One Last Post on Charting

I promise. This is about the last thing I will have to say about charting for a while!  Most of us find that we seldom exactly match somebody else’s gauge – especially when we start utilizing hand knit patterns on the machine. Sometimes it just means a little tweaking to get things right. Other times it requires re-charting the entire pattern.

If you own DAK or Garment Designer, you probably won’t have as much use for this info, but it is still worth understanding how to affect simple changes that will enable you to use almost any pattern you like on whatever machine you own.

So – just these last thoughts on gauge  as it affects re-charting armholes and sleeve caps for set-in sleeve sweaters. Be aware that this is just skimming the surface when it comes to charting and gauge. But I promise not to make you delve any deeper…….for now anyhow.

Charting the Shawl Collared Cardigan Yourself!

This is the version I knitted from the pattern I've included with this blog posting.
This is the version I knitted from the pattern I’ve included with this blog posting.

Sorry for the delay – It was hard to find enough time to finish up the new shawl collared cardigan, wash it and wait for it to dry in the New England humidity, but now I’d like to walk you through the process of charting an original design. I used some hand dyed yarn that a friend gifted me because it wasn’t right for something she was working on – and it was just perfect for my cardigan! The yarn, Maude’s Mountain Spun (which may not even be available anymore) has 200 yards per 4 ounce skein and it knitted beautifully on my Brother bulky (9 mm) machine. My gauge, with stitch size 7, was 4 stitches and 5.33 rows per inch. Throughout this pattern there might be places where my numbers are one or two off from what you figure – probably just how I chose to round off or up. I do not own a ribber for my bulky so the bands were worked in 2×2 rib by hand on size 8 needles.This is the pattern for the brown cardigan brown cardigan

Charting the Back

With a calculator and a copy of the basic pattern (cardiblank no stitch or row numbers, just measurements) I began by re-charting the back. I multiplied the width (27”) by my stitch gauge (4) and found I needed to cast on 108 stitches.

Next, I multiplied my shoulder width (10.5”) by my stitch gauge (4) and determined that I needed 42 stitches for each shoulder. Subtracting 84 sts (2 shoulders) from 108 sts (the cast on ) told me that I would have 24 sts for the back neck. (To double check, divide 24 by the width (6”) and you get 4 stitches per inch. Perfect.)

The total length of the garment should be 24.5”, which, when multiplied by the row gauge (5.33), dictates a total of 130.5 rows – which I rounded up to 132 so that I ended on the right. No good reason for that other than habit. I also broke down the length measurement by multiplying the length to the armhole (13.25”) by row gauge so I knew where to hang a tag (RC 72) at each side to mark the beginning of the armhole. These tags are handy to have ready when you start assembling the garment. (I also tag the beginning of the front neckline at the same time.)

Charting the Front

First multiply the lower width (18”) by stitch gauge (4), which amounts to 72 stitches to cast on. When you multiply the stitch gauge by the width of the collar extension (6”), you’ll find that it accounts for 24 stitches. Subtract 24 (collar stitches) and 42 shoulder stitches from the total width of the garment (72) and you’ll find that 6 stitches remain. These 6 stitches will be decreased to shape the front neckline (which is not nearly as sharp a V as it looks on my diagrams).

To figure the neckline decreases, you need to divide the number of stitches that must be decreased (6) into the total number of rows you have to do it (60 rows), which (conveniently in this case) results in 1 decrease every 10th row, six times, or, more concisely: -1 10/R x 6. This places the first decrease to right at RC 72, which is correct.

Charting the Sleeves

Multiplying the garment measurements by the stitch gauge dictates casting on 36 stitches and ending with 90. Subtracting 36 from 90 indicates that we need to increase by 54 stitches over the length of the sleeve. Because increases will be made at both edges of the sleeve, this means that there should be 27 increases worked over 88 rows (measurement x row gauge).

When working sleeve increases, you should never have an increase on either the first or the last row so the formula for spacing out the increases is worked a little differently than it was for the front decrease spacing. What we really need to find here is the number of spaces between the increases and between the beginning/ending edge of the fabric and the first/last increase.

adding "1" to the divisor to account for the spaces, rather than the increases, I'll divide 88 rows by 28 (not 27).
Adding “1” to the divisor to account for the spaces, rather than the increases, I’ll divide 88 rows by 28 (not 27).

You’ll finally get a chance to use that long division (with a slight twist) you learned in 3rd grade! You need to divide 27 (increases) into 88 (rows) except that, in order to avoid placing increases on the first/last rows, we’ll actually divide by 28, which is the number of spaces between/before/after the increases.

