More on Gauges & Swatches

About 15 years ago, I amassed quite a stash of Brown Sheep’s “Prairie Silk” – a gorgeous, single-ply yarn (50g=88y) that’s a blend of wool (72%), mohair (18%) and silk (10%). Over the years, I knit up various projects from the wool. I am now down to my last batch – a scant 1,500 grams remaining.

I overdyed this batch of Prairie Silk many years ago, after having knit up several swatches and not finding anything I liked out of its original color. I then put it back into my chest of yarn stash and forgot about it … until a few days ago, rummaging through the chest looking for yarn for Thor’s birthday sweater.

swatch1I pulled out needles and quickly started a gauge swatch. My swatch – using a garter rib stitch – was large with three different gauge sections (delineated by a row of purl). I knit one section on US8, the next on US7 and the last on US6.

swatch2Because the yarn had been sitting in my stash chest for many years, it felt stiff under my fingers.

The lanolin in the wool hardened over the years. This affects the gauge as it doesn’t allow the wool to loft or the mohair to halo. (You can see the hardness in the swatch to the left.)

swatch3This means I wouldn’t have gotten a true gauge on the unwashed swatch.

Out came a mixing bowl, which I filled with lukewarm water and a dash of liquid dish soap (I was out of Eucalan) and let the swatch soak for a bit. After rinsing and wrapping in a towel, I let the swatch dry flat in the shade outside.

swatch5Now I have truer gauges!

Thor’s birthday is coming up soon, so I have to get working on the cardigan!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Crocheting, Dyeing, Fibers, Knitting. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to More on Gauges & Swatches

  1. salpal1 says:

    I can do it with a recipe… but patterns involve lots of math and getting it right. Or ripping. 😦


  2. I’m like that with cooking too. 🙂 I view patterns and recipes (interestingly enough, both “oppskrift” in Norwegian), as mere suggestions. 🙂


  3. salpal1 says:

    You are very brave to just go off and design your own things. I can adapt a pattern, but have not yet gotten brave enough to design my own sweater from start to finish.


  4. Yes, old wool yarn can get a bit hard, sticky and/or tacky. And you are right: check both the row and stitch gauge pre- and post- washing. They will change a bit. Re washing the whole batch of yarn before knitting it up – a very good question! I think you could do either as long as you calculate for the changes you noticed in your gauge swatch. That said, it is probably safer to wash up the yarn FIRST and then do a gauge swatch. At this point, I have decided not to use the second pattern and design my own, so I am back to page 1. 🙂


  5. textileshed says:

    Karen – oh, you are a gauge princess – I love love love it, so it’s not just me!!! I adore the color, it will be a piece of art – whatever you end up doing with it!


  6. salpal1 says:

    Really nice yarn, and good info on dealing with older wool – I have some, and didn’t realize that would help it. I assume you have to measure the difference in length on the swatch as well, so that when you are knitting with the wool you can translate the pattern length to the unwashed length so that when washed it is perfect? Or will you wash all the yarn before you start?


  7. I too liked the tighter one. No, it didn’t feel too stiff. Prairie Silk is quite nice. HOWEVER, now that I’ve had a few days to think about the garter rib stitch, I decided it is too boring in which to knit a whole sweater! It doesn’t have any eye appeal to me either. 😦


  8. empress27 says:

    I nominated you for the ‘Lovely Blog Award.’ I enjoy reading your blog and thought I should tell you! 🙂


  9. Which gauge swatch fabric did you like the best? I like the tighter one, but does it feel stiff?

    Prairie Silk was lovely stuff. I made a gorgeous hat for my mom with it. She put it in the washing machine, and it came out tiny! I’ve been washing all her handknits for her ever since.


  10. Thank you … And thanks for visiting my blog. We’re in the middle of a move and I am starting a new sweater … 🙂


  11. Thank you. The original color was a sort of silvery light green. I have to knit fast … 🙂


  12. It can – and it feels sort of tacky, a bit waxy even!


  13. slippedstitches says:

    I didn’t know that lanolin could harden over the years. Thanks for the information.


  14. babywren says:

    What a pretty color. Can’t wait to see the finished project.


  15. tgonzales says:

    Hi Karen! I love all your ideas and especially love that you share them with all of us. 🙂


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