles, blankets, and accessories where fit doesn’t matter so much. The Lodestar, Estuary, Photosynthesis, Botany, Sunflower Shawls and Vivid blanket are some great flexible lace designs by Tin Can Knits.
However if you are making an all-over lace garment, and you wanted the fit to be ‘per design’ you’d want to take care to check your gauge in pattern.
What if you can’t make both stitch gauge AND row gauge match the gauge stated in the pattern, no matter what needle size you use?
It is generally most crucial to achieve the stated stitch gauge in order to get a finished knit of similar size to the pattern sample. For example, to achieve a bust size of 40”, you must work at the correct stitch gauge. Row gauge is generally less important (although there are exceptions to this rule!), as you can simply knit the body of a garment longer or shorter, and pattern instructions often give knit-to lengths in inches, rather than specifying row counts.
However, keep in mind that if your row or round gauge is significantly different than that given by the pattern, this will effect the yardage requirements. Read our separate tutorial dedicated to row gauge here.
Found this tutorial useful? If you aren’t already on our list, sign up for our excellent email updates so you don’t miss out on new tutorials, patterns, and subscriber special offers! And follow us on your fav social spot too:
More Luscious Lace by TCK
It’s been a hectic weekend! The Edinburgh Yarn Festival take #3 was very exciting, despite the fact that all I did was shop, snap a few photos, chat, and fondle yarn!
shopping for inspiration
Have you visited a major yarn & fibre festival? I don’t know about you, but for me being in the presence of so many creative people and beautiful materials is one of the most inspiring things! I’m positively BUZZING with ideas, creative energy and excitement after this show. And I’ve added some lovely skeins to my stash.
meeting cool knit cats
One of my aims this year, as 2016 is the Year to Learn Something New, was to meet and introduce myself to more designers, dyers and knitters, learn their stories, and familiarize myself with the excellent work going on outside of my own studio! As a designer I spend a lot of time working away in my creative cave, and sometimes miss the inspiration and learning that can be found through the work of my colleagues.
Since I didn’t have a booth at EYF this year, I made the most of the social opportunities! I had the pleasure to meet Thea Coleman (babycocktails), Bristol Ivy, Melanie Berg (Mairlynd) and Kirsten Kapur for the first time. And I spent a lovely evening catching up with Justyna Lorkowska (Lete’s Knits), Dieuwke van Mulligen (Knitter’s Kitchen), Renée Callahan and Linda from Kettle Yarn Co. among others!
Of course I also admired the new designs and yarn by Ysolda, met Kate Davies in person while swooning over her new yarn and latest collection, and bought ALL the Hedgehog fibres from the Stephen & Penelope booth… YUM. Thanks ladies and gentlemen, it was a pleasure, and I look forward to getting to know you further at upcoming events.
beautifully british and rare breeds
While you know we love to knit in hand-dyes, we have an upcoming project that leans more toward neutrals, worked in fibres more local to us, so I’ve been doing a lot of learning (and shopping) for yarns raised or spun here in the UK. A few of the yarns that fascinated me at this show were the Alpaca Tweed by The Border Mill, Scottish raised Buachaille by Kate Davies, Wensleydale by the Chopped Ginger Wool Project, John Arbon’s Knit by Numbers range, and Ysolda’s new Blend no.1.
dyers who like it bright!
Of course, we’ve still got a number of other irons in the fire, and some of them require HOT HOT HOT colours… so here are just a small sample of some of the exquisite hand-dyers yarns that I loved in this festival!
The show was so much fun, and while advanced pregnancy prevented me from ceilidh dancing, I enjoyed the fibre, friends and excellent chat!
Max modelled his North Shore pullover on Saturday, with rockstar hair captured on film by French knit blogger Bintou (thanks!) check out her blog, and her feed nappyknitter on Instagram… very inspiring. As you can see from the sizeable bump, I’m nearing baby day!
flock to a fibre festival!
Are you headed to a fibre festival this year? If you can’t actually visit a local festival, pick up a copy of Clara Parkes new book Knitlandia and enjoy the experience from the comfort of your armchair! If you aren’t already on our list, sign up for our excellent email updates so you don’t miss out on new tutorials, patterns, and subscriber special offers! And follow us on your fav social spot too:
Simply Satisfying by Tin Can Knits
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