Now add 1 to the answer (3), which now becomes 4. Connect the new answer to the remainder below (which just happens to be 4 – could be anything). This tells us we will increase a 1stitch every fourth row four times (+1 4/R x 4).

division2-2

 

 

 

division2-3Hopefully you are still with me because it gets kind of weird now. Subtract the remainder (4) from the divisor (28), which equals 24. Then subtract the 1 you added in the first step. Connect the 3 and 23 to indicate that you also need to make an increase every third row 23 times (+1 3/R x 23).

Its easy to check the math on this. First multiply the frequency of the increase (3/R) by the number of times you should increase (23) and the answer is 69 rows. Do the same thing for the increases made every 4th row, four times, which equals another 16 rows. 69 + 16 = 85 rows. Perfect.

Double check by adding up the increases and the number of rows.
Double check by adding up the increases and the number of rows.

I have no idea why and how this is designed to work – I just trust that it does because math was never my strong subject in school. The formula always works. If you’d like a short cut, there are a couple of calculators on line that do all the figuring for you. So will Garment Designer or DAK if you use those programs. This link http://www.getknitting.com/ak_0603mfcalc.aspx will bring you right to an automatic magic formula calculator.

How you work the increases is up to you. Sometimes computer programs try to shuffle the increases for you so that you might do an increase every 4th row after having done so many of them every 3rd row. I find it confusing to work like that so I generally work all my 4th row increases first, then move on to the 3/R increases when there is such a huge difference between the number of times I do each. I work the 4/R increases first to start shaping the sleeve more gradually so it doesn’t suddenly balloon out around my wrist.

You can arrange the increases however it makes the most sense to you, but I can guarantee that nobody is ever going to say “she knitted this gorgeous sweater but when she worked the sleeves, you can tell she did all her 4th row increases first and then all the 3rd row increases instead of alternating them throughout….” Not going to happen. Nobody will notice – not even you.

I did extra neckline decreases on the front of this version, but didn't like the way the collar worked out with only 3" for the roll. Still more than wearable, but not quite perfect...
I did extra neckline decreases on the front of this version, but didn’t like the way the collar worked out with only 3″ for the roll. Still more than wearable, but not quite perfect…

Just a couple more thoughts on this basic sweater shape. You could make the front even wider if you’d like to increase the size of the collar. You do not have to make any front neckline decreases if you want the entire front to roll all the way to the lower edges. You can add buttonholes and buttons, pockets, cables or any other details you want. Instead of rib, try finishing the edges with I-cord.

Double check the length of the sleeve by measuring yourself from the center back neck to the cuff and then compare to the garment schematic, adding half the width of the back to the length of the sleeve. Don’t forget to figure the added length of the rib.

The red version was knitted with a wool/alpaca hand-dyed yarn that striped badly so I worked off two skeins at once, knitting two rows of one color and then the next. Without a color changer on my bulky, I relied on this nifty JacPac to hold the unused color out of the way. I liked on line and the only source I found was Metropolitan in the UK. Not sure if they still sell them or not.
The red version was knitted with a wool/alpaca hand-dyed yarn that striped badly so I worked off two skeins at once, knitting two rows of one color and then the next. Without a color changer on my bulky, I relied on this nifty JacPac to hold the unused color out of the way. I liked on line and the only source I found was Metropolitan in the UK. Not sure if they still sell them or not.

Try charting this sweater with your own gauge information. It really is an easy garment shape to modify and change. Keep in mind that the bulkier the yarn, the more ease you need to build into a garment so that it drapes and fits correctly. If you decide to make a really oversized (OS) version of this cardigan, remember that as the body pieces get wider, the sleeve gets shorter. I’ve knitted some OS garments that had sleeves only 8” long and more snug fitting to support the weight of the garment. Also, you might need to knit the back in two pieces with a seam – make it attractive or make it invisible!

I always block with wires and steam before assembling any garment.
I always block with wires and steam before assembling any garment.

I’d love to show some of your sweaters here on the blog. So – when you get a chance, brush your hair, put on some lipstick and get somebody to take a nice photo of you wearing your design. Email it to me as a jpeg and I’ll post it so other knitters can see what you’ve done! Until next time!

 

 

Playing with Gauge – Part 1

Last time I told you we would begin working with gauge to take control of our knitting. So, I’ve included a PDF file that contains a couple of simple exercises for you to  get started with. Just click Charting1  and it will open the file so that you can print it out to use as a worksheet. You might want to use a yellow marker to highlight the basic formulas so they are always easy to find.

