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Friday, February 29, 2008

36th day in which measurable snow falls. Snow/sleet taper to lingering snow showers into early afternoon in wake of 1-4″ overnight snow.



It may still be chilly (19°) but it’s just not too early to test some Spring Yarn! In my many travels, I like to pick up a skein here and there of new fibers especially cotton microfiber type yarns to try out.

This is a boatload of something called Jeannee (Plymouth) which I bought online recently.

Many of the patterns in the Chic Knits portfolio are written for worsted weight yarn. Now I use that phrase with caution because it means many things to many people, including the Experts. The CYA Standard Yarn Weight System calls it:

— Worsted, Afghan, Aran
— 16–20 sts per 4″
— Needle 7-9 (4.5-5.5mm)

Later on the page the Standards are qualified as Guidelines but I think that that’s quite a GAP when the range of stitches in a category goes from 4 to 5 stitches per inch. Four stitches per inch makes a quite chunky fabric. Five sts per inch makes a noticeably lighter fabric. And there’s another weight right in the middle.

Using #7 needles and a yarn that wraps 11wpi I achieve 19sts/24rows over 4″.

19/24 is the ball band gauge of many British Isle & Canadian Aran yarns — so we’re covered by the Standards — and some domestic yarns. Elann, a favorite domestic yarn distributor, posts this stitch gauge on the ball band for their Peruvian Highland Wool and I agree.

This gauge makes a quality tensioned fabric and correctly sized stitch for the diameter of the yarn.

There’s lots of yarns by Rowan, RYC, discontinued Jaeger, Briggs & Little, and others that ball band to that count.

Now here’s the cliff dive #1.

I’ve written before that, like the Standards above, the given ball band gauge is just a Guideline. Sometimes it is spot on but other times the manufacturer gives a range on the band that might need further interpretation to optimize the yarn performance. For example, another CK perrenial fave, Cascade 220, lists BBgauge as 18 to 20 sts per 4″. No row gauge is given. However, I bellieve this yarn behaves best at 19sts/24 rows, as above, with #7 needles.

4.5 sts per inch is, IMHO, too loose. 5 sts per inch, too tight. 4.75 sts per inch, spot on.

To really see how the stitch characteristics of a yarn change over a range of needles sizes, one can make a 36 stitch Super Swatch that uses progressively: #6 (4mm) needles for 3 inches, than #7 (4.5mm) needles for 3 inches, then #8 (5mm) needles for 3 inches. That will be the next step with my new yarn, but with qualifications.

Cliff Dive #2: you’ve certainly read this phrase on many patterns “OR Needle Size Required to get Gauge”. My recent experience knitting both my wool/cotton Eyelet Cardi and the Cotton Fleece Ribby Pulli showed me the beauty of going up and down a needle size to match stitch size when switching from flat knitting to knitting in the round. I also took advantage of Needle Brand/Type to achieve *best fit*. I’ve seen, for example, that a size 6 needle made of nickel gives a different gauge than a bamboo size 6 needle.

In addition, I’ve found that wool yarns listed at **sts per inch might behave differently than their suggested equivalent plant-based yarns. So the Cotton Ease I have might knit to the CK worsted gauge of 4.75 sts per inch using #6 needles instead of #7’s or for some folks who’ve knit the Ariann design from CE, #5’s.

So I’m going to expand my Swatch to go from #5 to #8 for the above cotton/microfiber yarn. I’m going to use Addi Turbo (nickel) needles. Here’s what I’m hoping will happen (measured over 4″):

#5 – 20 sts / 28 rows
#6 – 19 sts / 24 rows
#7 – 18 sts / 22 rows
#8 – 16-17sts / 20 rows

8 responses to “Friday, February 29, 2008”

  1. beth says:

    you are right about your sts/inch blog! so you really have to knit your own guage sometimes…or as elizabeth zimmerman once said ” i knit then whoever it fits…” not her exact words, but read or heard it in one of their books/videos.i nknit like that sometimes

  2. Jennifer says:

    Ah gauge… It almost becomes an art doesn’t it?

  3. Tracey says:

    One thing I have really taken pains to do lately is make a super large, I don’t even bother reading the ball band anymore. I rarely ever get gauge with their suggestions. “Guidelines”, that’s a very generous term. ;)

  4. Tracey says:

    Um, swatch, a super large swatch. Duh.

  5. Temperance says:

    Ok, first alot of words, But reallly informative. So if you don’t mind me asking where does WPI fit in and how can you tell when you get the guage right for the yarn / project despite what it says on the ball?

  6. Bonne Marie says:

    I’ll be writing more about those ideas once I have my Super Swatch made! Stay tuned :)

  7. rachel says:

    Lots of food for thought here, thanks. :)

    Here’s where it takes me. Row gauge confuses me! Many yarn manufacturers and pattern writers act like row gauge isn’t even a consideration.

    As an example: Suppose a pattern calls for yarn knit at 20 sts/28 rows on US #6, and I find a nice sale yarn labelled as 20 sts/(rows not specified) on US #7. Should I assume I will probably wind up recalculating the rows? I know you’ll saw Swatch M’dear To Find Out For Certain, but what about the Quick and Dirty Guess While Standing at the LYS Sale Bin?

  8. gwen aka tallgrrl says:

    “4.5 sts per inch is, IMHO, too loose. 5 sts per inch, too tight. 4.75 sts per inch, spot on.”

    Just wonderin’…
    How do you even measure .75 of a stitch?

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