You may have noticed that I'd confessed to having selected my needles for the Half-Circle Cardigan (hereinafter Rubies on the Half Circle) Project.
It is true.
You may recall that one knits a gauge swatch to make sure that the combination of yarn and needles that you're using produce a fabric that gets the number of stitches and the number of rows you need to have in an inch so that your garment will wind up the size you need it to be. If you have too many stitches in an inch, your fabric will be too narrow (likewise, too few stitches in an inch, and your fabric will be too narrow). If you have too many rows in an inch, your fabric will be too short. Typically, one focuses more on stitch gauge than row gauge. It's much easier to knit a few more rows than it is to suddenly widen your sweater.
After knitting several swatches, I chose size 6's because they gave me the row gauge called for in the pattern. What? Didn't I just say that STITCH gauge is more important? Well, typically, that's true. But this pattern, which is a) knit in rib, and thus more flexible in terms of "width" of the fabric than other fabrics; and b) knit side to side or in the round. When knitting side to side, knitting more rows makes something WIDER not longer.
In my experience, getting row gauge and stitch gauge spot on is almost impossible. Getting row gauge seems to be harder for me. I've no idea why.
So... now that I've decided the needles, let's check to see just how close we are to the STITCH gauge. I've soaked and dried my swatch, so I know that it won't play tricks on me when I launder the garment, so I'm ready to go.
With US Size 6 needles, I get 21 rows over 3 inches (yes, I cheated and didn't do the full four inches), which is - tada the 7 stitches per inch the pattern calls for. I'm thrilled. Also, I like the fabric. It has a nice drape, but is not floppy.
So now, with you by my side, live on the blog, I'll check the stitch gauge. I've got 16 stitches in three inches. This translates to 5.333 stitches to the inch. Glancing back at the pattern I see that she wants us to aim for 20 stitches over 4 inches, yielding 5 stitches to the inch.
Since I anticipated the possibility that soaking would change the gauge a bunch, I've also already knit several inches using size 7 needles. Lets check THAT shall we?
The first thing I notice is that the fabric here is a bit floppy. Floppy can make a lovely loose drape, and for some garments, it's just what you want. But this sweater looks like it ought to have some integrity to the fabric. I'm not hopeful about this swatch, but in the interests of completion, I'll measure the swatch.
Since stitch gauge is what sent us here, I'll measure that first: 15 stitches over three inches -- stitch gauge, spot on. BUT... alas, row gauge is not. It's now 19 rows in three inches (or 6.333 rows per inch).
So, my choice appears to be row gauge spot on, and stitch gauge off by 1/3 stitch per inch or stitch gauge spot on, and row gauge off by 2/3 stitch per inch.
I'm sticking with my earlier plan: Using the 6's, I get a nicer fabric, and my guage is off by less (and then on the stitch gauge, which is "less important" than the row gauge).
Now, the question remains: Will I be able to hold off until Friday -- and thus qualify this project for the Olympic Knitting Challenges? (cast on during opening ceremonies, bind of during or before closing ceremonies). Or will I yield to pressure (hah, like there's pressure) and cast on during Knit Night...