Knitting Heartache or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gauge


After a Thanksgiving full of food, family and friends, Mark and I retreated up to our little blue cottage on Friday afternoon to digest.  Saturday morning we woke up to a gray sky and snowflakes half-heartedly swirling about the yard.  We ventured out into the cold to pick up our mail at our little post office and get some groceries and then headed home where we settled in for the day. After some careful consideration of our Netflix options, I made a cup of mint tea, picked up my knitting and we pressed play on “The Return of the Pink Panther”.

For the past four weeks I’ve been knitting happily away on a new cardigan for myself,  “Yellow Wall Cardigan”. I replaced the recommended yarn with a very nice tweedy yarn, Rustic Tweed by Queensland Collection, and I was loving the result, although I occasionally wondered if the stitches were tight enough. Now, it’s drummed into all knitters from the second they pick up their first size 10 needles and ball of acrylic yarn that before they start a project, CHECK YOUR GAUGE! Because every knitter has her/his own specific tension on how they hold their yarn, the number of stitches per inch that each knitter achieves with the same size needle and the same yarn can vary greatly. And, if you use a different yarn from the one recommended in the pattern, it’s doubly important to do a proper swatch.  For example, if you are knitting a sweater with a, let’s just say, 37″ width at the chest and the pattern requires, let’s just say, 24 stitches per inch, and you are knitting 22 stitches per inch, it would change the width of the sweater to 40″. That’s right, three inches, a full size larger – you see where I’m going with this?

For some reason, many knitters are notoriously bad gauge swatchers, most of us are so excited to start a project that we either do a half-assed swatch or just plunge in with the courage of our convictions, however misguided they are. So, four weeks ago I decided to go with a half-assed swatch  – which I haven’t steamed or blocked, also recommended – and I plunged in. Along the way, a little voice in my head suggested that I should double check my gauge, which I decide to completely ignore because, I think to myself, “I did a swatch, it’s totally fine!”. It’s not until this gray, cold Saturday with Inspector Clouseau wrestling with an industrial vacuum in the background , that I decide to double check the gauge on my knitting.

I’ll save you the strain on your eyes and tell you: the gauge on my sweater is 22  stitches per inch.

I think it would be physically painful for me to tell you exactly how far along on the sweater I was when I made this discovery.

All I can say is that I had started my third skein of yarn.