Gauge. There are few things so important and yet so detested: tetanus shots, cleaning out the vegetable drawer and colonoscopies come to mind. But gauge is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that your knitting comes out right, that the sweater fits, that the hat actually goes around your head, that the mittens fit you and not your toddler. And yet, whenever I tell anyone to do a gauge, I get the silent "do I really have to?" People don’t even have to say a word, it’s all over their faces: the sheepish look, the shrug and the smirk, the wide-eyed nod and blank stare, all are ways of trying to trick me into believing that they are going to do a gauge but all the time thinking “no way!”
Let me tell you my friends, I was once like you but I have seen the light! I have knit my share of ill-fitting sweaters and other articles that have had to be passed along to someone else because they didn’t work out for me. I became very adept at picking up stitches to make things longer or cutting things to make them shorter. The thing that really turned me was doing a perfect, blocked gauge for my CustomFit sweater. Not only did it fit me perfectly but the predicted the yarn usage was almost perfect, literally to within a yard, I kid you not.
The thing is, just because you get the wrong gauge doesn’t mean you have to give up on the yarn/pattern combination you had your heart set on. I recently wanted to knit the Residential Vest in some beautiful Anzula Dreamy (a fingering weight). Now, the suggested yarn for the Residential Vest was Loft, which is also a fingering but a very different fingering from Dreamy (loft is more rustic and blooms whereas Dreamy is smooth). In any case my gauge was WAY off, something like 7 ½ stitches to the inch versus 5 ½. If I went up the appropriate number of needles, the weave would have been too open. So, after doing the math, I decided to go up 3 (maybe 4, I think I’ve blocked it out of my memory banks) sizes, with the thought that I would just steek the sides if it didn’t work out. This was very cavalier considering I have never steeked. In the end it worked out perfectly. The bottom line is, by doing my gauge and realizing it was off I was able to make the adjustments.
So suck it up knitters and do your knitting due diligence. You’ll be happy you did.
So, I think it’s obvious to say that no one, with perhaps the exception of Alice Starmore, eats, drinks, and sleeps, knitting and all things wooly. We know that there are jobs to go to, and dinners to cook, classes to teach and families to tend. Anyone who has stood still long enough knows that I am an artist with a studio when I am not in the store. And I recently met the mother of a friend of my son’s who, when I asked what she did (expecting to hear anything from salesperson to CEO) told me she is a medivac helicopter pilot. (Note: pretty much no other career sounds like anything compared to that). But recently we found out that we have a customer who does something really fun and out of the norm that got us thinking about knitter’s secret lives.
Virginia is a customer who comes in and sits and knits every now and then. She tends to quietly work at her knitting, ask a few questions and then leave. But a couple of weeks ago, I started chatting casually with her and found out about Virginia’s secret life. Our quiet knitting friend is a…wait for it…ballroom dancer. Move over “Dancing with the Stars”, we have “Dancing with a Knitter!” We’re talking tango, waltz, salsa, the works! She showed me a picture of her all done up with make-up and costume, playing a “madam” in an Old West saloon, being fought over by two men. She showed me the video of the three of them working on their moves and I’m telling you, Virginia is living out a pretty nice fantasy life on the dance floor!
I loved hearing about Virginia’s other "persona" and I think she enjoyed showing me that she was something more than someone walking in with a dropped stitch. So if there are any knitters out there who are expert rock climbers, swallow swords in a local side show or are part of a synchronized parachute team I want to hear about it!
Julie, WY's Do-bee and store wordsmith.