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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gauging the Gauge, or Knitting Hell

Instruments of torture?
I’m not sure whether I’m numerically challenged or have the most uncoordinated hands in the world. Maybe both.

This past weekend, I tried to knit a sweater in the round using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s EPS method (Elizabeth’s Percentage System). Basically this entails multiplying your body measurement by your knitting gauge (stitches per inch) to determine the number of stitches needed. Success rests on determining the gauge accurately.

Which is how I fell into the blackest hole of Knitting Hell. Twice I managed to resurface and make another attempt, only to be sucked back down again.

Let me tell you the sad, sad tale.

After knitting about 6” of Version 1, the instructions said to measure the garment to make sure the width was what I expected, so I did. The measurement indicated I was short 3”.

Disappointing, but not fatal. I recalibrated my gauge, using the 6” of the first version to count stitches. According to this count, my original gauge was off by 1 stitch per inch. So for Version 2, I increased the number of stitches and added another inch of width for good luck. As I knitted round and round, it occurred to me this version seemed a little big. At the designated 6” mark, I measured again, and discovered I was wrong. It wasn’t a little big, it was w-a-y too big.

Once again, I checked and rechecked my gauge. Crazy as it seemed, Version 1’s gauge was correct. What!?! How could Version 1’s gauge be right if the garment measured too small?

When I’d abandoned Version 1, I’d cut the wool off the ball instead of unravelling it and reusing it. So I still had the original 6” of knitting intact (sadly, not still on the needles). I pulled the unfinished mess over my head, only to discover it fit perfectly. Unfortunately too many stitches had come undone for me to simply slide it back on my needles and continue on.

I was stumped. How could I have goofed so badly?

My best guess is the 2x2 ribbing on the bottom of the sweater must’ve pulled it in nicely (as it is supposed to) which affected the measurement when I checked at  6”. I figure the pull of the ribbing had also affected the gauge count.

Frustrating but the solution was obvious. I would simply begin – again – using the original number of stitches. After all, Version 1’s mini-sweater fit nicely. So I unravelled Versions 1 & 2, and rewound the wool on the ball, ready to be used in Version 3.

The twist that keeps on twisting
When knitting in the round, you must be careful to straighten the cast-on stitches and make sure they are not twisted before knitting them.

Yep, you guessed it....

Even though I’d straightened and restraightened that cast-on row, one little twist must’ve snuck in. Trying to fix a twist is like trying to straighten a moebius strip – you can follow the twist round and round forever, but it will never lay flat. 


Which leads me to another puzzle, dear readers. Why is the Devil depicted carrying a pitch fork? After my visit to Knitting Hell, I know those sharp prongs are really knitting needles.


  1. Keep trying, Lady T! You can do it! Baby T likes his blanket a lot.

  2. I thought knitting was supposed to be relaxing!!! :)

  3. Oh no!! :D
    Thanks so much for the comment on my dress... the skirt is cut separately :)