SPECIFIC gauge (traditional patterns), MULTI-gauge, ANY gauge, gauge-FREE. This is a sliding scale of how important a specific gauge is and how much information about the number of stitches per inch/cm is needed in a pattern to get a certain size of garment. It’s also the history of my designing journey and where it’s leading me, and you, as you continue to read along with me.
A SPECIFIC GAUGE pattern, a traditional pattern, tells you what gauge is expected with a certain weight of yarn (and often a specific yarn by name) and needle. When you match the needle size and gauge correctly you’ll be successful.
Unfortunately for some of us, me included, gauge is difficult to get and we don’t often hit the gauge with the needle size recommended. Changing needle sizes is necessary to get close to gauge and close is usually the best I can do.
I have written a lots and lots, over 100, specific gauge patterns for Cabin Fever. I have used the same yarn for many of these patterns. Not the same ball of course, ha, ha, the same style and weight of yarn. Familiar yarn makes knitting traditional patterns easier because I know what I need to do to get gauge.
They totally work. As a designer, they are satisfying to write because once the gauge is established the calculator comes out and it’s all about basic arithmetic. Imagine that a sweater is a schematic of little boxes, all the same size. It’s sort of like drawing a life-size garment on a giant piece of knitters graph paper, except that I don’t actually do that. But now that I think of it … no, no, not going there.
MULTI-GAUGE patterns give you a range of weights of yarn you can use. This is the basis of the Need A … series of books by Cabin Fever. Each book with a title that begins “Need A …” gives you several gauges of yarn to choose from to knit each garment. For example, each of the 14 hats in the Need A Hat book can be knit in any yarn from sock weight to chunky weight. We knit lots and lots and lots of hats to show you how they look in the different yarns.
Having multiple gauge patterns are great for stash diving. It gives you a range of yarns to use and a range of gauges to duplicate. Sometimes you can hit the gauge of one of the choices with a different weight of yarn than we used. For example, in the Need A Circular Yoke book you could get the gauge for DK weight of 22 sts = 4″ with fingering (sock) weight yarn with a 4.0mm/US6 needle and make a terrific sweater following the directions for the DK weight sweater. It would totally fit (because you got the gauge correctly) but it would have a different feel and drape.
ANY GAUGE patterns are all about the size of the garment in inches or cm, not specific stitch counts. Dive into your stash for some yarn, grab some appropriate needles and work a swatch. Measure and work out your own particular gauge, with your chosen yarn, and then do the math for each part of the garment.
It’s a step away from traditional patterns and puts much more control in your hands. You are designing your own garment along with general construction directions from the named designer. You will be able to see places where you can add your own design elements to make your very own unique garments.
I have written several Any Gauge Raglans in this way. You work out your own gauge and then do some simple math, cast on and work Top Down to make your own sweater. I have knit the 3 sizes of Any Gauge Raglan Pullovers in all different gauges of yarn. It works.
Next GAUGE-FREE where the gauge doesn’t matter at all!! Phew. No swatches, no changing needles, no measuring tiny parts of stitches. This is Gauge Freedom!!
How can this work? Knit, following the directions, until the piece measures the size required, measuring with a ruler. I know, very old-school. No one cares what the gauge is at all. Write down the number of stitches on your needle and continue on. For example, in the Any Gauge Mitten pattern you cast on and work until the mitten fits your hand. Note down the number of stitches on your needle. The pattern uses that number of stitches as a basis for the thumb size. It doesn’t matter what yarn you used or what size you’re knitting. Once the mitten body is the correct size you’re golden.
Which of these types of patterns have you knit? Would you like to try some of the others? What is drawing you to them?
I can’t wait to hear from you,
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