Gauge Issues

One of the craziest things that we do is take yarn, knitting needles, and expect to get a wearable garment at the end of the process. So many things can go wrong. It's an indication of the single-mindedness of making something that we believe that there will be something that fits, at the end.

All the same, I keep knitting sweaters. And most of them turn out great. I try to stick with designers whose designs work for my size - short, long in the torso, a little wider at the hips than the shoulders - so that going in, I have a better chance of a good result. I've started to recognize what looks good on me, too. And I've knit enough to also begin to have an idea of where to start when swatching for gauge.

But all of that goes out the window when I try to knit for my husband. There's something that goes wonky when I cast on a much larger number of stitches. Instead of getting gauge and a reasonably-sized sweater, I am knitting a sweater for the Hulk. The very first sweater that I knit for him, way before I knew anything about gauge or changing needle size or schematics, was a navy blue gansey designed by Jo Sharp. When finished, I could have fit two to three large football players inside that sweater.

This winter he requested a Cowichan-style cardigan. Kind of like Andrea Rangel's The Dude. But knit, like my Fringeandfriends Cowichan-style vest, in Puffin. I checked the gauge of my vest. I measured his favorite fleece. I measured him. I cast on for a cardigan with about 5" of ease.

The result so far: huge! Much much larger than my intended width of 44 inches. About 8 inches larger, in fact. So wide that it looks ridiculous. Same size knitting needles. Same yarn. Same type of garment. But instead of getting 3.25 stitches to the inch, I am getting only 2 to 3 stitches to the inch.

What is happening, folks? I tend to be a very loose knitter, but this time I've done the homework, and my vest is perfect and a great fit, and more than large enough to count as a good reliable blocked swatch. All I've come up with is that when I work with a much larger number of stitches than usual, I have less tension between stitches, and my gauge opens up even more than usual. Version 3.0 will be cast on tomorrow: the plan for now is to cast on at a rate of 2.5 stitches to the inch and hope for a human-sized result.