Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mixed bag (lys, negativity, re-gauging)

The first point in my previous point (knitting with austerity) was to buy yarn from your local yarn shop (your lys). I said I would talk about that in this post, and I will.

I have many reasons for supporting my lys (as opposed to a chain store), but because I know I’m “preaching to the choir,” I won’t repeat them here. (Another reason is that I have already listed my reasons in a post of March 13. Duh!)

So instead, I’ll offer some things Cat Bordhi said when she spoke to our guild lately—again, in support of the lys. (And it’s worth noting that Cat’s talk was against both chains and online stores—sources that don’t have a store front--which are not the wonderful lys’s who have mail order businesses we cherish.)

Before giving this list, there’s one thing Cat said that was very heartfelt.

These are difficult days for any small retailer, and they can be immeasurably hurt by one negative comment, typically made on social media. (Remember the triumph of the negative, two posts ago? Human nature says that one negative comment overrides 100 positive ones.) So we must be very careful, very aware, very responsible, and very sure before we go public. So sayeth Cat, and I concur.

Okay, so back to my take on the rest of what Cat said.

Local yarn shops offer the service we need to buy yarn, and then they offer the service we need to use our yarn. If knitting is to survive and thrive, we need local yarn shops. Consider the following.
  • Many of us learned to knit in a local yarn shop.
  • Once we learned to knit, we were offered comfy spaces to sit and knit—amongst like-minded folks while we developed our skills.
  • Once we passed through basic skills, there were high-level classes to take: sometimes dedicated to a particular project, sometimes to a skill set. Whichever it was, we kept knitting and learning.
  • Local yarn shops bring in teachers who take our skills to yet higher levels. (Without yarn shops who bring me in to teach, I would not be able to do what I do.)
And let’s go back to the simple act of buying yarn. Those who work in a local yarn shop know their stock and can help us buy the right yarn for the project. And if it’s not the right yarn for the project there is usually someone there with the expertise to fix the problem . . . by finding an alternate pattern or by helping us re-gauge the pattern we love.

In case everyone in your local shop doesn’t know how to do the latter, here are the steps.
  1. Make a swatch in the yarn you have chosen—on the needles that make the right-feeling fabric, not necessarily the needles suggested by the pattern.
  2. Divide the gauge of this swatch by the pattern’s gauge—to find the ratio between the two. (If you get 18 stitches, and the pattern gets 20, your ratio is .9.) (My example has the ratio less than 1: it's equally possible to achieve a ratio greater than 1, and the method will still work.)
  3. Take the number of stitches that the pattern wants for your size (100?) and multiply it by your ratio. (100 X .9 = 90.)
  4. If there is a size with close to this number of stitches, knit it instead of your size. (You could find yourself knitting a S but achieving a M or L.)
  5. If there is no size with your number of stitches, then you can re-gauge the pattern by multiplying all numbers of stitches in the pattern by your ratio. You may need to round up or down—to a whole number, to an even or odd number—and you might have to adjust for stitch pattern repeats. But knitting is forgiving enough for all of this to serve us well.
  6. This works really easily when most lengths are measurements rather than numbers of rows. For this reason, it’s best to start with simple garments (without side shaping) that are not raglans.
This is a pretty rough guide, but once you work with it you’ll see how easy it is . . . and you’ll find yourself applying it to more complex patterns.

And there you have my mixed bag of thoughts for today!


  1. Thank you for these thoughts! I really enjoy reading your blog, and was happy to see the mention of regauging a pattern, since that's something I do pretty often. One thing that I do find intimidating, though, is regauging shaped sleeve caps, and I was wondering if you have any thoughts on that - this is timely, as I'm halfway through the sleeves of my current sweater, and am about to tackle this exact issue. I can wing it, and it will probably come out okay, but I was wondering if there's a better way to use the pattern that already exists.


    1. Re-gauging shaped pieces is more difficult. And I think many set-in sleeves are also unnecessarily difficult.

      Unfortunately, this is not a great forum for a set-in sleeve class, and I wish you could be there when I teach it this morning in Ft Collins!

      But here’s the trick I use to make it simpler than much of what you see out there: DO NOT use curves; use diagonals instead.

      I’m sorry I cannot be more helpful than that. I promise that it’s all covered in my next book, but that doesn’t help you at the moment. However, if you can get your hands on any of my books, you’ll see lots of set-in sleeves. If you just study how they are done, with diagonals rather than curves in mind, you should be able to solve the puzzle.

      Good luck!

  2. Great to know I can learn about it eventually - I'll look forward to the book, and continue to improvise until then! Mostly, I was just wondering if there was something really obvious that I was missing, but it sounds like there isn't. Thank you so much for the fast answer!