29 May 2008

Yarn and needle sizes?

I have received quite a lot of questions regarding needle sizes for my patterns, and I thought I'd write a post to answer the question. As for now, my patterns aren't connected to any specific yarn. The suggested yarn weight is given, and of course gauge. So why aren't there needle sizes suggested, you ask me.

Because every yarn behaves different in itself, so it would depend on the yarn chosen. But most of all, because every knitter has her own personal knitting style. Some of us knit tightly, some quite loosely, and this has enormous effect on the actual gauge on your knitted piece of fabric.

So, what to do, then? Well, there is a simple (some would say boring) solution: Swatch! Whereas some think this a tedious exercise, I find it's a great way not only to avoid having to frog a whole lot of stitches after finding out the garment won't fit at all due to gauge difference between my piece and the pattern, but also a great way to see how the yarn fits the pattern in question. Not all yarns are suited for all types of patterns, and by knitting a small square of about 12x12 cm, you'll actually be able to tell whether you like the combination or not.

And - if your swatching energy hasn't run out quite yet - wash and block the swatch. The finished garment will most probably need some washing at some point, and it would be a shame if the garment stretched or shrank during washing, resulting in an out of shape, not wearable, not at all the same size as before washing garment, which took you hours to make. By washing (and drying) the swatch, you'll be able to foresee quite a lot about how your knitted garment will look we finished.

So, go find a yarn with the right gauge printed on the label. Grab the needles corresponding to the needle size suggested on the label (or one size up if if you're a tight knitter, the opposite if you're a loose one). Make sure to check if the pattern gauge is for Stockinette stitch or for any other stitch pattern. Then, CO about 30-40 sts, and make your swatch. Do it again with larger/smaller needles if your gauge is off. Wash and block the swatch(es) when hitting gauge, and see if the gauge is still right.

Then use whatever needle size YOU need for getting gauge with your particular yarn and your personal knitting style, and cast on for the project you've been wanting to make!

9 comments:

Merete said...

I lang tid har jeg trodd at jeg strikker "normal" strikkefasthet, fordi plaggene jeg har strikket har passet akkurat med strikkefasthet når jeg sjekker etterpå. Men den siste tiden MÅ jeg ha endret strikkestil, det er løsere enn jeg tror. Så det kan forandre seg, etter bitter erfaring. :)

Tora said...

Det er som regel god investering i tid å lage en liten prøvelapp. Egentlig burde man kjøpe bare ett nøste før man begynner på et stort prosjekt, og strikke en prøve for å se om man liker kombinasjonen garn/mønster. Og selv om det er kjedelig å vente med selve prosjektet, så er det jo 1000 ganger bedre enn å rekke opp en hel lekker Lara.. Lykke til med det prosjektet!

knitalittle said...

Hi just wanted to stop by and tell you I will be knitting up little sister dress and when I get it done I will let you know what a photo love the pattern.

Tora said...

Thanks! It's kind of amazing to experience people actually knitting the patterns I design, so I look forward to seeing the picture!

Hannahbelle said...

I'm a knitter really just beginning to see gauge as a tool - in the same vein, I should probably be looking at gauge swatches a little more closely, too. Thanks for the advice!

Tora said...

Good luck with the swatching, Hannah! I hope you'll find it useful.

saranya said...

Hi,
I'm thinking of knitting the Little sister's dress and was wondering which wool to use. Any suggestions? I live in the UK.
Thanks

Tora said...

Well, anything 100% wool that is soft enough for a baby would probably be fine.

sprout said...

I just started knitting the 'Little Sister's Dress' and have a question about the pattern. I have knit the first 10 rows and am now about to 'repeat rows 5-10 three more times.' I am confused as to weather I am supposed to join the two edge sts. together now- or after I have knit the next 15 rows. Thank you for clarifying- I am a relatively new knitter-- esp. when it comes to following patterns. Thanks!