Your Gauge Can Change


I’ve been knitting for almost 15 years. And for the last 4 years or so I’ve been working with someone I met in my very first knitting class, Melissa Leapman, to knit things for the books she’s written, for magazines she’s been published in and I also knit up one thing this summer for one of her classes at Stitches Midwest. That was a little tough working on a double knitted THICK scarf in the middle of the summer with tweed yarn. Lovely, but tough. Whew…

I hope it doesn’t sound like I am bragging by referring to Melissa in my blog post, that’s really not my intent though the reason I bring her up will become important shortly. And before I talk about the gauge issue I want to state that I’m so very flattered that she finds my knitting good enough to be used in her work and publications. She’s fussy, let me tell you, so if she appreciates my work then I must be doing okay. <insert me blushing>

So, back to the title of this post. Your Gauge Can Change.

Truth there.

The first half of the year my right bicep was bothering me. Sometimes when knitting, sometimes when reaching, sometimes when swiping (like wiping off a table) or lifting. It was a very sharp pain, like a long blade pressing in along the bicep vertically. In addition, my right shoulder was stiffening up. Then my back near the shoulder blades was tensing up. Well, I went to the chiropractor and began treatment in September.

Around that same time Melissa needed two pieces knit up. We’ll call them A and B.

I knit up piece A and it was pretty darn close to the specs she provided in the schematic. And I had used my usual needle size with this particular project (we’d been working on this for some time, same kind of yarn, similar pieces). Even so, I had knit up a gauge swatch before I started and it was fine.

Then I started on piece B with the same needles and yarn. It was at least 3 weeks into my chiropractic treatment by then.

I finished and blocked it and remember thinking maybe her math was wrong while knowing that was an impossibility – I KNOW her, it wouldn’t be wrong. Then why did it seem larger? Well, there’s a certain technique we used so maybe my dimensions are fine because I don’t include that part when I measure. After all,  I had checked my stitches per inch throughout and was satisfied I was still on gauge. I sent A & B to her thinking they’re both fine. But in the back of my head for the first time I was doubting my skills.

While pieces A & B were en route to her I decided to knit piece B a second time and we’ll call that C. I still had enough of the yarn so I started knitting C with a needle one size smaller. Dang if that didn’t still come out a little bigger, too! Yet I was still checking stitches per inch every so often while I knit. Maybe that one will suffice and she’ll like that one. Nope, still too much off.

What’s going on?

At this point I was about 4 1/2 weeks into treatment. A little light had gone off in my head when I sent C to her and I told her in the note I included that maybe having less pain and discomfort has changed my gauge. At the same time though, I thought nah, that’s kind of silly.

Turns out not so silly. I’ve since done some Googling and reading up on the fact that when pain is reduced, you relax (of course) so therefore, in my logic minded brain I thought, why wouldn’t gauge change?

You do see where this is going, right? Yes, I’m going to knit B a third time which I’ll call D once I get the yarn. But I’m going to knit up two swatches to check gauge. One at the time of day I try to sneak in some knitting – on the bus, the train, and over lunch. And one in the evening after work when I’m sitting down for the night. And I am going to be darn sure that I am SPOT on with gauge – and know when it’s better for me to knit to get more precise gauge – before I begin working up D.  Because I really don’t want to knit it E!

I’m now into week 6 1/2 for my treatment and I’m about to phase from two appointments a week to one. And I have special exercises I do that are helping immensely. My pain level when I started treatment was about a 7.5 out of 10, 10 being the worst (sometimes I was an 8, that included spasms in my arm). Now? Maybe 2 if I’ve pushed it too hard for a day. That’s a huge accomplishment.

So my advice is pay attention not only to your gauge but to how you feel when you’re knitting. Are you stressing because you’ve had a rough day? Knit something where gauge doesn’t matter. Are you totally in the mood for knitting and it will be soothing to you? Probably a great time to knit something where gauge is important and you’re able to pay attention to detail.

Knitting up swatches, not being in pain or stressed out, knitting at the right time of day, all of these things I’m finding will make a huge positive impact on my knitting. Maybe it will on yours, too?

