Monday, June 23, 2014

Reference Gauge Swatches

I am a tight knitter. It is frustrating to start swatching a pattern from a designer that is a loose knitter when I have no idea that the pattern's gauge is based on that fact. Some designers tell you that they are a loose or a tight knitter. That is helpful information to a point. How tight is tight? How loose is loose?

It occurred to me that it would be helpful if designers adopted the concept of a reference gauge. What do I mean by this? Well, lets take a common, easily available yarn, choose a standard needle size and knit a 8" x 8" (20 cm x 20 cm) stockinette gauge swatch and set that as a reference gauge. Now, I can knit the same swatch on the same needle size and know the relationship of my reference gauge to the designers reference gauge. This gives me a starting point when knitting a highly gauge dependent pattern.

Simple, yes? Not really in practice. How do we determine which yarn becomes the reference yarn? The yarn must be universally available, from country to country. Its also unfair to favor one yarn manufacturer over another. Many factors affect gauge as well: Needle size, needle material, yarn weight, yarn fiber, yarn ply, time of day, etc. How are the swatches blocked to determine this gauge? You get the idea.

As a knitter, this can be worked from the other direction. Keeping a good record of gauge swatches will help when knitting the same yarn in the future. If knitting a project using yarn I've knit before I may be able to use my records to determine which needle size to use for the next swatch.

Since I am an occasional designer, I'm going to implement this for myself. I am going to choose some common, easily available yarns to knit swatches. I'm starting with Knit Picks Swish Worsted on a US 8 (5.0 mm) needle. I am also going to record all of my gauge swatches. Over time, I will have a good collection of numbers that may help someone knitting my patterns and may help me when knitting other designer's patterns. I'm making my swatch records public at My Reference Gauge Swatches.


Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits..

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