Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tale of two gauges

I can't resist showing off my latest Finished object:

hat and booties
Baby booties for my third friend who is also pregnant and due in April. Now I feel like I should have made her a quilt, but I didn't. Instead she gets cute socks and a hat.

The sock pattern is Meg from Fraternal twins except I didn't do the ribbing because I didn't see it on the pattern until I was starting the second sock! The hat is figured from Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy book of patterns which is indeed very handy. The yarn is Mondial Cotton Soft Speciale Baby Fleck. US size one needles.

What I really want to write about this though is the importance of gauge. Not so much the "are you getting gauge for your pattern", although that is very important if you want the thing to fit, but rather what the gauge looks like in the yarn you've picked. And the story of this yarn illustrates that nicely.

See I bought this yarn to make a sweater--well two actually) for my girls. Right after I learned to knit--yes I went from dishcloths to sweaters, and actually I recommend it. The problem was that I was trying to sub this yarn for Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. If you've ever felt that yarn, you'd know that no way was this cotton fingering weight yarn going to do it. But! I got gauge! I knit a whole sweater on US size 3 needles, and for a first effort, it isn't bad:
The problem is that I'm not sure that I'm happy with the gauge on that project. It feels so airy. And I suppose if that was the fabric I set out to create, it isn't bad. But when I look at the same yarn done with smaller needles, I really like the resulting fabric a lot more.
Not that either is a right gauge or a wrong gauge in itself, but either might be wrong for any given project.
But if I had it to do over again, I'd probably make the sweater on smaller needles--and be even crazier in it. Imagine, I've been knitting for about a month, I've only done dishcloths and then I move right to a child's sweater on sock yarn and US size 1.5 needles. Crazy is what that is.

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