20 April, 2008

Mister Gauge

Dear Reader, today's post is about that perennial favorite topic: knitting gauge. Gauge matters, we are told again and again (and again). Your mileage may vary. Swatch generously, measure twice, and all will be well. Unless you are me.

There's an old, odd, television series that lasted only a few seasons called The Tick, starring Patrick Warburton as the title character, a superhero who dresses in a blue formfitting tick costume. The Big Blue Bug of Justice is muscular, brave, righteous and very, very dumb. One of my favorite lines from the show comes when Tick has done something especially foolish, and expresses his dim awareness that he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He says to his sidekick Arthur, "You're on a first-name basis with Lucidity. I have to call him Mister Lucidity, which is no good in a pinch."

I have to call him Mister Gauge.

Lesson One: Needle Size Matters

Doctor Who - The Final Episode

This Doctor Who scarf is 3.8 meters (12.5 feet, 1128 rows, 56,400 garter stitches) of woolly mohairyness. You can't tell from the artfully arranged photo above, but one section of it is 2 or 3 cm (about an inch) narrower than the rest. Now why would this happen? The thinner section was knitted during a visit to Canada. Right now some of you are puzzled, while others are rolling their eyes. Yes, I borrowed some needles from my hostess, and no, I did not realize that CA/UK pin sizes are different than US ones. A UK size 8 is a US 6, and a US 8 is a UK 6, the point being that they are not the same size.

Lesson Two: Needle Size Really Matters

Greenlake Temptation Socks

These socks were designed by Wendy of Wendy Knits, who is the world's most reliable and accurate pattern writer. So why did these socks turn out much too big for me? Shut up, I did TOO swatch! I knit a large swatch in the round and measured it carefully, and adjusted the pattern accurately in accordance with my measured gauge. My math was perfect. The only difference between the swatch and the sock was that I knitted the swatch with circs and the sock with DPNs, but I checked the size of the pins with a needle gauge and they were both US 2s.

Did you know there is more than one size called US #2? Yes indeed, there is. Ditto US 1 and 6. However, many knitting needle gauges have only one hole for each US size. I had knit my swatch with 2.75 mm US2, but knit the sock with 3.00 mm.

I've bought an accurate needle gauge with (I think...) all the sizes. But I wonder what other surprises the cruel mistress that is gauge has waiting for me.

1 comment:

PICAdrienne said...

But, gauge still lies. Even with all of your defenses and preparing, gauge lies. Gauge is a cruel mistress. That being said, I probably should NOT cast on a new project this evening, or the knitting fates will GET me!