Getting Gauge

Gauge is crucial when knitting or crocheting a fitted garment like a hat, gloves, socks, or a sweater. Printed patterns always tell you what their gauge is – so many stitches per so many inches, so many rows per so many inches. They might say something like “24 sc and 22 rows = 2 inches.” The very first thing you should do when trying a new pattern is grab a hook or needles and make a gauge swatch. You’ll learn over time whether you work looser of tighter than the average crocheter or knitter, and based on that you’ll learn to start with the recommended hook/needle size or go up or down in size. And when you finish your swatch, if it’s not the same size as their gauge notation, you either rip it out or grab more yarn and do it again.

It’s sometimes a bit of a pain, especially if you’ve found some terrific-looking new pattern and you just want to jump right in. But it’s really quite necessary. Taking fifteen or thirty minutes, or even an hour, to get gauge saves you from spending a month working on an awesome garment in expensive yarn that doesn’t stand up well to being ripped out and re-done, only to find out that it fits no one. Including the person for whom it was made. A small amount of preparation always pays off in the end.

I am learning, as I get older, to apply the concept of getting gauge to life in general. If I have three hours before a meeting and I have five things that need to be done, I will spend the first few minutes reviewing what needs to be done and figuring out what will fit best into that three hours, rather than just jumping in. If we are spending a few days out of town and going somewhere I have never been before, I will take a look at what we can do there before we leave so we’re not walking into things blindly.

Getting gauge works in other places, too. I outline, or at least summarize, bigger writing projects before I start them, for instance. I know that I will spend months on a novel, with some long periods of time when the rest of my life or my job take precedence and writing just cannot happen. When I get back to it, I need a reminder of what the general plan was. Without it, I will go off in some crazy direction and spend twice or three times as much time rewriting, or just be saddled with something unreadable.

Jumping into things does not get anything done faster. It always makes them take longer and come out worse. Always. Preparation, in all things, matters. I like to imagine how different the world would be if everyone stepped back and took the time to get gauge. Think of all of the gifts that would not be returned because the giver took time to figure out what would suit the recipient. Or how about the abortions, divorces, and emergency room visits that would never happen? The would is full of big and small things that would simply go more smoothly with a little bit of planning and forethought.

Random things I’ve done since I last posted:

  • Knit several lace repeats on Multnomah
  • Convinced myself that when it is finished, I need to do a clapotis
  • Found a crocheted wrister pattern that I want to try to use up some stash sock yarn
  • Written another chapter in Megan, and copied everything into a printable document, preparatory to printing it and starting the first round of editing
  • Shared the news of our upcoming nuptials with the families
  • Got a pedicure (big deal – I hate paying people to do things for me that I can do myself)
  • Read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Alice Munroe’s Dear Life: Stories,  Wilkkie Collins’ The Woman in White, and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (that’s a lot of reading)
  • Met our new CIO (he seems pretty awesome, so far)
  • Walked/rode a large number of miles
  • Lost two more pounds

Some things that will happen before we talk again:

  • We’ll get married, and I will start the process of recreating myself with a new name
  • Another book, or two, or more will be read
  • I will see Maia and Amy, my two oldest friends (Maia and I became friends in seventh grade, or 1981. Amy and I met in Japan when we were in the Navy, or 1989). 
  • Knitting, and maybe crocheting, will be done
  • If a new project is started, I will take the time to get gauge.

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