Thursday, October 13, 2005

Time to face the music

I've been knitting along on this sock so happily this week...just knit, knit, knit, no worries, right?

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Well, there was a *teensy* worry, but I was choosing to ignore it. Just that little worry called (dramatic pause) gauge.

I haven't worked on any socks since my failed attempt with the peach Lorna's Laces sock. I cast on two (three?) times for that pair, trying to hit gauge. I just coudn't admit that I was getting ten stitches per inch with that yarn on size 0 needles, and kept trying sizes that were too small. The sock finally went to the frog pond, where that pastel yarn will stay 'till next spring.

So, when I cast on with this autumnal Cherry Tree Hill yarn, I decided to just take a deep breath, cast on 80 (80!) stitches, and start knitting. Because that's what I'd need with the gauge I got previously on the LL yarn, and I convinced myself that this yarn would knit at the same gauge.

That, unfortunately, was my fatal mistake. I was knitting happily along on ribbed cuff, and things seemed O.K. When I got to the stockinette, however, I decided to check the gauge--just for fun, of course. What I saw did not please me. I was only getting nine stitches to the inch, not ten. Hmm...what to do? Knit some more, ignore the facts, hope somehow things might change. Maybe I would just knit the heel flap, turn the heel, then try the sock on. Maybe an extra inch too big wouldn't be that bad?

Well that's where I ended up this morning. And when I tried the sock on, the ankle was just baggy. No getting around it...baggy! I hate baggy socks, socks that are too big, slump down, twist around my foot while inside my shoe. So there's no denying now what has to be done. I'll cast on again with 72 stitches and forge ahead.

My question for all you sock knitters out there, though, is this: How do I keep this from happening again? Is a small gauge swatch (stockinette, knit flat) good enough? Do I have to knit several inches on circs to get accurate gauge? What *is* the right approach?


Carole said...

I'm no help, I don't bother with gauge on socks. If they're too small for me I give them to my daughter, if they're too big, I give them to my husband. ;-)

Lissa said...

I'm under the impression that there is a formula to socks having to do with calculating the circumference of your ankle against your gauge, etc. However, with most patterns that are textured or fancy and not just plain, that wouldn't help you much...

Susie said...

Sadly, the smallest part of my body is my ankles, so what I do is about 1.5 inches before starting the heel flap, I switch to smaller needles, like one or two sizes smaller, then return to my regular size for the heel flap and the rest ofthe sock. Just making that small change totally corrected the fit of the ankle bag.

Hope this helps!


Jan said...

I can really empathize because I've struggled with the same issues. No worthwhile suggestions, but I'll be watching your comments to learn something.
I like Carole's suggestion so far. :-)

Sarah said...

I knit tiny little tubes to measure gauge, especially if I haven't used the yarn before (my gauge is all over the place, so I can't just assume what needle I need). In fact, there is a picture of one of the tubes in my most recent blog post. I cast on 40 stitches, divided them over 4 needles (I love dpns, but feel free to use any technique you like for small diameter tubes) and knit for a while in stockinette (good easy band practice knitting.) Once I knit 20 or so rows, I measured my gauge (in this case, 9 spi and 13 rpi I think). I switched to the stranded pattern I wanted to use in the socks and knit for a while, then tried ribbing.

And since I was wandering the internet looking for basic sock patterns to plug that lovely gauge into, the rough formula for dimension is ankle circumference minus 10%.

Chelle said...

Okay, you would ask. Not sure of the answer. I admit to not doing gauge swatches on socks. I have one particular sock pattern that works most of the time - with sock weight yarn, but sometimes as I knit along with a different pattern, I notice that the sock is not the right size(usually too large) at which point, I usually rip it out and start over. If I don't mind switching sock recipients, than I just continue along and give it to my husband, daughter or mother depending on who it fits. Chelle

Jackie said...

Oh man - do I feel your pain! Same yarn, different pattern - I ripped an entire sock b/c I didn't have gauge. Do I check now? Nope - just keep knitting, just keep knitting. I figure - it's fun so it's ok if I have to rip, right?

Bean said...

One thing I've learned is to stick to a few sock yarns I'm familiar with. if i want a new colorway I just buy the whitest i can find and dye it myself. I don't really mess with cotton for socks so wool will dye easily with a little kool aid. I swatch in the round on dpns. do you use them? It might be worth your while to use them if you don't already. But beware! If you're a sox on 2 circs or magic loop person gauge WILL change from dpns to circs. That said, you might be best to do a swatch to get a feel for the yarn. And like someone else said, the stitch pattern does affect this. if you're just doing plain ST st, being familiar with a certain yarn helps alot.
Hope this helps.

Maggie said...

I have had similar issues and I'm trying now to make a note of how many stitches to cast on with what needles and what yarn. For example, I know for a fact that for me, Regia 4ply works best with US1 needles and 62 stitches. So now I've written that down. As I knit with the other brands I'm going to also make note...I haven't until now and I've regretted it. Which is why my latest pair of socks are going to my husband. Damn.

Danielle said...

I do swatch. Sometimes, I swatch on DPNs, sometimes on Magic Loop, depending on what I plan to use. Sometimes, if I'm bold, I just cast on once I get close to gauge. Like, if I wanted 8 sts/in and my swatch on size 2's gave me 7.5 sts/in, I would probably just cast on for the sock with size 1's, and rip if I was wrong.

I don't like making little tubes, because to lay a tube flat in order to get a wide enough piece to measure, I have to knt a big tube! Instead, I cast on using one dpn, and knit across. Then, I push the yarn to the other side of the DPN (like you would if making i-cord), and loosely hang the working yarn across the back, and knit another row. Keep repeating until the swatch is about 2 inches long. I end up with a swatch that is flat, but with lots of long strands running across the back. This does eat up a lot of yarn, but when I'm done swatching, I just rip and reuse the yarn.

So far, I've done pretty well with sizing.

Bonnie said...

I use the sock as my swatch. I use the needle recommended on the band and start the sock. Once I get 4 inches done on the sock, I check the gauge. If the sock is not right, I rip it out and start over with a different number of stitches. I have had good luck with an Ann Nordling pattern which uses the measurements of the foot. Maybe part of the problem is in the fit of your pattern? If