Gauge Tensions

I've had occasiton to read/share Knitting Without Tears and Stephanie's (the Yarn Harlot) new book Knitting Rules, which as forced me to think about the whole gauge issue again.

You may have noticed that I'm not a big gauge monkey. I knit. It usually fits pretty well, and when it doesn't, there's always something worse wrong with it. Like the wings on the vest I made my father, or the star trek shoulders I did on my second sweater, or the tight forearms and crappy yarn on my first (and thus far only attempt at Ram's Horn), or the hem which hang uncomfortably on the cardigan I made last summer.

I've made enough sweaters with, enough different kinds of yarn that I have a good idea of how many stitches I need to make a sweater that fits pretty well. One of the upsides of color work sweaters, is that the patterns often dictate a particular number of stitches, that isn't that flexible, so even if I thought a sweater would fit a little bit better with 2-8 fewer stitches after doing a perfectly washed gauge swatch, I probably couldn't take those stitches out. The style of these sweaters is intended to be loose, so it works out.

So I know if I cast on about 300 stitches in worsted weight wool on a size five needle, the sweater fits. Generally at a 38 or 40 inch chest. The astute among you will recognize that this means I'm knitting sweaters at, get this, 7.5 or 8 stitches to the inch. I should be knitting at 5-5.5 (maybe 6) stitches an inch.

I'm typically a loose knitter. Outrageously so. This has, unsurprisingly, produced something of an identity crisis. (Also we should note, that my needle collection is built around being a specific kind of knitter, so might require more needle buying, which I dread).

It's also lead me to a quandary that I think you all might be able to help me with: What do I do? Options seem to be:

  • Continue at my insanely tight gauge, because I'll be able to follow a pattern and produce a sweater that will fit me.
  • Move up two needle sizes and hope that works well enough. But I might have to redesign patterns.
  • Buy ebony needles in size six, because I own exactly 2 individual size six needles (both double points, and no they don't match) because they are pretty, and I covet them, even though I don't particularly like the experience of knitting with wood, and the extra friction would probably tighten my gauge so as to have no effect on my quandary...
  • Something else?

Hope to hear from you soon!

Cheers, Sam

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