Getting Gauge: Swatching Tips & Tricks

Getting gauge in your knitting is the most important step in making garments and accessories that fit the way you intended. The key to getting gauge? Swatching done right. We've got a whole tutorial on exactly why gauge is important, and how to knit the best gauge swatch possible to ensure a gorgeous finished knit. Read on!

Getting Gauge: Swatching Tips and Tricks | Delicious Yarns

But What IS Gauge?

Also referred to as tension, gauge means the number of stitches per inch. To get a good fit, you need to know and understand how many stitches you are getting per inch across (horizontally), and from top to bottom (vertical stitches per inch, also called row gauge). Generally speaking, the thinner the yarn, the smaller the knitting needle used with it. The smaller the needle, the more stitches you will get per inch. 

Why Gauge is so Important

Knitting instructions include a section about gauge where they tell you that the measurements of the pattern results are based on a gauge of X number of stitches per inch and X number of rows, typically in a 4" measurement. If you have more stitches per inch than the gauge specified, your knit will turn out smaller than expected. If you have fewer stitches per inch than specified in the pattern, your knit will turn out much bigger than expected. For example, if you are knitting a sweater that is meant to be 40 inches in circumference, and the gauge specified is 5 stitches per inch (or 20 stitches across 4 inches), if you are getting 4 stitches per inch, and the pattern says to cast on for 200 stitches, then you will end up with a circumference of 50 inches, not 40.

How to Keep Track of Which Needle was Used

When it comes to needle size, it's easy to lose track of which needle you used. Here is an easy way to make sure that, no matter what, you will be able to figure out what needle size you used to knit your gauge. in our examples below, we tracked by metric size. You can easily use US or UK needle sizes, whichever you are most comfortable with. The important thing is to be consistent- don't use metric for one size and then the US needle size for a different one. Stick with your preferences to ensure that you will be able to figure out which swatch was made with which needle.

On the last stockinette row of your swatch, yarn over (yo), knit 2 together (k2tog) to create an eyelet for each number of the needle size you are using. For example, if you are using a 6mm needle, create 6 eyelets:

Getting Gauge for Swatches : Tips and Tricks | Delicious Yarns

In our example, we created 3 swatches. This is the example of the one knitted with 8 mm needles:

Getting Gauge: Swatching Tips and Tricks | Delicious Yarns

But what about half sizes? What if you are using a 6.5 mm needle, for example? We have a trick for that! After all the full eyelets for your needle size are done, you create one purl 'bump' to signify a half size:

Getting Gauge: Swatching Tips and Tricks | Delicious Yarns

How to Swatch

1. Follow the general recommendations. If the pattern calls for X needle size and X yarn, swatch with that and see if you get gauge. Knit a square that is intended to be at least 6 inches (both tall and across). Knit the first few rows in garter stitch to prevent rolling, and finish it with a few rows of garter stitch, then knit stockinette for most of the swatch. The garter sections will help it lay flat for measuring later.

2. Wet block your swatch the same way you plan to wash your finished knit. You can find a great guide to wet blocking here; we like to use Eucalan wash for our swatches and knits.

3. Pin or lay flat your swatch to dry. Again, this is according to however you plan on washing and blocking the finished knit, so consistency is key. Don't aggressively pin out your swatch if you aren't going to do that for your sweater, either.  Let your swatch completely dry, and unpin it before doing any measuring.

4. Measure! Using a measuring tape or ruler, measure your swatch across the center of the stockinette, while it is laying flat and is not stretched or pinned down in any way. Typically you will want to check and see how many stitches/rows you are getting per inch, as well as over 4 inches. This gives you an opportunity to make sure you aren't tricking yourself. It can be easy to decide that the stitches are 5 stitches per inch instead of 4.5 stitches per inch, but that extra amount over a whole sweater will result in a much bigger sweater. A good rule of thumb is that whatever the stitch count per inch, when you measure the total stitches over the 4 inches, you should be able to divide that number by 4 and get the same number as your original stitches per inch measurement. Don't forget to measure for row gauge, too, which is the vertical measurement for the stitches per inch - the same rules apply.

And that's it! Taking the time to make a great swatch is worth it, considering the time and energy you'll devote to knitting your garment, you want to make sure that it's going to turn out perfectly!

Gettign Gauge: Swatching Tips and Tricks | Delicious Yarns
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Tutorial: Alternating Skeins of Yarn the Easy Way

Ever wonder how to alternate skeins of yarn while knitting? Or have you heard that alternating skeins is the best move when knitting bigger projects with hand dyed yarns, but you aren't sure what exactly that means? Have no fear! We have a full tutorial today showing how to alternate skeins of yarn while knitting and when you will want to use this technique.

Alternating Skeins of Yarn: Tutorial | DeliciousYarns.com

Working with hand dyed yarn is truly one of the highlights of being a knitter. The depth, variety, and complexity of the colors are far more compelling than any commercially available yarn. Hand dyed yarns are never boring! But for larger projects, it can be helpful to learn the super easy way of alternating skeins to make your project the best it can be.

There are 3 main reasons why you might want to alternate skeins while knitting:

  • You are using hand-dyed yarn, tonal yarn, or variegated yarn: The complex beauty of these hand-dyed skeins mean that there is bound to be some variety from skein to skein, and alternating can help avoid pooling.
  • You couldn't get the same dye lot in the skeins you are using for a solid color knit: It happens: you need an extra skein or two, and suddenly you can't find anything from the same dye lot, even though you can find the same color.
  • You are purposely blending different colorways or even different brands of yarn. This can be a great way to manually create color fades, gradients, and destash single or leftover skeins!

