A Crisis of Gauge, a post filled with angst, torment, perseverence, and success.

Ever since the Kent Needle Arts Retreat, where I took a class with Mary Jane Mucklestone, I have become obsessed with gauge.

For years I have knit Continental style and for years my gauge has always been extraordinarily loose.  If a pattern calls for a 7, you will probably find me knitting it on a 4.  It’s ridiculous.  The idea that I could actually get the gauge on the recommended needle by switching knitting styles boggles my mind.  It also really upsets my (knitting) apple cart because:

  1. Knitting English style is not my strength; I haven’t developed a fluid style.
  2. English style is slower than Continental.
  3. I like my stitch definition better with English.
  4. It means swatching a minimum of twice to allow for comparing both styles.

Being in the midst of this “aha!” moment, I needed to knit something right away English style.

I had swatched and started Jimmy’s Baby Gift Sweater Set with Seedling (Aran: 100% cotton, 110 yards).  To get the gauge of 4.5 sts/1″ while knitting Continental, I was on a #4 versus the #7 the yarn calls for.

Since it was a small baby sweater, I wasn’t too bothered starting over.  These two swatches were knit English. The top swatch was on a #8 (#8!) and was 4.5 sts/1″. The bottom swatch was on a #7 and was 5.14 sts/1″. Not only is my gauge tighter knitting English style, it was so much tighter that I had to go up a needle size to get gauge.  This is positively unheard of in my knitting.

I knit the sweater (Jimmy’s Baby Gift Set), English, on the #8, gobsmacked all the way.  So  here was another observation.  When I knit Continental, it’s all about rows because I move swiftly across the stitches.  Knitting English, it was all about the stitches. I was conscious of every.single.stitch. 

I’ve been on a quest to see how different knitters carry their yarn for English style. While at Westport Yarns Sit’n Knit, I was swatching for an Entrelac pillow.  There was no gauge to speak of, it was more about stitch density so that you wouldn’t see the pillow form through the knit stitches.

I went around the table, taking pictures of different ways of carrying yarn English style. I’m trying different ways until I find the right one for me. The teacher becomes the student.

Along the way I found a knitter who knits tight, Continental style.

The bottom of the bottom swatch was Continental on a #4 – 4.75 sts/1″. Remember I mentioned the knitter that knit tight Continental?  She pulls the yarn tight after each stitch.  I think that’s what I was doing on the top half (of the bottom swatch) on a #5.  The top swatch was knit English on a #6 to achieve the same gauge.

Different parameters apply to this project.  I want it done faster and I don’t want to have to think about it, so I opted for Continental on the #4, pulling it tight after each stitch. By the way, the pillow is knit with Noro Kureyon (Aran: 100% wool, 110 yards) and will be a class at Westport Yarns in July.

And I think to some extent this is what it comes down to.  When looking for speed in completing a project that has a deadline, if time is short, I’ll opt for Continental.  Otherwise, I’ll continue to try my hand with English. Either way, I think I’ll swatch both ways to continue my research.