Patty’s Purls of WISDOM
Technique, etiquette and lifestyle advice for the modern knitter.
Dear Patty (gauge lover),
My friend took your gauge class and suggested I write to you. I HATE gauge swatching. I just want to knit my project. I find the entire process useless, as even when I get the gauge perfectly on my stupid little swatch, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the gauge I get in the sweater, so it seems a big old waste of time. Isn't there a better way to do it? I read a blogger once who said she skipped the swatch step and just knit her sleeves first and used that as the gauge swatch. She didn't really explain what that meant though. If she didn't match the gauge, didn't she just have two sleeves that don't fit? HELP!
Gauge Hater in Houston (Shelly)
Dear Gauge Hater,
You love knitting. What is making a gauge swatch? KNITTING. Seriously, this is like chefs saying they hate to test out a recipe and taste the food, because they’d rather just start chucking ingredients in a pot and see what they get. OK, hopping off my soapbox. Let’s address three issues:
First (and most important), why we swatch: We swatch to get a fabric we like, to make sure we like the yarn with the pattern, and to know our gauge. In other words, we swatch to take a test drive. Notice I say, “Know our gauge,” not “Match the gauge.” Since there is sometimes 2–4 inches between sweater sizes, not getting gauge can very often get us closer to the size we want. When we KNOW our gauge, we can check it against a few pattern sizes. Find the stitch count at the chest and divide it by your gauge to see what it will be in inches. Sometimes you might end up knitting one size above or below the one you want.
Second, in order to know our gauge, we need to have a swatch that isn’t a lie. We need to knit the way we knit. That means not making a “stupid little swatch,” but rather, casting on enough stitches that you knit in your natural way, rather than trying to match gauge.
Finally, as far as the sleeve comment goes, I never got that one myself. Maybe she figured she’d just have 3/4 sleeves or roll them up. Swatch on!
What kind of shoes do you wear with handknit socks? After the time and care it takes to knit an outstanding sock pattern, it just doesn’t seem right to cover them up. I’m having trouble getting past the “socks + sandals = dorky” equation, and I have similar feelings about getting a pair of clear plastic boots. Is there another solution, or should I just feel warm and happy knowing that my feet are being cuddled with something special?
Thanks! Pam in Texas
I’m gonna take a hard no on the socks + sandals. As I see it, you have a few options. Make your home (and office if you can) a shoes-off area; move to Japan; wear the fashionable, slightly-too-short pants and cross your legs when you sit so your ankles show . . . or keep the delicious secret that you are wearing a tiny work of art on your feet, and let it fill your heart with pride and confidence.
I need to know how to make a neatlooking end when I bind off. This is hard to describe, but I kind of get one giant stitch at the edge, like I bound it off with a giant needle. My friend says I’m being nuts, but when it’s a scarf it just looks ugly. Neat Freak
Dear Neat Freak, You are NOT being nuts. For a better edge, bind off until you have one stitch left on each needle. Pass the last unworked stitch from left needle to right needle.
Move the unworked stitch back to the left needle. Ta-da! No extra lump, no giant stitch. Average bind off with “giant stitch” effect. With tip of left needle, pick up the left loop of the row below the unworked stitch by inserting the needle from back...