Saturday, April 7, 2012

Miette 2: Gauge and Sizing

OK, now that we've got some of the preliminary stuff out of the way, we can get started with figuring out what yarn we want to use and what size to make.  I'm going to start off by making an example of my own sweater, and then give a few more things for you all to think about.

The pattern calls for a worsted weight cotton blend, knit at a gauge of 4 stitches and 5.5 rows to the inch.  I spent quite a while looking around for a similar yarn to use that wouldn't break the bank and that was in a color I wanted.  But I came up short, so in the end I decided to go with something from my stash:

Recognize me?

Yep, it's more of that pink Calmer!

Now, Calmer is a cotton blend, but it's a much lighter weight:  on a US7 (4.5mm) needle, I get 5 stitches and 7.5 rows to the inch.  So I'll need to use more stitches to make the sweater than if I were using the heavier yarn.

If you're new to substituting yarn, this may sound like a big deal, but it's really not. All you need to know is the chest measurement you want to end up with and your actual gauge, and then do a little math.

So the finished chest I'd like to make is about 31" - that's my actual chest measurement of 33" minus 2 inches for negative ease to give my sweater that nice fitted look.   If I multiply 31" times my gauge of 5 stitches to the inch, I get 155 stitches needed at the bust.

Now I take a look at my pattern.  Normally I would make the smallest size in almost any pattern, but the smallest size in this pattern is actually a little big for me, with a finished bust measurement of 34".  Using a thinner yarn will be to my advantage then, because the same stitch counts will yield a smaller result.  Reading through the pattern, I take a look at the stitch counts at the bust for all three sizes.  Are any of them near the 155 stitches I need?  YES!  The middle size has a stitch count of 153 at the bust:  bingo!  All I have to do is use my thinner yarn and smaller needle and follow all the instructions for the 38" size!  Easy peasy!

If you've looked at the Ravelry projects for this pattern, you've probably seen a lot of notes like:  "38 to get 34", or "42 to get 38" - this is exactly what I've just illustrated above.  But what if, like Jo, you need to make your sweater much smaller, and you want to use a worsted weight yarn?  It won't be as easy as my adjustment, but it can certainly be done.  This sweater is a little tricky because of the lace pattern at the edges, but I've taken a very close look at it over the last few days, and I've come up with some ways around that.  But that will have to be another post!

So if you're ready to get going, how to proceed?  Find some yarn you'd like to use, and then do some swatches.  Figure out whether you can follow the pattern as written, or if you'll need to make adjustments.  If you have any sizing issues you need help with, let me know and I'll help you figure it out.  I'd recommend looking for a worsted or DK weight yarn.  Tomorrow we'll talk about how much yarn you'll need.

You should also take a look at page 7 of the pattern; at the bottom left are all the abbreviations of the techniques used in this pattern.  If you are unsure how to do any of them, I recommend taking a look at KnittingHelp.  This website has lots of excellent, clear instructional videos that show you just about anything you need to know!  I've linked to the page on increases, since these are used so much in top down knitting, but there's a search box at the top right for anything else you need to look up, and tabs across the top.

Another invaluable resource is Barbara G. Walker's book Knitting from the Top.  If you don't already have this book in your library, I highly recommend it!  It gives very clear instructions for making twelve different types of garments with variations included for each.  Not only will it give you a better understanding of how top down sweaters are constructed, but it will be a great guide if you want to design your own sweater.  And remember, if you're ordering it from Amazon, consider doing so via Ravelry - that way Casey and Jess earn a little extra money!  All you have to do is link to Amazon from the book page in Ravelry - easy enough!


  1. I LOVE this post! I actually just learned something key - when I've been making my sweaters (adjusting needle size to suit my yarn and gauge) I don't think I have been using the negative ease equation, crazy as it sounds! That's why everything is too big!

  2. Thanks for a very informative post! Here are my thoughts:

    1. Thanks for the explanation of gauge. Why do all my hobbies eventually lead me to doing maths? It's so annoying, lol!
    So since your yarn will give you correct gauge at the bust, does this mean you'll have to use a larger size at the rest of the cardigan, since it's designed for a larger bust?
    No idea if what I just said makes sense!
    2. Of COURSE mine has to end up being more complicated, lol. Makes me wonder if I should have just bought a thinner yarn in the first place! Thank you for planning a walkthrough on what to do!
    3. I'd love to get started on swatching, but my yarn isn't here yet!
    4. Yes, knittinghelp is a fantastic website.
    Thank you also for your book recommendation, I will have to look into it!

    Phew, that's a lot of thoughts! Thanks for your help!

    1. I know! That math! Egad!

      1. The reason why I started from the bust is that this is generally the place we look to find our size - just like in a sewing pattern. Once you know that, it will stay the same for the whole sweater. So in my example, I used the bust measurement and my gauge to find out that the stitch count I need matches with the size medium. So I'll cast on for the size medium, and follow the directions for medium all the way through. (Except where I change my shaping at the waist.)

      2. Not to worry - one of the great things about top down knitting is that you can increase just to the point you need, so we'll do that as one of the fixes to get the size you need.

      3. I know it's hard to wait! Hurry up, canoe! I wanted to get started on the posts though, because I'm not sure how many I'll have to do (I'm really just winging it) and I'll be gone part of May!

  3. Two excellent references, Gail.
    I'll take whatever I can get for information.
    Also, found knitting in the round a 'knit-in-the-round' swatch should be considered.

    1. Definitely - especially if you don't have enough experience with your own gauge to know how it differs from flat to round knitting. This sweater is knit flat though - don't want to confuse anyone reading these comments!

  4. Great post :) In fact, love the series!
    I'm really keen to join you with this lovely knit - I've got a new top on my needles but I might see where you are up to when I finish....thanks for pointing me to the lovely pattern!

    1. Thanks, Libby! I saw on your blog that you're doing another KAL at the moment! This one is very open-ended, no start or finish date, so you're welcome to join at any time!