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Old 03-04-2011, 08:37 AM   #1
sarahandus
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help deciding gauge
I really don't know how to phrase this question, but it's some thing which has me puzzled.

How do you decide what gauge you should use? I'm talking about changing the yarn used in a pattern to some thing other than what the designer used. How do you decide how tight or loose the stitches should be? Am I just over thinking the whole situation?
Although I've been knitting for several years, I have only lately begun to learn how to be a knitter, as opposed to just being someone who knits.
I have long been a seamstress (not Discworld seamstress), and quite often just knit sweaters to my sewing patterns, always wondering if I was using the proper gauge for that yarn.

There are no LYS in the area that I'm willing/able to drive to, only the usual craft stores.

Can anyone figure out what I'm trying to learn and explain it?

Thanks~
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Old 03-04-2011, 09:28 AM   #2
kmaclean
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Well, generally the point of measuring your gauge is to ensure that your finished item is going to be the size intended by the pattern. The pattern designer has created the pattern based on a particular yarn and a gauge that they feel is best suited for the yarn and the pattern. If the pattern gives a gauge of 5 stitches per inch and you want your finished item to be the same size as the pattern states, then you'll want to make sure that your gauge is 5 stitches per inch as well (regardless of whether you choose to use the same yarn as the pattern designer did).

Now, it sounds like you create a lot of your own patterns based on design/construction knowledge that you have gained through sewing experience. If you're not using a knitting pattern which tells you what your gauge should be to get the expected size, then it doesn't really mattern what your gauge is since you're making it up as you go along. In this case, you are the pattern designer .... you get to choose your yarn, and then decide how you want the fabric to look (using the same yarn, you could create a denser fabric by using smaller needles or a looser more open fabric by using larger needles).

There is no right and wrong .... it's all about what you want, since it's your creation. I would just take your yarn and knit a couple of sample swatches on different sized needles and decide which fabric you like the look/feel of best.
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Old 03-04-2011, 10:19 AM   #3
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You maybe know what gauge you like your knits to be - most people prefer one that's similar to the one on the yarn label, I like them to be much looser. So I use a needle several sizes larger; then I multiply my sts per inch times the measurement I want and use that to cast on.

If you're using a different yarn for a pattern and it knits too loose or too tight for your taste, then use a needle that gives you a fabric you like. Figure your sts per inch with that and divide it into the sts used in other sizes of the pattern and see which one will get you close to the finished measurement you want. Follow the instructions for that size, though you'll probably want to use the length measurements given for the size you'd normally use.
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Old 03-05-2011, 08:21 AM   #4
sarahandus
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kmaclean, the problem is that I don't know what a standard knit sweater should look like, should the fabric be so loose you see the spaces between stitches or tight enough to close those spaces or some where in between. I'm not thinking of design so much as a standard to start from.

Or does this come with years of experimenting.

Maybe the TKGA's master knitters lessons are what I need, they are just so expensive for a casual knitter.

Thanks~
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Old 03-05-2011, 09:43 AM   #5
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Somewhere in between. It's not so much what it 'should' look like, but what you prefer. Cast on about 30 sts in some leftover yarn, knit with some smallish needles for a couple inches, then change to the next larger size you have for another 2-3", then go up to the next size, and so on. Note the difference in them and see what you like, ignore uneven sts, though you can wet your sample and lay it flat to dry to even them out. I don't think the TKGA lessons would really help you determine what you like, it mostly comes with practice and the best way to find out is work up some samples.
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Old 03-06-2011, 07:50 AM   #6
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I was browsing through "Designing Knitware" last night and looking closely at the pictures of those garments does help me understand that it's more what I want the fabric to do than a standard. I never quite looked at it like that and since most of my knitting was done with yarn other than the pattern, I was never sure how it was supposed to look.

I can see that it is a matter of experience and experiment and time.

Thanks for all the help,
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Old 03-06-2011, 10:11 AM   #7
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Yep, it depends what you're making too. Take sock and fingering yarns for example, they're the same weight. For making socks you'd want a dense knit because it wears better, so you'd knit on size 1 or thereabouts. But if you wanted to make a lightweight cardigan, you might knit the same yarn on size 6 or 8. If you're making lace you may like size 8s for it to be nice and open.

A loose gauge makes something drapey, flowy which you want for a shawl or a featherweight sweater, but if you wanted something heavier, you'd knit it tighter.
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Old 03-06-2011, 11:12 AM   #8
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Gauge is important because it has to do with fit. If your gauge is off, a garment you may intend to knit for a newborn might fit a one year old. I would hate to spend all that time knitting a sweater only to find it's too small in the end. You will need more stitches with a lighter weight yarn such as fingering, sport, or baby sport yarn and less with yarns such as bulky and super bulky. You'll have to adjust your pattern accordingly. Not all patterns are suited for certain weights.

I have a similar book called Teach Yourself Visually: Knitting Design by Sharon Turner. It's great, but there's something you should know about those books. Mine tells you exact sizes and how many stitches you should cast on, which is great. It's a step by step guide. However,the sizes are misleading. Technically, if you have a certain size head measurement, it should fit. Practically, it doesn't. The hat slips around on your head and pulls up off your ears where it's supposed to be. Experience has shown me that I have to make those hats about one or two inches smaller width-wise than what the expert tells me I should in order for it to fit right. This is why you have to play with these patterns a little. Hey, you can always frog it and start over.

Your yarn depends on what you want. A lighter weight yarn like sport yarn might be okay if you're working in an office. If it's summer time, you have to take into account air conditioning. A question to ask yourself is: are you going to wear the garment for warmth or just fashion? If it's just for fashion, you might use weights such as fingering, sport weight for lacy things such as a vest to wear over a blouse where modesty isn't an issue. You don't want your bra showing through.

It also depends on your climate. If you live in warmer ones, cotton yarn might be an option. Keep in mind that cotton doesn't stretch as much. Again, you'd have to adjust your cast on stitches accordingly.

Outdoor garments are another story. Here in Wisconsin, it's best to have two sets of mittens, hats, scarves, and sweaters for warmth under snowmobile and down jackets. One is knit in a sport weight yarn and is good for those 30 or 40 some degree days like early fall or spring. Anything heavier would be too warm. December, January the temps get down to 30 below zero and you'll need a set made from worsted or bulky weight yarn. A large size needle is okay for the bulky and super bulky. For the other weights, you want a smaller needle like a 4 or 5 to make the knit denser and warmer. I hope this makes sense to you.

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Old 03-07-2011, 09:38 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by suzeeq View Post

A loose gauge makes something drapey, flowy which you want for a shawl or a featherweight sweater, but if you wanted something heavier, you'd knit it tighter.
I know this intellectually, but often forget when actually doing the planning.

I knew it would be hard to verbalize the problem. I think the problem is that I am self taught and come from years of crocheting fine work - which I can't do any more. I learned the knitting basics and worked from that start. Now that I have discovered more than Red Heart and basic hats there is a whole new world opened up.

The idea that I am in charge and not following a standard is.
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