Next time we’ll start applying these same formulas to a sweater pattern, using an entirely different gauge than the pattern calls for. For most of us, not matching a pattern’s gauge is pretty much the norm and once you learn how to manipulate gauge you will be free from that restriction.

This means that you can work from hand knit magazines; be able to convert bulky patterns to the standard gauge and visa-versa. Keep in mind that all I am talking about here is the actual directions for how many stitches and rows to knit and the resulting changes to increases or decreases.

A re-worked pattern may not, for example, leave you enough needles to reproduce a specific fair isle or intarsia design. You may or may not be able to knit a specific stitch by machine. For now, however, let’s just deal with stitches and rows and start you on the road to an endless supply of patterns to knit!

I’ll try not to keep you waiting to long and in a couple of weeks, my schedule will even out for the fall and I will post more regularly. For now though, I am just getting settled into a new teaching gig at FIT – which I am loving – and next week I head out to Denver for a week at Craftsy. Shhhhh. Don’t tell anybody yet.

See you soon – calculator in hand!

Patterns for Machine Knitters

While you may not be able to chart out a complex garment right away, understanding gauge will help you work with irregular shapes and unusual structures like this modular cardigan. The modular method is explained in Hand Knits by Machine and there is a free download at www.guagliumi.com that explains exactly how this garment was constructed.
While you may not be able to chart out a complex garment right away, understanding gauge will help you work with irregular shapes and unusual structures like this modular cardigan. The modular method is explained in Hand Knits by Machine and there is a free download at www.guagliumi.com that explains exactly how this garment was constructed.

I think I get more questions like “where can I find a pattern for _________” (you can fill in the blank with socks, sweaters, raglans, hats, etc) than I do for any other problem. If you are a careful swatcher and you learn to work with gauges just a little bit, you can use most hand knit patterns, which tend to be more interesting and fashionable than the few that have been available specifically for the machine knitters – and it increases your options endlessly!

Keep in mind that stitches are stitches and rows are rows, regardless of whether you form them with two needles or a whole bed of them. Stitches are still stitches, but the lengthwise measurement must be considered as row counts (RC), rather than measured in progress as hand knitters do. Both, nonetheless, are dealt with in terms of gauge.

Before we start working with gauge, let me add a couple of thoughts to what I wrote in the previous post. Even by machine, there is no such thing as “knitting to gauge”. You simply must do a gauge swatch – knitted as large as possible with the same yarn, stitch size and pattern specs as the sweater. You’re kidding yourself (or magical with blocking!) if you think you “always knit to gauge”.

The “correct” gauge for any pattern was determined initially by the way the yarn was manufactured and any unique characteristics (like slubs or loops or “fur”, etc) then further defined by the designer who wrote the pattern. Matching that pattern’s gauge is your guarantee that the garment you knit with those directions will knit to size. Deviate from gauge and you are probably putting your efforts into a give-away project.

Most patterns specify the number of stitches/rows in a 4” square because that is usually large enough to average in any discrepancies in tension from row to row. (That consistency is usually more of a problem for hand knitters than it is for us.) While it is always tempting to stretch or scrunch a swatch to match 4”, there is just no such thing as “coming close enough”.

Consider this: if a pattern’s gauge is  22 stitches = 4” (which is DK at 5.5 sts/inch) and the sweater back calls for casting on 110 stitches, the piece is supposed to measure 20” wide (110 ÷ 5.5 = 20). However, if your swatch doesn’t really measure 4”, look what happens to those 110 stitches:

If your swatch measures Actual Gauge STS/inch 110 stitches will measure
4.5” 4.88 22.5”
4.25” 5.17 21.25”
4” 5.5 20”
3.75” 5.86 18.75”
3.5” 6.28 17.5”

In the example below the gauge is supposed to be 28 sts = 4” or 7 stitches/inch, which is a typical gauge for fingering weight yarn. The pattern calls for casting on 140 stitches so that the back of the sweater will measure 20” wide. Once again, look what happens to the actual width of the sweater when your gauge is not exact:

If your swatch measures Actual Gauge

STS/inch

140 stitches will measure
4.5” 6.22 22.5”
4.25” 6.58 21.25”
4” 7 20”
3.75” 7.46 18.75”
3.5” 8 17.5”

By the time you apply the “close” gauge to a back and a front, the resulting sweater could be as much as 5” too large or too small and wouldn’t fit before you even start knitting!

Keep this in mind: It takes fewer big stitches and more small stitches to make up an inch of knitting. If your swatch measures less than 4”, it means the stitches are too small. If your swatch is larger than 4” your stitches are too big.

