It's time for our second data post in the #kwswatchexperiment: Arranmore!
For the Arranmore swatch, we asked knitters to cast on 18 stitches using US 8 (5 mm) needles and work for 20 rows with a 2 stitch garter edge on either side. The needle size was pulled from my design, Carrowkeel.
For every yarn, measurements were taken pre-and post blocking. For the wet blocking process, I soaked the swatches in water and wool wash, and laid them flat to dry. I wanted the swatches to behave they way they wanted to behave without any manipulation, so I did not pin them or pay attention to the measurements when laying them flat. This way, the blocked swatches most accurately reflect the gauge the yarn was most comfortable at . This is how I treat all gauge swatches, but I do pin the actual finished pieces to the calculated measurements based off of the swatch gauge.
ARRANMORE STITCH GAUGES
ARRANMORE ROW GAUGES
As you can see above, there was a nice variety between the seven swatches we received from knitters.
STITCHES AND ROWS PRE- AND POST-BLOCKING
I found it to be very interesting how little the gauges (both stitch and row) changed pre-and post-blocking. Of the swatches that did change, the stitch gauges became looser (Swatches 3, 6), and of the row gauges that did change, two became looser (Swatches 4, 5) and one became tighter (Swatch 6).
LOOSEST VS. TIGHTEST UNBLOCKED
• The loosest gauge (fewest sts and rows per inch) was Swatch 6 at 14 sts and 20 rows / 4".
• The tightest gauge (most sts and rows per inch) was Swatch 2 at 17.33 sts and 28 rows / 4".
LOOSEST VS. TIGHTEST BLOCKED
The loosest versus tightest swatches did not differ between pre- and post-blocking, although the loosest gauge did change slightly (the tightest did not):
• The loosest gauge was Swatch 6 at 13.5 sts and 20 rows / 4".
• The tightest gauge was Swatch 1 at 17.33 sts and 28 rows / 4".
Despite the lack of a large change in gauge between pre- and post-blocking, there was a pretty big difference in overall gauge between knitters: the tightest stitch gauge after blocking was 17.33 sts/4", and the loosest was 13.5/4". A difference of 3.83 stitches, that is almost 1 stitch per inch difference between the two. The row gauge difference was even more drastic: the tightest row gauge was 28 sts/4", and the loosest was 21/4". A difference of 7 stitches, that is a 1.75 rows per inch difference between the two.
I also thought it was interesting to note such a drastic row gauge difference between Swatch 1 and 2 although they both had the same stitch gauge (17.33 sts/4"). Swatch 1 had a pre-and post-blocked row gauge of 24 rows/4", while Swatch 2 was a full row per inch tighter at 28 rows/4" pre- and post-blocking.
Of the 7 Arranmore swatches, despite the gauge differences, they all looked pretty nice and even except for Swatch 1. The knitter who sent in this swatch twists their stitches on the wrong side (purl rows), so that every other row of stitches is crossed. There are a few reasons why this might be happening, the most likely culprit is that when purling, this knitter is wrapping her yarn clockwise around her needle instead of counterclockwise. Courtney wrote an article last year for the Martha Stewart blog about twisted stitches, so if you would like more information about this (pretty common) mistake, you can find that here.
As mentioned, the needle size given in the swatch instructions was taken from my design, Carrowkeel. This needle size is based on what the average knitter would need to use in order to achieve the recommended gauge given in the pattern. We compiled the same data as we did with the Acadia swatches, and the results are below:
GAUGE: 14 sts and 21 rows = 4” (10 cm) in St st, after blocking. / NEEDLE: US 8 (5 mm) straights or circular.
For Carrowkeel, I've included 4 key measurements in the pattern that best illustrate some of the differences a knitter would experience if proper swatching did not occur.
Let's break down the expected versus actual projected measurements by swatch for the sample size (2nd size) in the pattern for the upper arm circumference and body circumference:
As you can see, only the Swatch 6 knitter had the correct stitch gauge pre-blocking, but after blocking, the stitch gauge actually changed to be larger than the recommended gauge. If this knitter did not block their swatch and based their needle size off of of the unblocked swatch, their blocked sweater would come out too large.
Had all swatchers knit the garment without swatching and blocking their swatch ahead of time, their sweaters would be between 8.25" smaller to 1.5" larger in circumference. Swatch knitters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 need to go up 1 or 2 needle sizes and reswatch, and Swatch knitter 6 needs to go down a needle size and reswatch - and be sure to check their blocked gauge.
An additional item worth noting is pre- vs. post-blocked row gauge. Let's break down the expected versus actual projected measurements by swatch for the sample size (2nd size) in the pattern for the body and sleeve length if the knitter does not take blocked row gauge into account when measuring length:
As mentioned previously, there isn't a huge difference between the pre- and post-blocking row gauge across the 7 swatches. Only Swatches 4, 5, and 6 changed, and Swatch 6 was the only one with a really noticeable difference.
What is important to note, though, is that while Swatch 6 achieved correct stitch gauge pre-blocking, and correct row gauge post-blocking, no one else matched row gauge. It would be interesting to see if (and how) the Swatch 6 knitter's row gauge changed if they were able to get the correct stitch gauge on a smaller needle. I'd also like to see if the knitters who reswatched and were able to match stitch gauge were also able to match row gauge and how much/little their gauges changed post-blocking, as so many of them were so tight as compared to the recommended gauge.
As I mentioned in the Acadia post, it is universally understood that it is very difficult to match both row and stitch gauge - and you always want to match stitch gauge - it is important to use your row gauge to calculate how many rows to work to the correct length. You can read more about counting rows here.
Stay tuned next Wednesday for the 3rd Data post. We really loved your questions and comments last week, so please continue to leave questions in the comments and we'll be happy to help you out!