Once upon a time, there was a knitter named Knittylocks. She believed fervently in the value of swatching, and dutifully made gauge swatches for each project. Except washcloths. (I mean, really.)
She decided to knit a Central Park Hoodie. She swatched a 40 stitch, multi-row swatch with US size 8 needles. (No tiny gauge swatches for her, no way. Been there, done that, paid the price.) 4 stitches per inch. Too big. She swatched with US size 7 needles. 4.25 stitches per inch. Just right. Onward!
She cast on the 94 stitches for the back of the hoodie, and knit 4 inches of ribbing on size 5 needles before switching to the 7 for the body. After 16 rows, she had an uneasy feeling. It looked small. Sure, it could be blocked severely to the required dimensions, but the fabric felt a bit stiff, too. And so she measured. 5 stitches per inch. Too small. Ouch.
Undaunted, she moved up two needle sizes (because one never makes too much difference), and cast on again. After four inches of ribbing on size 7 needles, and 16 rows on size 9, she had that uneasy feeling again. The fabric looked loosey-goosey. And so she measured. 4 stitches per inch. Too big. Ouch. (There’s not even a picture of this one.)
Now Knittylocks was beginning to get crabby. She ripped out version 2, and cast on a third time. Three’s a magic number, right? Four inches of ribbing on size 6 needles, and 16 rows on size 8. 4.25 stitches per inch. Just right! And so she lived happily ever after. Or at least so far.
That’s one evening’s knitting in the picture above. Think how far along Knittylocks would be if she had been on gauge the first time?
Gauge makes me crazy. It’s not just the size of the needle that makes my gauge. It’s how tight or loose I’m carrying the yarn on the needles. That can vary from day to day, or how I did the ribbing before I got to the pattern section. I think the size 7 start felt tight on the needles the whole time, tighter than the gauge swatch. And then when I started on 9′s, I was trying to be relaxed, but was too relaxed. Stitches were falling off the needles. The 8′s are the right size for a not too tight, not too loose feeling on the needles. Now why did it take so long to get there?
Here are starts 1 and 3 for comparison. Note the widths.
But all is well now. Knit on!