Kerry’s WIP: Adjust Needle Size to Obtain Gauge

I tossed around several title options for this post. A few that didn’t make the cut were…

“Swatch Out! Here I Come!”

“Swatch Your Step!”

“A Watched Swatch Never Meets Gauge”

“Confessions of a Lazy Swatcher”

“The Notoriously Tight Knitter Strikes Again!”

Each was meant to welcome you in a unique way to my takeover of the WIP Wednesday posts as I knit my way through the Buttonside Sweater from Jennifer Dassau’s best-selling book Knitting Short Rows.

As my rejected titles might imply, swatching isn’t my favorite part of the sweater knitting process. I confess to knitting a number of projects over the years without swatching. And many times I’ve swatched but didn’t bother blocking. Ahem. My lazy swatch habits have led to a number of lessons learned. wipw_1_bMost importantly, I’m a notoriously tight knitter: every swatch, every time, is smaller than the intended pattern gauge even when I use the yarn called for in the pattern. I almost always have to adjust my needle size to obtain gauge and that has held true with Buttonside as well.

I’m using Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in the colorway Unbleached, which is the yarn called for in the pattern. Gauge is supposed to be 22 sts and 28 rows = 4″ in St st on U.S. 5 (3.75 mm) needles. To make my swatch, I cast on 30 sts and knit a few rows of garter stitch before centering a stockinette stitch panel in the center of the swatch. I knit 30 rows and then finished just a few more garter ridges before binding off. After blocking, my center stockinette panel should be 4″ square, but it’s not. It measures 3.75″ wide by 3.25″ tall, which means my sweater would end up a few inches smaller than the measurements noted on the pattern schematic.
I worked up a second swatch in the same fashion using size 6 (4 mm) needles. The size difference between the two needle sizes is just a quarter of a millimeter. It’s the tiniest little bit, but it makes such a huge difference! Side by side, you can clearly see how much larger one swatch is than the other. The swatch made with larger needles measures 4″ wide by 3.75″ tall. It’s not meeting gauge exactly, but it’s so much closer and I should be able to pin my FO when blocking to the right length.

Now that I know what needle size I need, it’s time to cast on. This sweater has unique construction I can’t wait to show you! Tune in next week to see what I mean.

—Kerry Bogert
Editorial Director, Books

Knit Along With Kerry!


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