Carry this a step further and you will see that the coarser the yarn/gauge, the more critical it is to match the required gauge exactly. With finer yarns, there may be a tiny bit more leeway. The difference between 7 and 7.25 stitches/inch probably won’t make or break a garment. However, if you are knitting on a bulky or mid-gauge machine, it is imperative that you match the gauge exactly or be prepared to re-chart the pattern in whole or in part.

While you can usually match a hand knit stitch gauge, the row count is often a bit more elusive. In my next posting, we’ll begin working with gauge to adapt existing patterns or to chart our own. Even if you use DAK or Garment Styler to chart your patterns, this is information worth understanding so you are never again a prisoner of somebody else’s designs!

Swatching for Success!

It has been a while! I could blame the unrelenting heat: high 90’s with 98% humidity for my lack of activity, but  this kind of weather provides great opportunities for hibernating with the air conditioning and getting lots of work done inside. The truth is that I have been busy prepping for my two classes at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in NYC this fall and also a trip to Denver with those great folks at Craftsy.com in early fall. Just saying…

Before I get into this week’s topic, I also want to mention that I will be doing a class here in Northford, CT November 12 & 13 for the North Branford Recreation Department and will post the contact and registration information in a couple of weeks. If you live in the Northeast – save the date!

A collection of recent gauge swatches
A collection of recent gauge swatches in graduating stitch sizes

Swatching

One of the most important – and least addressed (and maybe one of the most boring)- parts of knitting is The Swatch. I sometimes spend an afternoon swatching a variety of yarns, then another day charting and planning before I actually get around to any knitting.

The most important thing about swatching is to make sure you knit enough stitches and rows to accurately measure – this is no place for skimping! If you use a charting attachment (i.e. Knit contour/radar/leader), you must do your swatch according to the directions in your manual. These are the normal guidelines:

Standard gauge machines           40 stitches/60 rows

Mid-gauge Machines                  30 stitches/40 rows

Bulky machines                           20 stitches/30 rows

 

Programs like Garment Designer and Design-A-Knit can utilize these same measurements or the number of stitches/rows in 10 centimeters. If you are just trying to match somebody else’s gauge or designing your own patterns, it really doesn’t matter how many stitches and rows you knit as long as you write it down so you can figure out the exact gauge later on.

Assume that I am swatching a yarn for my mid-gauge machine, I’ll cast on with scrap yarn over a width of 40 stitches and knit some rows. Next, I’ll change to my main yarn and set the row counter (RC) to 000; knit 20 rows and then make two eyelets by moving the 16th stitch at each side of zero to the adjacent needle, leaving the empty needles in working position (WP). Knit 20 more rows and then knit two rows with waste yarn.

The scrap yarn acts as a marker for the required 40 rows and there are 30 stitches between the two eyelets. Now, so I don’t forget what stitch size I used, I make a series of eyelets in the scrap yarn. For size 6, I would just make 6 eyelets, but for size 6ŸŸ I would make 6 eyelets at one side and two more at the other. Follow the eyelets with a couple more rows of scrap, slowly increasing (or decreasing) the stitch size for the next sample.

Then just repeat knitting 20 rows, making the eyelets to mark the 30 stitches and knitting 20 more rows. Follow that with some rows of waste knitting and eyelets to mark the stitch size. I often knit a strip of gauge swatches with four or five different sections so I can compare and choose the absolute best gauge.

I bind off the strip and then finish it exactly as I plan to finish my sweater. For most yarns, that means hand wash and lay flat to dry. For superwash wools or cottons, that means running the swatch through the dryer.

You don’t want to measure any swatch until it has been finished. Otherwise, you might be wasting your time knitting a sweater that only fits until the first time it is washed. Most yarns have some tendency to bloom (i.e. fluff out) or shrink or otherwise alter once washed and you don’t want any surprises later on!

Lay the swatch flat and measure between the eyelets for the stitch width and between the top and bottom rows of waste knitting for the rows. You’ve already done the counting!

For a charting attachment, you need to use the special ruler that came with your machine. It converts the required number of stitches/rows to a single number you can use to choose the stitch scale or set the row rotation. For other purposes, you can just divide the total number of stitches (or rows) by the inch measurement to find out how many stitches (rows) per inch.

For general purposes, I usually make a chart like the one below to record the measurements of 30 stitches or 40 rows so I have all my figures in one place to compare and choose which stitch size will get me closest to my gauge goal.

Stitch Size Tagged 30 stitches 40 rows
6
6Ÿ.
6ŸŸ..
7
7Ÿ.

If you are trying to match a specific gauge and haven’t done so, I plan to address some charting in the next couple of blogs so stay tuned!