Here's an example: These two skeins look very similar - Sugar Mix Two Sweets (color 515) and Sweets in Rock Candy. Both are fingering weight superwash merino, with the same base color. We want to combine them into an Oaklet Shawl (free pattern). Choosing a pattern that has a lot of texture (like garter stitch, for example) also does a great job of hiding color shifts, but it's important you see in stockinette how these two colorways combine. In the skeins, they look like they are the exact same base shade:

Alternating Skeins of Yarn: Tutorial | DeliciousYarns.com

But when knitting them together and alternating, you can see a very subtle shade difference in the light grays, which almost look like a faded stripe:

Alternating Skeins of Yarn: Tutorial | DeliciousYarns.com

When knitting a shawl like this, you are knitting flat. This means that we are alternating skeins every two rows- one right side row, then one wrong side row. After the wrong side row is completed, the yarn ends up back on the same side as the other ball of yarn, and you can easily switch for the strand below the one you just used.

You might think that switching balls of yarn every two rows would leave a strange line of the edge of the shawl, but it is barely noticeable. Here, compare the left side of the shawl (no alternating occurs on the left side) to the right side, where all the alternating occurs:

Alternating Skeins of Yarn : Tutorial | DeliciousYarns.com

This is particularly easy to hide in a knit that has a bit of garter at the edge, as the switch is very similar to how a garter stitch sits.  When switching between yarns, be mindful of your tension. You wouldn't pull too hard on the yarn if you weren't switching, so don't pull too hard on the switch, or you may find that the edge where you have alternated skeins is tighter than the opposite edge.

And that's it!  Now, keep working on this pretty shawl-in-progress:

Alternating Skeins of Yarn : Tutorial | DeliciousYarns.com

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Alternating Skeins of Yarn : Tutorial | DeliciousYarns.com
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Get to Know the Bakers!

Marcy - Head Baker

Marcy Delicious Yarns

Favorite Treat: Chocolate. In any form. My mother-in-law makes absolutely the best flourless chocolate cake you've ever tasted!

Delicious Yarns started by accident. I bought a yarn shop in 2008, and Jacqueline came with the store! I'm a life-long knitter and crocheter, but I never dyed yarn myself. We carried a brand of hand dyed yarns in the store that was very popular, and I knit a sweater for myself with it. I had just finished putting it together and was heading to a mirror to see how it looked. My son (around 20 at the time) walked by, sees me in the sweater, and says, "You're not going to wear that, are you??" I looked in the mirror and thought, "Well, I guess not." It just had so much color! Being not very tall, it was just too much. 

So I started hunting around for a hand dyed yarn that was not "too much" and couldn't find anything out there. Jacqueline had been dyeing yarns for the store, but very haphazardly. Whenever she had some time, or if she was teaching a dyeing workshop, she would grab a few undyed skeins and make something pretty. Her yarns always sold out quickly, but she never wrote any "recipes" down. She was never able to make more of anything she had dyed previously. Customers would see what someone else had purchased and would want some as well, so I told her to start taking notes. Then I asked her to try to come up with some more subtle combinations that might make finished garments more wearable for those of us that were "vertically challenged." And this was the start of our Sweets, our yarns that are kettle dyed, with a pop of contrast. From that point, we became a bit more organized. We had a little display of it in the store. A long-time sales rep from another company saw it and thought it was great. He suggested that we take it to Stitches West to see how it would do outside of my store. And that leads us to today!

Our goal is to make beautiful (and sometimes unexpected) color combinations, but just enough to make it fun to knit with. We don't want to overwhelm with color.  

Our branding is what really makes us different than other businesses. From the color names to the kit packaging, all the way down to the details on our tags and labels. We just never stop! Everything is dyed to order. We also pride ourselves on giving impeccable customer service. If a customer has an issue or needs something special or in a hurry, we really try to bend over backwards to accommodate whenever possible. It's not always easy since we are basically a "two-woman hamster wheel" (as we like to call it)! But, we do what we can!

Besides yarn and anything having to do with yarn, my other big obsession is hockey. My dad was a huge fan in New York, and he sucked the rest of us right in with him. I was a figure skater back in the day, and my two sons grew up playing hockey. It's kind of a family thing. I even met my husband because of my love of the Los Angeles Kings! I also love my dogs. I have three miniature schnauzers. They are adorable, smart, playful... and usually more entertaining than anything on television!

Marcy's dogs - Delicious Yarns

Jacqueline - Dessert Designer

Jacqueline Delicious Yarns

Favorite Treat: My favorite treat is dark chocolate, with almonds, please. My recipe is: walk into the nearest store with dark chocolate (with almonds, please) and purchase. :)

My background is in painting and drawing (I earned my BFA in Painting and Drawing from CSULB in 2000) and I started knitting when I was 27. I began working in a yarn store about a year later, and that store featured hand-dyed yarns that were made on site, as well as classes so that customers could learn dyeing techniques.The owner at the time taught me to dye yarn, and I fell in love! Before long I was dyeing for the store and teaching the classes. 

Delicious Yarns is different from other yarns because it has this cute, inviting food theme to it. We've always know yarn enthusiasts to talk about great yarn using food terms - yummy, scrumptious, delicious, etc. The yarn itself is so soft and lovely and, most of all, WEARABLE! We wanted to make sure not to go overboard with our use of color, so that finished projects were also beloved garments, not just a hobby byproduct that gets tucked away in a trunk somewhere. To keep things appetizing to the eye, I work really hard to get a lot of variation in the colors we use, so that the resulting fabric has depth and texture.  

In my spare time, I like to go on adventures with my son, who is 7. I also love to read and paint, and I'm the creator of a social practice art project where I leave art and art supplies in public spaces as gifts freely given to anyone that finds them: lostartfoundationproject.com.

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