Kids, don't repeat my mistakes.

I finally finished E’s new aran vest. I washed it and laid it out to dry on drying racks, also known as kitty hammocks.

After the sweater was dry I had E try it on. It was inches short!

Oh noes! I had washed my swatch before measuring it, to get the final gauge. What I had forgotten to do was to measure the vertical gauge, before and after washing, so I could calculate the actual length.

Fortunately, E likes a long bottom ribbing and I’ve got yarn left over. I will have to decide whether to take the entire ribbing off and reknit it from the top down, or to knit from the bottom up and graft on. Oh yes, I can do that.

So kids, here’s what to do with your swatch so you don’t make the same mistake.

  1. Knit your swatch, at least 6 inches wide, a couple vertical inches at least each in different needle sizes (you don’t know which one will end up giving you the right gauge after the swatch is washed – believe it or not, I’ve actually had yarn relax and give a looser gauge after being washed), both in stockinette and whatever stitch pattern you plan to use.
  2. Measure both the horizontal gauge (st/in) and vertical gauge (rows/in) for each needle size – and write them down! (BTW – use purl bumps on the smooth knit side of the stockinette to record which size needle you used – you’re knitting like Madame Defarge.)
  3. Wash your swatch, treating it exactly as you will the final garment
  4. Measure again the horizontal and vertical gauges for each needle size.

The needle size that gave you the desired gauge in the final swatch is the one you’ll use, regardless of what gauge it gave you before the swatch was washed.

What about vertical gauge? If you’re knitting by rows, just check that your final vertical gauge matches that of the pattern you’re using. If it’s different, you’ll have to adjust, knitting more or fewer rows than the pattern calls for, depending. Divide your actual final vertical gauge by the pattern vertical gauge, then multiply the resulting number by the number of rows in the pattern.

If like me, you knit vertically by inches, take your washed vertical gauge and divide it by the pre-washed vertical gauge. This is the factor by which you’ll have to increase (or decrease, but unlikely) the number of inches you knit.

For example, if your vertical gauge of 7r=1in shrinks up to 9r=1in, you’ll have take the number of inches you want your knitting to be and mulitply by 9/7. If you want something 2in long, you’ll have to knit a little more than 2-1/2in.

Learn from my mistakes!

Page updated Sat Jan 13, 2007, 18:15 PM

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