Rosemont KAL Week 1: Gauge

We're delighted to be hosting our very own Rosemont Cardigan Knit-A-Long on the Kelbourne Woolens Blog. The Rosemont Cardigan, by Hannah Fettig, features Terra in Nettle and is a great way to stay warm during the last few months of winter. 

Let's begin with one of the most important topics: gauge. 

After struggling to pick the perfect color of Terra to use for my Rosemont Cardigan, I was ready to take the next step in the process: checking my gauge. 

On Sunday, when I was "watching" the Super Bowl, I was busily knitting my gauge swatches. One of my friends asked the question: "Why are you knitting the same thing twice?". My immediate thought was to go off on a rant about gauge and how it affects any garment, but instead I responded with, "I need to check my stitch size so that way I don't end up with a garment 3 times larger than the pattern dimensions". She shrugged, and I could tell she wasn't convinced. Gauge deserves more credit and respect than she seemed prepared to give at the time, so I'll keep working on her.

Gauge determines the number of stitches and rows per inch you achieve on the yarn and needles of your choice. Pam Allen described it best in the gauge episode of Knit.Fm when she said, "If you're going to put hours and hours and hours into knitting a sweater you want it to look like and fit like the sweater in the photograph you're working from". I couldn't agree more. But. I would be lying if I said "I've always knit gauge swatches". I've had some reckless knitting days filled with unflattering sweaters and hats originally intended for myself that found ownership with individuals much smaller or larger that I am. Let's face it, knitting a gauge swatch is boring, but it's crucial in achieving the shape and fit of the garment you want. Here are some tips and tricks to help you during the process. 

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A great tip Kate taught us is to purl the number of stitches to identify the needle size the swatch was knit on. If you look in the bottom right hand corner of each swatch, you can see the swatch on the left was knit using a US 7 (4.5 mm) and the swatch on the right was knit using a US 8 (5 mm). 

As you can see from the image above, counting an unblocked gauge swatch isn't impossible, but it won't be accurate. It is very important to block your swatches in the same manner as you will finish your sweater. Your yarn, needle choice and finishing techniques should reflect your intentions for your sweater.  If you plan on wet blocking your sweater, wet block your swatches. If you plan on steaming your sweater, steam your swatches.

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Both swatches washed and ready to be counted. 

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For the US 7 swatch I got 19 sts and 27 rows per 4". Since the pattern calls for 17 sts and 26 rows per 4", I need a looser fabric, so I need to knit on a larger needle size. Luckily, I also swatched on US 8 needles!

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When I count my stitches and rows I get 17 sts and 26 rows per 4", so I am spot on! With my gauge swatch done and my yarn and needles in hand, I'm ready to cast-on! 

Here are our six essential rules and regulations for knitting accurate gauge swatches:
1. Make a large swatch - the more area you have to find your gauge, the more accurate of a reading you will obtain.
2. Use the yarn that will be chosen for your final project
3. Even if it's just a gauge swatch, use the needle that you will be knitting with for your project. Even if they're the same size, bamboo needles may give you a different gauge than metal ones!
4. Use the stitch pattern that gauge is given in.
5. Block your swatch. Your swatches will more than likely change, so blocking is vital to get an accurate reading on your knitting.
6. Don't fudge your swatch! If you're concerned your count is off, ask a friend to double check and compare the counts you get.

Happy swatching! Next week we'll go into depth about Terra, and give some good tips and tricks about casting on and setting up for the yoke.

And don't forget to use the #RosemontKAL tag so that way we can see your progress.