on knitting and healing and other stuff

Socks Need to Get Gauge, Too

Posted by Janis on February 7, 2008

Though this little sock gauge epiphany thing dawned on me a while ago, it’s taken a little time and healing to be able to speak of it publicly. It is so amazingly idiotic that it’s hard to admit. Let me preface the story by saying that I am a swatching kind of knitter. I may not do a very big swatch, but I do swatch. Always. Except for socks. Because, you know, I knit socks on #1 Addi’s, 2 circ’s, and that’s that. I’ve made 7 pair of socks that way, in different sock yarns, for different people, and they’ve all fit just fine, thank you very much. Because when I knit socks, I do ’em on #1 Addi’s, 2 circ’s, and it works. Period. End of story. (OK, OK, I confess: I’ve never even CONSIDERED swatching for socks once my first two pair fit. The thought never even crossed my mind.)

So two Christmases ago (’06), I was knitting Trillian’s brilliant “Capt. Jack Sparrow’s Favorite Socks” for Orestes. Pirate socks, how great is that? Stranded colorwork – OK, it’s for the center of my universe, I’ll do it. And it was fun watching the little skulls appear and seeing how nice and even my stitches looked. When I got to the heel turn, I had him try the first one on, being a little nervous about the floats being loose enough. He struggled and pulled and yanked and finally got it over his heel. Obviously it was too tight. So I thought, well, I’ll just turn it into a wristband or something. He can wear it when he plays music. And I’ll start all over again, this time using the yarn recommended in the pattern instead of the basic striped stuff I’d used the first time.

Fast forward to Christmas ’07. I have the Lorna’s Laces Black Purl, I’m ready to go. These are gonna be AWESOME! Orestes helps me wind the yarn in the Denver airport (I forgot to wind it at home before we left) and I get half the pirate pattern done the first day. They look fantastic – I’m using both hands, one with each color, and it’s getting a little smoother, and the stitches look so nice and even. I check obsessively for signs of puckering or pulling – none! The next day I finish the pattern part and am ready to start the heel. I blithely offer the sock top to Orestes to try on. He’s delighted with the new improved colorway and can’t wait to try it on. Except — it won’t GO on. Waaay too tight. Too tight?! But my floats are PERFECT, there’s no puckering, the little skulls look amazing – how could this be??? I immediately accuse my love of having swollen feet from all the air travel. No, he assures me, they’re really fine. What the hell?! What the —-

pirate-socks-gauge.jpgAnd slowly, sickeningly, the truth begins to dawn on me. In slow motion, I reach for my measuring tape. I lay it on the new, perfect, pirate sock top. The gauge is 8.5 stitches to the inch. Frantic now, I grab the pattern and read, “Gauge: 7 st to the inch, on size 2 needles.” 7 to 1″ on a 2. Not 8.5 to 1″ on a 1. But I’m a loose knitter! I NEVER use the size needles in the pattern! I ALWAYS go down at least one size!!! Until now…

When we got home from the in-laws, I put the first sock top to the same test. 8 stitches to the inch. Still waaay off. Fortunately, Orestes is half-full kind of person, so he immediately stated that he’d rather have pirate fingerless mitts than socks anyway. He’d use them a lot more, he said. (Now you know why our marriage has lasted happily for nearly 13 years.)

And because I’m a half-full kind of person, too, and an incurable Pollyanna to boot — I took comfort in at least knowing that it wasn’t bad technique on the stranding, just plain stupidity. It’s also kind of a thrill to know that if I decide to knit these ever again – or to make the 2nd mitt – that it’ll go a helluva lot faster at 7 stitches to the inch, rather than 8.5. Ahhhh, nothin’ beats making some lemonade…


8 Responses to “Socks Need to Get Gauge, Too”

  1. Oh – just another reminder to me that a swatch is a good idea. I’m such a lazy knitter, (well actually prefer to think of it as over zealous knitter)that I usually jump in with both feet and start whatever the project is. Over the years I’ve had some pretty odd results, but I’ve only just begun half heartedly doing swatches.

    On the upside of your adventures – your knitting looks fantastic. So nice and even! đŸ™‚

  2. Marie said

    Pollyanna here says it’s probably a good thing you had him try them on when you did–imagine if you had finished the whole sock, or worse both of them, and then discovered they were way too small??

  3. Darx said

    Babe, this post just made my night. I love it. And those pirate gloves-to-be are GORJUS!

  4. Janis said

    Oooo, Marie – I never even thought of that – ARRGHHH! That would’ve been cuss-inducing!
    Thanks, PrairieGirl and Darx — hope I’m ready to tackle the Ivy League Vest sometime soon…(oh, these leaps of faith!)

  5. Trish said

    Who knew skulls could be so cute – your color work really is excellently perfect, and, gosh, now you’ll have to find some other yarn to get the right gauge on your size #2 addis….. right, more yarn is the answer? (isn’t that always the right answer?) Love & Hugs to you from your Chica

  6. soapy said

    socks are very cute….
    In the future it’s always a good thing to swatch for your socks with new designs especially cables, color and more complex type patterns… It does change the gauge a little and effects sizing….
    congrats on your upcoming 13 years!! WOOOHOOO! I’m right behind you! ;o))

  7. Rachele said

    Those are so darn cute. He’s right you know, fingerless mitts would be much more useful, and then the skulls wouldn’t be hidden anyway. Better than socks!

  8. Janis said

    And Trish – you’re the one who convinced me I could knit socks! I still love knitting them on 2 circ’s best – the way I learned from the wonderful Cat Bordhi book you sent me that first summer… And yes! More yarn is always the answer!
    (10 points to the adorable chica in the Northwest corner!) x o —

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