Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Moving On With Gauge...

So, we've talked about how to read gauge, how to use that to your advantage, why it's important that you match with a designer's gauge or why it's important that you can do the basic maths to work out what size you'll actually be making. We're going to carry on with that train of thought and talk about how to adjust length but first I'm going to add a little bit about stitch gauge which I thought would be too much to add yesterday...

Let's take our example from yesterday:

Designer's Gauge = 5.5 stitches per inch.

Designer asks you to cast on 128 stitches.

We know that there's a small amount added for seam allowance, there really isn't a universal standard for this in knitting as there is in sewing but I tend to assume it's a stitch either side. So the designer actually wants you to cast on 126 stitches worth of material.

From this we can gleen, even if we don't for some reason know what size we're working to, that the designer wants us to cast on 23 inches worth of stitches. We work this out thus:

126 divided by 5.5 = (roughly) 23.

Now, that's all very well but what if you're working to a gauge of 6.5 as you were yesterday and you don't want to change the size or work to a different size?

What you need to do is work out how much to cast on for your gauge! And that's dead simple:

23 multiplied by 6.5 = 149 (and a half...).

Plus seam allowance, so you'd cast on 151.

Often, as you'll know, there's more to the shaping of a jumper than just 'cast on and knit straight' - if the designer is worth their salt they'll have added some waist shaping. They'll say something like 'work one inch, decrease at each end of every 6th row until you have X number of stitches, work one inch, increase at each end of every 6th row until you have X number of stitches'. There's a few different ways to work out how you want to do this if you're not working to the standard gauge.

1). The most time consuming:

Find the amount of stitches that you have to decrease to and do the same working out as you did for the cast on. So, the designer asks us to decrease to 112.

We know there's a seam allowance so we take off two stitches = 110.

Then we need to work out the width that designer now wants us to be so 110 divided by 5.5 = 20.

So the designer wants us to decrease down to 20 inches.

At our gauge of 6.5, this means that we must have 130 stitches (plus two for seam allowance) = 132.

We've already cast on 151 - it'll be a bit awkward to decrease an odd number of stitches, so let's say we'll decrease down to 131 (it's lucky that knitwear is so forgiving in terms of stretch!). So we need to get from 151 to 131 which means we need to decrease by 20 stitches. The decreases are paired because we do this at the end of every decreasen row which means that we need to decrease two stitches ten times.


The next step is to work with the row gauge to work out where to place the decreases but we'll carry that on in another blog.

2). The least time consuming

Percentages - argh! - takes a bit of time to get comfortable with but it means you'll only really have to do working out once in a garment and everything else is just a couple of clicks (or whirs of the internal brain cogs if you're that way inclined) away.

So, starting with the example which we've been over multiple times. We know that the designer wants us to cast on 128 and we know that we need to cast on 151. What we want to work out is how those two figures are related to eachother in terms of what percentage 151 is of 128.

We work that out thus:

(Our cast on divided by the designer's cast on) multiplied by 100.

(151 / 128) times 100 = (roughly) 118.

So, we know that 151 is 118% of 128 and that's pretty much a magic number to take us through the whole of a pattern whenever they give us a number of stitches to cast on or decrease or increase to.

So, we know that the designer here wants us to decrease to 112 stitches for the waist shaping.

We take that number, divide it by 100 to get one percent and times it by 118 to get 118 percent.

112 / 100 = 1.12

1.12 times 118 = (roughly) 132.

So decrease from 151 to 131 (rounding down because knitting is stretchy and we know we want an even number so that we can do paired decreases). From here-on-in you're using the same calculations as before because even I can do that in my head!!!


The great thing about the percentage system is that you do the difficult calculation once and once only, after that it's dead easy and it can be used on any stitch count that the pattern throws up. Designer wants you to cast on 46 for the sleeves? Excellent - that means we cast on 54 (worked that out in less than 30 seconds).

It's worth knowing both ways of working it out though, so that one can be used to check the other. So often in knitting we do something without really thinking and it ends up a hot mess - just taking the time to check and recheck leads to less tears in the end (I really should take my own advice...).

Of course, all of this working out doesn't really help us place where any increases or decreases are going to go - that'll come tomorrow - but we're somewhere near ey?

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