Ok, I admit it - I'm lazy. Of course, that admission is not really a big surprise to anyone who knows me. In fact, I read recently that most successful business owners are lazy - that they are constantly trying to come up with new ways to reduce their workload! That fits me to a "T". But unfortunately for my knitting, my lazy tendencies aren't limited to work. Like many of you, I hate to do gauge swatches... when I start a project I want to start knitting on the real deal. I want to get going! And, more often than not, even when I do take the time to do a gauge swatch, my gauge changes once I start knitting (my tension typically loosens as I go). If this sounds like you, keep reading to find out what I've done to rectify the situation (and to facilitate my laziness):
As I've probably mentioned a thousand times, my favorite sweater patterns are from Knitting Pure and Simple. Because they are knit from the top down - and on circular needles - I don't need to sew the pieces together at the end (again, lazy!). And it just so happens that raglan sleeves are some of my favorites. I love being able to take her basic patterns and change them up a bit - I can add cables, ribbing, shaping at the waist and just about anything else you can think of. I guess it's like buying clothes from a catalog. Once you know what size you are - and what fits well - it kinda makes it hard to experiment with anything else...
That said, I typically start my KPS sweater on the needle size recommended by the pattern (we'll use US 8 as an example). After knitting for about an inch, I measure my gauge. If my gauge is too tight, I know I need to use a larger needle (and a smaller needle if my gauge is too loose). So, I grab my larger needle (e.g., US 9) and knit a row with it. Then I knit a row with the smaller US 8 again. Then I knit a row with the 9 - and then another with the 8. By alternating needle sizes for a few rows, I've found that you can't see much of a difference in the texture...
Then I knit for another inch using only the larger US 9 needle. After that inch, I again measure the gauge and compare it to the pattern. If my gauge is still too tight, I'll repeat the above process. Pretty soon, I've found a needle size that provides me with the correct gauge. Note also that my gauge changes as I knit - so it's critical that I check it every few inches - and make adjustments as necessary.
Now, this technique works for me only if I'm pretty close in gauge to begin with... you don't want to start with a US 6 and end up getting gauge with a US 11. I'm pretty sure you'd be able to see those changes in the finished garment.
I hope that this article will be of use to you in the future - just remember, by employing techniques like this one, you too can be a LAZY GAUGER!
Posted by Jimmy (Laura) of Jimmy Beans Wool