Knitting Techniques

World Class Yarn Shop

Tips, tips and more tips!

Choosing projects
I have been noticing that more and more of the newer knitters are having problems picking yarn for projects because they don’t understand what the information on the ball labels mean and they don’t understand what patterns are asking for. It is very difficult to pick the correct yarn if you don’t understand some basics.

The weight of the ball of yarn is given in grams or ounces or both. This is merely how much that ball of yarn weighs. It doesn’t make any difference really to anything else. In the old days, we talked about ounces when we bought yarn because there wasn’t much variation in yardage from one company’s yarn to anothers and almost all yarn was wool. The old days are gone! There are terrific choices in fiber contents and the way yarns are spun. TODAY, you need to know the number of yards that your project will need.

Yardage is given on the ball band in meters or yards or both. If you are unsure of the yards because the band only has meters, move the numbers over to the right one decimal point and add them together and you will have the yards in the ball.

E.g.. The band says 115 meters. Add 11.5 to the 115 and you will have 126.5 yards.

115      meters

+11.5  move over one decimal point


126.5  Yards

If your pattern doesn’t give you the yardage that you need but gives the suggested yarn, ask me or any good yarn shop owner. We have interchange books that go back years and we can find the yardage of that original yarn.

On the ball you will find the suggested gauge and needle size. You will usually find the gauge written as ## per 10 mm. It is easy to remember that 10 mm is 4 inches. So divide the number of stitches by 4 and you will get your gauge for 1 inch.

Pattern reading is another ball game. Different designers and publishers give information in different ways. A lot of it depends if the pattern is being published for a specific yarn or not. BUT all good patterns should have the amount of yarn needed, the gauge and suggested needle size. NOTE : you do know that it is suggested needle size to start sampling at, don’t you? It is a good idea to fool around with different yarns and needles and get a feel for what YOUR needle size is. We all have our own gauge. Then you will have a good idea what your needle size will be. Remember 1 needle size usually means 1/2 stitch difference AND you should swatch to make sure of your gauge.

It is difficult to tell you what you need to know in print. We are all different and see things differently. In future newsletters, I will try to give more information on pattern reading and we will be offering some basics classes to help work you through these concepts. Of course, you can just go along and knit without understanding these basic concepts, but if you don’t want to waste yarn and time and you want garments that fit, these concepts are necessary to understand.

Gauge…You Get What You Deserve When You Don’t Swatch!

I know that I have talked about gauge before in the newsletter but I continue to get questions about it and find that it gives new-knitters and some not-so-new knitters a hard time. So here is more about gauge.

If you do not have the correct gauge, you will not have the correct size and correct amount of yarn. If you do not have correct gauge, you will not have the correct fabric for your pattern design.

You do not knit the pattern by needle size. The suggested needle size for the gauge is just that, suggested. You need to pick yarn that will give you the correct gauge and then use the needle that makes that gauge for you. For example, I can almost always count on using the suggested needle size and get the gauge, Pearl almost always has to go down 2 to 3 needle sizes to get that same gauge. We both always make a gauge swatch to make sure that we have the correct gauge before we start knitting and neither of us is right or wrong, there is no right or wrong, we are just different! Most gauges are given in so many stitches per 10cm, which is 4”. So you divide the gauge by 4 and have the stitches per inch, sometimes it is not 10cm so check.

½ stitch difference can make a great difference in size and amount of yarn used. Say you have a sweater that has 200 stitches for the body. At 5 stitches per inch that is 40”. At 5.5 stitches per inch that is 36.36”. And at 4.5 stitches per inch, that is 44.44”. There is over 4” difference between each gauge, a significant difference.

The other aspect of gauge is in the ‘hand’ of the fabric that we knit. I believe that it helps us to recognize that when we are knitting, we are creating fabric. The suggested gauge indicates the type of fabric that the yarn knits to. This can change if you want fabric with different qualities from the suggested norm for that yarn; then you must sample until you find the fabric that you want. Most people want to knit a pattern as pictured. You can not just change needle size and knit a yarn of a different gauge to fit the pattern and have a fabric that can be used. If you use too big a needle the fabric will be too loose to hold shape or have big holes between stitches. If you use a needle too small, the finished garment may be able to stand by itself in a corner or be used as a suit of armor. Neither very useful.

There are times when you do want the fabric to be different; then you need to swatch, and changing the needle size will change the fabric. But if you want to have the finished product to fit and have the qualities of the yarn in your pattern, you must pay attention to gauge and needle size.

And More On Gauge and Fabric…..

Gauge is not the only consideration when substituting yarns. It takes a lot more than just using another yarn of the same gauge to make a successful substitution. You need to look at the original yarn’s twist, fiber content, drape and then use your gut feeling! Many times it is possible to simply exchange a worsted-weight wool for another worsted weight-wool in a simple styled sweater. But if you are trying to knit a designer-styled pattern that uses a rayon/silk blend, you may not get the same look by simply using a wool of the same weight. Also if you are trying to substitute a mohair for a bulky –single ply wool, in a yoked sweater, even if they both knit at 3.5 stitches per inch, you may not get the look that you want. The mohair is knit at 3.5 because of its loft and it will give an airy look, it is not knit tight. The yoke sweater needs a firm fabric to give structure to the weight of the yarn below the yoke or it will pull out of shape. These are the sorts of things that you need to consider. What do you do then to make educated decisions when substituting? Ask people with more experience, their past mistakes may save you lots of time. Sample! Sample and then sample some more. Get a feel for the fabric that you are creating. You can take risks, but know ahead that you may be pulling out to start over. But do keep trying!

Remember, ‘You Get What You Deserve When You Don’t Swatch!