Friday, May 22, 2009

Do as I Say, Not as I Do: A Lesson in Gauge

Or, as the Brits and old-school Canucks prefer to call it, tension. An apt term: Piggy's got tension this morning. Because she doesn't have it, you see.

Now, I realize swatching is not the most thrilling subject, but I beg your indulgence. After all, the last time swatching made an appearance here was way back in August. In the debut post, in fact. It was also Piggy's first-ever swatch, and a huge success at that: I "got gauge" right off the bat. (The fact I have yet to progress beyond the cast-on for that particular project is, of course, entirely irrelevant.)

The tale of Piggy's second- and third-ever swatches is a far less happy one. I'm afraid I don't have the strength for a full scene-by-scene synopsis of the tragedy that began last night and continues to unfold, so you'll have to make do with the following DO's and DON'Ts.

Piggy's Guide to Getting Gauge

1. DON'T knit actual garments.
You can avoid the nasty task of swatching altogether if you stick to scarves, afghans, dishcloths and even hats. DON'T let other knitters make you feel inferior because you've never knit a sweater or pair of socks. Console yourself with the knowledge they are mere slaves to the swatch, and will require copious quantities of wrinkle creams to tame the effects of their stress-induced furrowed brows while you are tension-free, in all senses of the word. Who's superior now, eh?

2. If you must knit a garment, DO select a pattern designed to make the wearer look like a shapeless blob be "comfortable".
The bigger and looser the better. Shaping is to be strongly discouraged.

~ Piggy was doing fine at this point; for my first-ever garment, I selected the Weasley Jumper, which, designer Alison Hansel notes, "includes a lot of ease because it looks so great oversized!" (exclamation point hers). But things took a downhill turn quickly...

3. DO consult the pattern.
You're almost certain to find the gauge listed quite prominently near the top. Very helpful.

3. DON'T choose a yarn of a different weight than suggested in the pattern.
Especially DON'T do this when you have never used said yarn before, and are buying it on the Interwebs (no matter how lovely the proprietor may be, I hasten to add...God Bless And for the love of all things sacred, really, truly DON'T do this when your pattern (and your own size) demands a metric sh*t-ton of said yarn.

4. DON'T listen to the experts who suggest you knit a whacking great swatch.
Bigger is not always better. Especially when you're gauge is so horribly, dreadfully far off the mark that you'll require yarn for at least two more swatches.

5. DO have chocolate nearby when you measure your gauge.
Or perhaps some gin. Better yet: both. Some ice cream probably wouldn't hurt, either.

6. DO try to keep the decibel levels down when cursing the yarn/needles/designer/knitting gods for their colossal failure to give you the required gauge.
This is especially important if you are living in the basement suite of an old, under-insulated house inhabited by small children with alarmingly acute hearing worthy of a National Geographic documentary.

7. DO try to keep your needles away from major arteries while measuring your second and third swatch.
True, discovering you have achieved the exact same gauge with needles of three different sizes does qualify as something of a catastrophe. But try to remember that knitting is a fun, relaxing pursuit. Maybe it's time for some meditation...

8. DO try to appreciate the irony when, while taking a break before deciding your next move, rip off yesterday's page in your Yarn Harlot Page-a-Day-Calendar to discover this:


9. DO be grateful you followed point number two of this list, and decide to make do with what you've got and simply cast on for the next size up in the pattern.

I feel better already. Or is that the gin?


  1. OMG this was hysterical, snarky, and oh so true!

  2. Too cute, Piggy.

    I have eschewed the swatching many times and been very, very lucky.

  3. Have you seen that House episode (recent) where House is planning Chase's bachelor party and he makes alcohol-flavoured ice cream. Yep we need that.

    I have never swatched, I stick to rule #1! My friend who has been knitting longer than me has already ventured into socks and sweaters, but she's tiny and can afford her amount of yarn for a sweater. Mine would be atronomical prices! Besides, I hate wearing socks.

  4. Oh my goodness! I am totally laughing out loud.

    I just made a statement on my own blog about hating blocking as much as I hate making a gauge swatch. Your points were oh so true.

  5. hahahaha - i totally feel your pain!

    swatching is the muggle method of torture-knitting, i am firmly convinced. it is enough to make me stick to bookmarks and hot pads!