Recently, I received a comment to my Gauge Experiment blog post and felt that it really needed its own blog entry.
Yes, I’m writing about gauge again. Honestly, gauge can be so tricky. If you aren’t working to gauge, you may get a hat too big or too small. Even a hat! If you aren’t working to gauge, you could be making an afghan and run out of yarn. If you aren’t working to gauge, you can get a lapghan instead of an afghan like you intended.
Now, if you have plenty of yarn over and above the requirements, you may not be worried at all about running out of yarn. And, you like your project, so you don’t need to worry about it. And, if you’re making a scarf, you can just stop working at the desired length or continue as desired. Gauge may not be important to you in finishing your desired project. But, if you ARE worried about it, then you’re going to have to take the time to meet gauge.
I read many comments on Ravelry about finished projects. Many times, the crocheter is very frustrated because their hat was too small or their afghan was too small. It’s a gauge issue, not a pattern issue. If you’re crocheting at a tighter tension than the designer, you are going to make a smaller project. Remember the hook suggested in a pattern is a “suggestion”. Just a starting point for you to have an idea of where to begin with swatching. There is simply no other way for a designer to give you an idea of how tightly or loosely they crochet. We all crochet differently. ALL of us!
Now, on with the comment.
I have been crocheting a lot of garments the last couple of years and no matter how carefully I check the gauge before starting a project, the finished garment always seems to grow during the final stages.
I do several swatches. I use Lily Chin’s weighted swatching to account for stretch. I check the gauge at several stages during the process and even lightly steam the garment and try it on when I have enough finished to do a first fitting.
But somewhere between the last few rows and the completed border rows, the thing just seems to grow. I am a size 14 and I am wondering if this size is just too large to work properly with most garments. There must be a solution.
Here are some ideas I have so far, which are, as yet untested.
1.Given the size of the final garment, maybe I should buy extra thread and do 8″ swatches instead of 4″. Maybe with the larger square and weighting the blocked piece over night I can get closer to what the finished gauge will be.
2. Hang the unblocked and unbound garment overnight as you would a bias cut garment before hemming.
3. This one would me a lot of trouble and it might be easier to just design my own garments (which might be a good thing), but maybe I should do a major alteration to my patterns and crochet the entire garment on a smaller hook to get a tighter fabric. Or would this just make the garment heavier, thereby making my problem worse.
Have you or any of your readers had a similar problem? Has anyone used any of these solutions or found another way that works fairly reliably?
I realize part of the problem is that I have been working mainly on summer garments and thread stretches, but is not really elastic. I used a bamboo/cotton for my last project, but again had the same problem with the garment just growing in the final stages. Maybe the weight of the bound edge is just too heavy when it is a larger garment.
Okay, here we go. First things first. Being a size 14 is absolutely no reason to abandon thoughts of having a pretty handmade crocheted sweater to wear! I am a size 14 and I forbid you to think that! Just strip that right from your thoughts.
The second thing is that, by all means, your swatch should definitely be more like 8″ rather than 4″. You should always make a swatch large enough so that you can take a measurement of your 4″ square in the center of the swatch. Measuring any other way will get faulty results.
Growth of a garment is fully dependent on the materials used. If you are following a pattern made from alpaca and replace it with acrylic, for instance, you will have to make lots of alterations to length because the alpaca would grow longer than the acrylic. The same goes for replacing an acrylic-made pattern with cotton. Cotton is heavy and will grow and grow.
If you want to make the least amount of alterations to a pattern, you will need to use the same yarn in the pattern or substitute a yarn not only in the same size but ALSO in the same material. This is the one thing people will often not realize. I’ve seen many people substitute a worsted cotton for a worsted acrylic, then experience disappointment when their garment has grown to their knees by the afternoon.
As a designer, when I write a pattern, I write it for the yarn I am using. Because different yarns and blends grow at different rates, it would be impossible for me to write a pattern for anything other than what I am using at that moment.
A crucial step in gauge swatching with natural, not man-made yarns is to treat your gauge swatch exactly the way you would the finished garment. Wet it completely and dry it in the same manner you intend to dry your finished garment. For me, I always wash and lie flat to dry so that’s how I treat my swatches. When I lie them out to dry, I smooth the swatch in the same direction the garment will hang. I’ll just smooth it with my hand in that direction. This will increase the row gauge and decrease the width gauge, the same thing that happens due to the natural effects of gravity.
I’ve also made plenty of acrylic designs and I’ve had to allow them to hang before putting on the sleeves to make sure the sleeves will fit. The row gauge will change on you, especially in the upper front and upper back of the garment.
I’ve had to make adjustments there because the armhole grew too much after hanging. There was nothing wrong with my original calculations. But, I try very hard to make a garment which will, when worn, lengthen to what I want. For instance, I’ve had situations where I’ve only suggested an armhole height of 5″ in the pattern because I know that the weight of the body of the garment is going to pull it down to a safer 8.5″.
About a year or so ago, I did a crochet-along for one of my garments. One of the participants used a soy blend. She questioned my 5″ height, but decided to go along with it. She finished the garment, wet it and laid it out to dry. But, before it was completely dry, she hung it to allow any further growth. And, wouldn’t you know it? The garment fit just perfectly because it grew just like I said it would (which made me VERY happy to hear!).
Because of the mass substitutions of yarns by crocheters, this is always going to be an issue. If you have a garment done in acrylic and you try to make it in bamboo, you will have to work harder because you’ll need alterations. It would be best to find a garment designed for bamboo if you would rather not make the alterations. It’s not impossible, by any means.
It CAN be done and the key is in the swatch. Wet-blocking is crucial for natural products. Weighting and/or hanging while still wet. And, hanging the completed garment before finishing so you can make alterations where necessary.
And, these alterations are the reason I much prefer bottom-up construction on garments. Once I’ve got the weight of the body of the garment on there, it’s a whole lot easier for me to take out a few rows at the top of the garment instead of take out the entire thing just to get to the too long armholes.
Please let me know if this helps and whether you have any further questions and I’ll get to them as soon as I can.