My Gauge Epiphany

I am a loose knitter.

Take that how you will.

Sometimes we think we know what we are doing (as in, I have knit for almost 20 years so surely I know how to knit).


Apparently not.

Really I am just a big ol’ fraud wandering about pretending I know how to knit.

When it comes to throwing and picking, I pick. Or rather, I am a continental knitter as opposed to an English knitter. Among my own circle of knitters, I have found this to be less common. This may because I was taught to knit in Mexico, and that’s just how knitting is done there, although I am not entirely sure.

I have realized for the past few years that I have a loose gauge, especially when working with their lighter yarn weights. Whenever I knit a sweater, I always have to go down a few needle sizes and then knit the smallest size offered by the pattern to obtain the proper dimensions. I didn’t really think about it much. I just kind of mindlessly did it. Even so, my Nanook sweater still came out a bit big after knitting the smallest size and shrinking needles.

You would think that would have been a clue. But no. I am dense (and perhaps preoccupied with others things and thus unable to actually think straight).

recently started knitting Dolores in a featherweight yarn. The pattern called for size 6 needles…but I had to go down to size 2 needles to get close to gauge.

So be it.

Then I go to work where I have a special knitterly friend. We show off our knitting to each other every week because no one else really cares. It’s nice to indulge with someone who is actually interested. Anyway, she shows me her current work, also on a size 2 needle, and it looks like you could bounce on it like a trampoline.

Tiny, neat little stitches. Solid yarn. No gaps between stitches.

By comparison, my size 2 work was large and loose. Not at all trampoline-like. More like a fishing net.


Later that day, I head off to the yarn store to pick up my bounty from my annual birthday buy (they needed extra time to wind all the skeins…bless their hearts). I show my work to Harry, the knowledgeable LYS expert, and he does all he can to not gasp and hide his appalled expression.

Poor Harry.

Harry, who encounters dozens of knitters each and every day, then kindly tells me he has only met a few knitters who knit so loosely in all of his years.

Yikes. It is that bad.

Try 1. Too loose.

I smile, leave, hang my head in shame, and basically drive home rethinking my entire life.

Just when you think you have something all figured out, bam, you realize you actually know much of anything and are basically just floating around the planet doing everything all wrong.

Try2. Pay attention, and it actually works.

Days later, chocolate and wine in hand, I swatch again, feeling bright with possibility. This time, I am mindfully thinking of tension. Within minutes, I have a proper swatch in the correct gauge on my size 6 needles. Knitting correctly isn’t that hard after all, if you actually think about it logically and pay attention to what you are doing.

Thus, my first few inches were unraveled, and I started again.

Lesson learned, and I am all the better knitter for it.

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  • Reply littleblackdogsa May 8, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Well done. It is looking perfect! Stunning colour you are using as well.

  • Reply Talya May 8, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I am the opposite- I am a tight knitter, so I always have to go up two or three sizes to get anywhere near gauge.

  • Reply AndreSue May 8, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    I’m also a loose continental knitter and have had similar problems with gauge. I’ve also learned to tighten my tension which has helped tremendously. It took me years to figure out why my knitting was so stretchy. I finally read somewhere that continental knitters are prone to having loose “ladders”. So while the stitches may appear to be at gauge, the extra bit of yarn in the ladders will work themselves into the stitches and the fabric will change- which was happening to me. English style knitting produces tighter “ladders” generally… Too bad I’m so set in my ways because I’d have switched styles.

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