Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Knitting a sweater at a different gauge - "plug and play"

 A quick and dirty method to adapt a pattern to a different gauge/yarn weight.

1.       Determine your desired bust measurement (Example - 40”)

2.       Find your blocked gauge (say 5 stitches per inch)

3.       Multiple your desired bust measurement by your stitches per inch (40 x 5 = 200)

4.      See which size has a bust stitch count (the count after the sleeves are split off for top-down sweaters) closest to the number you came up with in step 3. Chances are there will not be an exact match. You can determine the measurements for the sizes on either side of your target by dividing the stitch counts by your gauge. (So 190 stitches would give you a 38” bust and 210 stitches a 42” bust.

I haven’t done a lot of this myself (since I am only knitting patterns I write right now, lol) but I feel like it’s best if your gauge isn’t dramatically different from the pattern – avoid using fingering weight for a sweater pattern that calls for chunky! It’s especially useful when you fall between sizes or your gauge is just a tad off.  It’s also a good idea to check any measurements dependent on row gauge – you may need to make some adjustments there depending on if you are knitting to row counts or a measurement. Best to try your garment on for fit as you go! And don’t expect the pattern yardage for the size you end up knitting to be accurate – have extra on hand just in case. Determining yardage is a complicated business (see my last post) under the best of circumstances.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Why is it so hard to give good yardage estimates?

If there's one thing I've learned in all my years of pattern-writing it's that giving good yardage estimates is a HUGE challenge. No one wants to run out of yarn before they finish their project, and no one wants to be told they need more skeins of potentially expensive and unreturnable yarn than they actually do. So why is it so hard to good estimates? I've come up with my own theories.

1. Stated yardage is not always exact - in fact, I'd argue that it practically never is. It helps to have a scale so that you can verify that your skein weighs what you expect it to. I have found that commercial yarns tend to be the given weight or slightly less (my understanding is that they are allowed a 10% error - they are almost always on the under side) and indie dyers tend to go high. And you still have to assume that the yards/gram given is correct when it may not be. And if it's a thick and think yarn like the one in the photo above, it's just going to be an average at best.

2. Even if you do have a scale and weigh your yarn, how do you know your scale is calibrated correctly?

3. Humidity. Weigh the same skein on a humid day in August and a cold day in January - bet the numbers are different!

4. People use different yardage at the same gauge. Seriously. If 2 of those people had a 3rd person block and then measure their gauge there would be more consistency, but people knit differently, people block differently, people measure differently.

5. Estimating for yardage across different sizes for garments is especially tough - since it's impossible for me to knit all sizes to determine my own yardage, I have to rely on calculations. And if I did take the year that would be required to knit all sizes, my own gauge would vary and the humidity would vary and my scale might get a bit off - so even that would not be 100% accurate. Plus I'd have to knit them all in the exact same yarn - boring!

And the variations can compound - what if I tend to use a bit less yarn for the same amount of knitting than most knitters, weigh my skeins before knitting on a dry day and my leftovers on a damp one (indicating I used less yarn than I actually did), and my scale develops a tendency to weigh on the heavy side (indicating more yarn leftover than actually was) during that time. All of these could mean that another person knitting the exact same thing in the same size and with the same yarn could need much more yarn than the usual 10% cushion that I give. Tester reports can help with this and I do always check their final yardage against my estimates and adjust if necessary. (Throwing out the extremes usually!)

Most designers really do try to give you good yardage estimates but it's just not possible to be 100% accurate! If you plan to use a one-of-a-kind hand dye, buy that extra skein! With commercial yarns that tend to be consistent across dye lots, you may be able to get away with just buying the amount suggested in the pattern. If you're going to play yarn chicken, be prepared to lose sometimes!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Knitting backwards in garter stitch

When working multiple sets of short rows over a long section of garter stitch, being able to knit backwards saves a lot of turning and repositioning. The videos I've been able to find online about knitting backwards are for working in stockinette where you are actually purling backwards, or they are very long when all I needed was to see the actual execution of the stitch. This is a just a short little cell phone clip, I don't have the equipment for making nice videos, but hopefully it will be helpful!