P.S. I would like to add that I’ve learned so much from Melissa; she’s challenged me over the years with different projects and complicated stitches and for that I’m incredibly grateful to her. I wouldn’t be knitting the things I am these days and challenging myself if it weren’t for her having faith in me that I can produce what she needs. And I wouldn’t have found such a delightful friend.

Fun, Photography

Waterlogue Phone App

SWAP SPOILER ALERT – If you’re in a swap with me now you may not want to see this post.

I love photography. I love getting just the right shot for something. I don’t care if it takes 25 photos to get THAT ONE PHOTO. I’ll do it. And thanks to digital photography I’m not wasting any money developing 24 photos I don’t want!

I’ve been experimenting with a phone app called Waterlogue. Here are a few of the results. Enjoy!

There are 5 photos in total for this post.

  • The first two are of a crocheted angel on our fireplace mantel; the photo as is and the photo modified.
  • The second set of two are of sari silk fiber; the photo as is and the photo modified.
  • The last photo, modified, is a stack of books by one of my favorite knitting authors, Melissa Leapman.






Thank you for stopping by!


Knitting Delight

Last weekend I spent all of Saturday and 3 hours on Sunday in knitting workshops. Saturday it was at an event called Yarnover, held in Minnesota and sponsored by the Minnesota Knitter’s Guild. I hadn’t been for a few years so it was a real treat to attend. In addition to workshops, there is always a market to fondle, I mean touch, er, buy yarny goodness, it’s also an opportunity to check out interesting new fibers and browse patterns.

One of my workshops on Saturday was with a women named Julie Weisenberger who taught us  European Finishing Tips & Techniques. I’ve always hated the finishing part of knitting – seams SCARE me. Seriously, they do! But Julie offered some wonderful ideas for making it less stressful next time I need to do any seaming. It was completely and totally worth the three hours with her, not to mention a lot of fun. \

I had a second workshop that same day but with Melissa Leapman called Celtic Cables. I was sure I’d taken it before but she changes things up now and again, and the fact she’s become a friend and that I love how she has her classes constructed, I signed up for it anyway. Plus, she lives in New York so it’s a rare chance to catch up, live and in person.

A little progress from the workshop:

photo 5

I love Melissa’s method of teaching. You’re assigned a lot of homework (many swatches!!) so that in class we can cover a lot of stitches and techniques without having to wait for everyone to get to the proper starting point. More importantly, there are NO dumb questions in her class. And feel free to say what you like, it always makes for lively conversation. Like calling the effect  cables have in a knitted garment ‘suckage’. Yes, you had to be there. But trust me, it was quite funny.

The two of us at Yarnover:

photo 4

I wound up purchasing enough yarn and patterns for four projects (note I said yarn AND patterns, because I made a pact with myself that I couldn’t buy yarn without it having a specific project already assigned to it). A baby sweater for a co-worker, a scarf made out of suri alpaca (from Little Gidding Farm – you must check them out!!), a kerchief made from silk and alpaca, and a top made from cotton gima.

Then on Sunday I took another workshop with Melissa at a local yarn store called StevenBe.  As with her Saturday workshop, it was a lively three hours, set in a whimsically designed store, and Melissa and I had a few more minutes to catch up before she had to head back to New York.

That workshop was about knitting the items that will flatter your particular shape. Because as she pointed out, just because you can knit it – doesn’t mean you should wear it. So much of it was logical and yet some things were counter-intuitive. So it was a very informative and worthwhile workshop.

While at StevenBe’s I purchased two skeins of yarn from Handmaiden (and a pattern!) to make a triangle shawl. One skein was mohair and one was silk (called Rumple), they were both intended to be used within the shawl, but on their own not combined. Well, I attempted to make the shawl as written and it’s quite possible that I simply misinterpreted things but I got frustrated and frogged what I’d done and decided to find something else to knit. So out to Ravelry (my user name is knitgirl63, feel free to friend me – fellow knitters) I went. I found one pattern that I thought was a total hit to knit with this particular silk yarn (I decided to  not use the mohair for the shawl at all, I’m just sticking with the silk, I’ll combine the mohair with something else down the road).

