Saturday, January 08, 2005

Faux in-the-round swatching

Due to recent snowfall we have cancelled birthday festivities. I phoned my parents at 6:15 this morning and told them to go back to bed, it wasn't safe for them to travel three hours and drive around town up here. (We had a bunch of errands planned, including buying me a new mattress.) The snow should be gone by next weekend so it's not that big of a deal, they can come up then.

icicles outside my front door

click for larger photo

Yesterday I walked to the store in the snow and boy was I thankful for my warm handknits: hat, scarf, mittens, and socks. My hiking boots were soaked through by the time I got home but my feet weren't cold, I love wool socks!

I never did get around to taking a photo of the mittens I made last year and now you can see why. It's hard to muster excitement about charcoal grey plain mittens:

The yarn for these mittens came from a recycled wool sweater and there's enough yarn left to make a matching hat and scarf, if I ever feel like it.

I just updated my circular needle page to include info about how to knit a faux in-the-round swatch. I forget where I first read about this but I'm pretty sure Meg Swansen mentions it in one of her books.

How to knit a faux in-the-round swatch

Q. Is it true that the gauge (sts/inch) will change if I knit my gauge swatch flat and then knit my sock or hat in the round?

A. It's certainly possible, due to differences in your knit and purl tension.

Quick reminder: When you knit stockinette flat you are knitting a row and then purling a row. When you knit stockinette in the round you are knitting every round, you never purl to achieve stockinette in the round.

Knitting a gauge swatch in the round can be a pain. You have to work on it twice as long to end up with the same width to measure as a flat swatch: an 8" circular swatch is 4" when flattened to be measured. There are two ways around this:

1) Knit a 5" circumference circular swatch (make it a good 3" - 4" tall) and then cut it once down the side so it's 5" wide flattened. You can't rip out the swatch to use the yarn in a shortage emergency (without a ton of ends to weave in!), but it works.

2) Make a flat no purl stockinette swatch (aka faux in-the-round swatch) with a circular needle or double-pointed needles.

Instructions: Cast on a likely number of sts to equal approx 5" and knit a few rows of garter stitch to prevent curling. Now you're going to switch to faux in-the-round stockinette. Knit a complete right side row. Slide the sts to the opposite end of the circular/dpn and place that needle in your left hand. Strand the yarn very loosely behind the swatch and knit another row. Repeat until the swatch is at least 3" - 4" tall and finish off with a few more rows of garter stitch. Look ma, no purls!

This is a lot like making i-cord but you don't pull that stranded yarn tight, it has to be VERY loose to avoid distorting the swatch when it's being measured. The edge stitches are sloppy and must be avoided when measuring for gauge but that's OK, this is a swatch and not a work of art.

Optional: You can cut the yarn at the end of every row to avoid stranding it behind the swatch but that renders the yarn almost useless for shortage emergencies.

Q. How do I know the number of sts to cast on for a 5" swatch?

A. Guesstimate. If you're aiming for 8 sts/in then multiply 8 x 5 = 40. Cast on 40 sts and if your gauge is close then your swatch will be approx 5". Due to edge stitch distortion you should measure over 4" to determine gauge (instead of measuring the entire width of the swatch and adjusting your needle size based on whether or not it hits 5" exactly, that won't be accurate).

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