At the start of this clip, I am wrapping a stitch after knitting normally (from right to left), then instead of turning, I begin to knit backwards (from left to right). Even after doing this over the course of a large shawl, it is still a bit awkward for me and I have to be careful about my tension. It speeds things up considerably though! I knit continental, so if you're a thrower your working yarn will be in your other hand.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Estimating shawl yardage requirements using Excel

My Redbud Winter shawl (coming March 2!) is knit from the top-down in a decreasing triangle. I thought a tutorial on estimating your yardage might be useful. You do need to know how to use Excel for this method. I’m sure it could all be done by hand but it makes my head hurt to think about it :D

You will need
Excel (or another spreadsheet program)
Scale that will measure in grams

Step 1
Knit a swatch. Yep. Sorry but you need this information! You need to count the total number of stitches in your swatch and then weigh it. (If you use anything other than a backwards-loop cast-on, count the cast-on stitches twice. Don’t forget to count the bind-off. So if you cast on 20 stitches and knit 20 rows, and then bind off, your total number of stitches is 20 (stitches) x 20 (rows) + 40 (cast-on) + 20 (bind-off) = 460.

Step 2
Weigh your swatch. Let’s say it weighs 2 grams (I am totally making these numbers up!)

Step 3
Calculate your stitches per gram: total stitches/grams = 460/2 = 230

Step 4
Determine your cast-on by multiplying your stitch gauge per inch by the wingspan you want. Let’s say 5 stitches per inch and 50 inches for our example. So my cast-on number would be 250.

Step 5
Set up your spreadsheet with the following columns:
Row number|row stitch count|cumulative stitch count
The first line will be your cast-on, then number the rows below. (Don’t worry yet about how many rows to add, just do what you can see on the page.)
The first stitch count entry will have your cast-on number calculated in step 4.
The first cumulative stitch count will be 2 times the cast-on number (for a long-tail cast-on). Use a formula here so it will adjust if you change your stitch count.

Step 6
Set up line 2. For this pattern you are decreasing one stitch on every row, down to 1 stitch (there are actually 2 rows where you decrease 3 stitches, but there’s no need to complicate things by trying to be that exact here. A few extra rows will just give you a bit of a cushion which is a good thing :)

Your cumulative count will be the count in the box above plus the current row count.

Step 7
Select the two boxes you just set-up and drag them down the screen.

Step 8
Select your last row of data and drag it down the screen until you get a row count of 1 – if you overshoot, just delete the extra rows.

This means we will be knitting about 31,615 stitches which will take 137.5 g. (31615/stitches per gram calculated in step 3)

What if I find out I need more yarn than I have? Let’s say you only had 125g. That means the total stitches you can expect to knit is 125 x 230 = 28750. Changing the cast-on number to 240 gives me a total stitch count of 29160. Almost! 

Let’s try 238 (it has to be an even number for this pattern) –

That works!

It's a good idea to check your yardage as you go - numbers you get after knitting a lot of stitches are more accurate than what you get from a swatch. And if you don't want to swatch, you can at least determine if you can keep going or if you need to bail. Determine the amount of yarn you used and calculate your stitches per gram. You can then multiply your total grams available by the stitches per gram and see if you need to rip and restart with a smaller cast-on.

Checking as you go
Name the final stitch total by clicking on that box and entering a name in the spot circled in red. I used “totsts”

Add three more columns – ‘g used’, ‘% knit,’ and ‘% used.’

The % knit is the cumulative total for that row divided by the total stitches to knit –

You need one more field to calculate the % used – grams available.
Name that field – I used totgs

The calculation for the % used will be the total yarn used at that point divided by the total available.

Select the two fields we just created and change them to percentages. 

Drag those two field to the end of your rows.

If it doesn't go to 100% at the end, you did something wrong!

After knitting any row, weigh your yarn to determine how much you’ve used (not how much is left! Subtract what's left from what you started with) and enter the grams in the ‘g used’ column. Let’s say I’ve used 4 g through row 2. 

This means I am okay. If your percent used is higher than your percent knit, you may have a problem!