Here is a photo of the silk yarn (it’s much brighter than it actually is, the colors are actually more muted. But I had to have some fun with a photo app today!):

photo 2

I knit up about 5 inches of it and you know what? I didn’t like how it looked and I figured out why. The yarn is not smooth, it’s almost like a tiny boucle yarn. I nearly always knit with wool or wool blends. This is slippery and so I thought I’ll just buy a different knitting needle that will help with ‘drag’. Nope, that still didn’t help me. It was not coming out the way I wanted it to. I will keep this pattern in my queue in Ravelry because I’d love to knit it up in a pretty wool but not with this silk. So I frogged it and decided to check out the patterns at Knitty dot com.

I found a shawl there called Bob and Weave. I don’t plan to use the ribbon, I don’t plan to make it as large, and I’m only making one rectangle. I just loved the stitch!! It’s going to provide an airy feel to the shawl and it’s moving along so nicely. I’ve got almost 8″ knit in about 1/3 the time I’d gotten 5″ knit with the triangle shawl.

Before I continue, here is a shot of the two shawls, each partially knit up. The top one was the triangle, about 8 to 9 hours worth of knitting and  at its deepest point it was about 5″. The bottom photo is the silk, about 2″ knit up in the stitch from the Bob and Weave pattern.

photo 3

The most important thing about this? Seriously? I’m enjoying the process and the journey. If my knitting doesn’t make me happy then I have to stop and figure out something else. Otherwise, why bother making something that requires so much time and effort only to not like it in the end?

And here is the actual progress as of this evening, it’s almost 8″ deep and probably close to 20″ wide.

photo 1

Ah yes, yarny delight, indeed!

Fun, Knitting

Casting on Jacqueline

Well, I’m really knitting a swatch for a sweater jacket today, but swatching means I’m just thatmuchcloser to actually starting to knit it. But I want to be sure my gauge is right or it won’t fit. It’s really quite beautiful so go check it out for yourself here at Ravelry, it’s called Jacqueline by Melissa Leapman.

In the meantime, here’s the yarn I’ll be using. I just spent a half hour outside in our glorious weather shooting photos of it. Delicious colors, don’t you think? It’s from Lorna’s Laces, the Shepherd Worsted in the colorway called Roadside Gerry. It’s a merino wool that’s amazingly soft, so I’m really excited to start playing with it. Off I go!


Hands Back At Play

Back almost exactly a month ago I had put out a post noting a need to rest my hands for a bit from the knitting I’d done over the summer. Some might not understand that knitting can be very restorative but it can also be the opposite. For instance, when there’s pressure to get something done by a certain time and it has to be perfect, that gives the craft a whole new perspective. At least it did for me.

Mind you I didn’t feel as much pressure as I imagine the author I was working for did (it’s her bread and butter to do this, it’s a hobby for me) but I felt enough to affect me. But to be quite honest it was really self-inflicted. Yes, I needed to get one thing done for her so I could move on to the next and then request another pattern, and so on. But I never really figured out how to plan my time and the projects properly and my psyche paid for it. I’ll be much better the next time around, believe me. So once I turned in the last project to ML, I was done knitting for an unknown length of time.

A few weeks after that post I felt a slight itch to knit again. I didn’t know what I wanted to work on; I had (and still have) two baby projects in the works for friends, but that knitting wasn’t calling to me. So I went out to one of my favorite sites, Ravelry, and started looking around. I found a group called Calling All Knitters (you might not be able to see Ravelry links unless you log in to Ravelry) that was about to set up a knitting challenge for anyone who signed up by a certain date. The group hosts would find something in Ravelry for you to knit and you’d have one month to finish it from the time they assigned it to you. You could note what you like or dislike when signing up in order to help them decide but otherwise, it was up to them.

