The Easter break is a bit longer here in Spain than in other countries, with Thursday and Friday off. I spent those two days and Saturday morning with a light migraine, but I was still able to do some useful things, and one of them was swatching. I am not sure if you remember, but I failed at knitting Penelope some time ago. I knitted the smallest size and just before the waistband ribbing I tried it out and it was like a sack of potatoes. I was horrified that my gauge had transformed so much in the last months that I could no longer knit successful sweaters after being able to test knit for Andi Satterlund several times in the past. What was happening to me? Was my current relaxed lifestyle affecting my knitting?
I saw that the pattern called for 4.5 mm knitting needles, and as usual, I used Cascade 220 wool since, this yarn goes well with this needle size, and in making many of Andi’s designs it has worked very well. Since I often knit with this wool I didn’t swatch, and this was one of the causes of the problem.
After the disaster I decided to swatch and see what I got, just for reference, to check how my gauge had transformed over the years. With 4.5 mm needles I got 18 st x 24 rows (4in x 4 in) before blocking, much different from the required 21 st x 26 rows. Wow, my gauge has definitely gone to hell, I thought, while I almost through a crying fit.
I reswatched with 4 mm needles and my horizontal gauge was 19.5 st / 4 inch. Still not good enough. I tried then with 3.75 mm and got 20 st / 4 inch. Since the smallest size is 76 inches and my bust is 83, I could live with this, since the desired ease is a negative 0 – 3 inches.
It felt kind of lame to knit this yarn with this needle size, so I decided to check exactly how much my gauge had changed, and rescued an old swatch that I made for Émilien.
This swatch is blocked, and the gauge is 19 st x 28 rows. Interesting. This means that my tension has indeed relaxed but not as much as I had thought. I went and saw then the required gauges for Émilien and some of Andi’s designs and I would have been fine with my gauge. Why not with Penelope? Now I saw that the required 21 st / 4 inches was not a typical gauge for a worsted yarn. And you know what? The recommended yarn for Penelope is Sincere Sheep Luminous DK. Yes, DK! Checking the Ravelry page for this yarn I see that the recommended needle size for this yarn is 2.75 – 3.75mm, and not 4.5 mm like Andi used. I wonder how she got gauge with this needle size. A tight knitter perhaps?
The conclusion of this is that my gauge has slightly changed, and I blame my efforts to live a more relaxed life, but not as much as I thought, and there is still hope for me to knit more sweaters. The other very important conclusion is that we have to be careful when substituting yarns, and never trust the recommended needle size if the recommended yarn is unknown to us. Swatching before would have saved me some months of frustration.