This is the method I use all the time when I’m designing a shawl and need to make sure I’m not going to run short. Different patterns will have different rates of decrease or may increase instead, but the basic principle is the same. You could also use this method to see how big of a shawl you can knit using the Dogwood Spring pattern (also coming March 2) with your yarn and gauge. You would start with 1 stitch and increase each row in the spreadsheet for that one. Once you know your possible final row and stitch count, you can estimate your finished size based on your gauge.

Hope you find it helpful!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The swatch that turned into a cowl

Okay, I admit it. I wasn't really swatching (exactly). I was hoping that I would just be able to continue on to get the desired result. Luckily I decided to do some number-crunching to see what I was heading for and discovered that I was well on my way to knitting a Hagrid-sized shawl. This required some regrouping to get a more reasonable size and use about 800 yards instead of 1320. Although a shawl that size would be fabulous, knitting it in linen stitch might take the rest of my life.

Because I had become so fond of this swatch I decided to bind it off and keep it. (My favs get stuck up on the bulletin board in my work room.) Then I discovered it went around my neck nicely with just enough overlap for a snap closure. Hmmmm. We were heading to Newfoundland, this just might come in handy....  I love cowls, but with my crazy hair, weather that requires frequent on-and-off maneuvers can be a disaster. Scarves work but they are big - this will fit in my purse/backpack/coat pocket.

Just on the off chance that someone else might want to make this, here's the "pattern". I decided to call it Alias (I was watching Jane Got a Gun while working on this. There may be a connection.) It's very basic - just linen stitch with increases to form the triangle. Stripe it if you like. (My stripes were 4 rows/6 rows/6 rows/4 rows/16 rows.) The stranded colorwork pattern is not included (it will be in the shawl pattern when it's released).  I wrote it up for the weight/gauge/yardage I used, but there's lots of room for playing here.


Skills required
Slipping stitches
24 stitches and 38 rows in linen stitch
Approximate measurements
24 inches across the top and 11.5 inches deep
Approximately 150 yards if you're using worsted weight yarn – as many colors as you like. Preferably in something that feels nice around your neck (I used Cascade 220 and Wool days Scout, feel free to substitute a different weight and yardage)
US 9/5.5 mm needle, or size needed to obtain a fabric you like with your yarn. Linen stitch is dense, you'll need to work with larger needles than usual. Personally, I wouldn't swatch  (obviously). This starts small so you can just start over if necessary.

Needle two sizes smaller for the set up and for binding off
Large snap and supplies to attach
Tapestry needle for weaving in ends

[  ]
repeat enclosed instructions as many times as possible (you may not end with a full repeat)
knit into the front and then the back of the same stitch
right side
slip 1 stitch purl-wise
wrong side
with working yarn held in back
with working yarn held in front
Using smaller needle, make a slip knot on your needle.
Row 1 (RS): kfb
Row 2: p2
Row 3: kfb, k1
Row 4: sl1 wyif, p2
Row 5: sl1 wyib, kfb, k1
Row 6: sl1 wyif, p3
Row 7: sl1 wyib, kfb, k2
Row 8: sl1 wyif, p4
Work in linen stitch
Switch to larger needles and work in linen stitch until you have 86 stitches or a size that works for you and your yarn, ending with a RS row.
RS rows: sl1 wyib, kfb, [k1, sl1 wyif] OR [sl1 wyif, k1] always ending with a knit stitch
WS rows: sl1 wyif, [p1, sl1 wyib] OR [sl1 wyib, p1] always ending with a purl stitch
(Determine the stitch order in the brackets by alternating which stitches are worked or slipped.)
If you are using more than one color, work the first row (RS) of the new color as follows:
sl1, kfb, knit to end. Begin linen stitch on the next (WS row), looking to the last patterned row to see whether to start with a slip or a purl.
Bind off knit-wise on WS using smaller needles.
Weave in ends.
Sew a giant snap to the top corners. (Try it on to get the perfect placement.) If you don't want to fool with sewing on a snap and are okay with pulling it over your head, you could tack the ends together instead.
Block as desired.


update: I did indeed wear this as a cowl in Newfoundland and I just found out it works like a head scarf too - the wind is making my ears cold at the campground on the Nova Scotia coast this morning.