I was assigned a pattern called Ripple Cowl by Robin Sample and I loved it. I made a couple of mistakes along the way but I didn’t mind and I didn’t remove them. Why? Well, I remember a knitting instructor, I don’t recall who, telling me once that there is no such thing as perfect knitting. In fact, there was a time and some knitters still do this, when knitters purposely put a mistake in their work as it makes their final garment unique. Unique as we humans are that only seems appropriate to me.

I finished the cowl on Friday night (October 5) and blocked it over the weekend. I’ve attached a photo of it along with one of me being silly while wearing it. Looks a bit like an Elizabethan collar, doesn’t it? But I really like it! I enjoyed the stitch as it’s easy but looks complicated and it feels thick, which will help with the fall winds that are now upon us. I used Cascade 220 yarn in the colorway Pesto. It’s just lovely.

Oh, I also discovered another item that I finished twoyearsago. Yes, I typed that all as one word because I’m embarrassed as I’d never blocked it and it’d been sitting in a drawer for two years! So this weekend I blocked that as well. That one is called K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Scowl – a scarf/cowl combination. It’s a tube for the neck area that has a panel in front that continues down the front of the chest. I made it in Mountain Colors River Twist in Pine Creek. That was a wonderful yarn to work with as well, it’s incredibly soft. I have to remember to work with that again in the future.

As for whether or not I’m back into knitting completely, I’d have to say absolutely!

So now for your viewing pleasure I offer a picture of each of the finished items. I played with the photos in Instagram so the colors aren’t true (except for the one of me) but I thought they should have an interesting finale since one item took so long to complete and the other was done so quickly!

Moi wearing the Ripple Cowl

Ripple Cowl

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Scowl

Knitting, Photography, Rest

Hands At Rest

Two nights ago was the last time I did any knitting. I’m okay with that as I’d been helping a friend, Melissa, knit swatches for her book since the end of April, and I’d knitted almost every night since then (I’m a good knitter, albeit a slow one). I’ll do a post about that at another time.

Tonight I’m realizing that it’s just kind of weird not having any knitting on the agenda.

Don’t misunderstand me – I have projects ready to work on and ones I’d like to get started. There’s the baby gift I need to finish and the other half of it to start. Then I have a jacket pattern that I purchased the yarn for and would love to get it on the needles because it’s going to be so wonderfully amazing (it happens to be one of Melissa’s patterns).

I’m also in search of a sock pattern because it gives me goosebumps and makes me almost giddy knitting socks, but it has to be just the right one. <Feel free to offer ideas!> I even plan to make myself a pair of felted mittens for the winter ahead but I need to buy some mohair to knit with the wool as it adds dimension and depth. Oh, I want to also make a watch cap for Sugar utilizing one of the stitches I learned during the knitting project. And finally, I want to design a shawl for a future,  life altering event with Sugar. <Stitch ideas are welcome – must be easy, airy, and use at least a sock weight yarn, no lace weight.>

But I find I’m unable to and part of me is okay with that, though the other part – there are two in this particular situation – is questioning why I don’t have needles and yarn in my hands.  And the answer I’m realizing is simple. They need a break, a rest. And they’ll tell me when they’re ready.

Until then, I’ll fiddle with my photography, enjoy doing things with Sugar (who was supremely amazing and supportive during the project) and give Stella more play time. And blog. Because I really, sincerely miss blogging. Or maybe it’s that I miss writing. Whatever the case, I’d like to get back on board with blogging here at Cakers & Co and at In The Kitchen Photography. Oh, and Stella (yes, the cat that eats too much) is already conjuring up some silly story for her blog, Addicted to Humans, which incidentally also needs a bit of revamping.

I end this post with a photo I took during the golden hour before sunset a few nights ago. I hope you see the beauty, feel the warmth and relish the calmness as I do.


Blocking Is Fun

In my previous post about blocking the lace scarf I quietly lamented how long it took me to actually block it. I neglected to mention that I used at least 200 pins to do so. Yeah, that’s a LOT of pins.

I also spent some time last week blocking the first few swatches I knit up for a friend who needs them for a book she’s writing. Those were easy and fun and didn’t take 200 pins for each one. Speaking of swatches, I must be off, I have more knitting to do for her! 🙂