I have been working on a new pattern for the last couple of days and have been thinking about my past experiences working with test knitters and emails I have received from people who have knitted my patterns. While I have received quite a few wonderful comments and emails, I have also had a few comments (some helpful and some just rude) about sizing and gauge in my patterns. I try my best to produce perfect patterns, but a perfect finished product depends a lot on the knitter. I think the two most important things that will produce the perfect finished product and picking the correct size and getting the correct gauge. But even though they are most important, I see lots of knitters just grab their needles and start knitting without taking the time to check their choices.
Gauge. Yes, I know, gauge swatches are not fun. You are so itching to start that beautiful sweater (or hat or socks, etc) that you just want to cast on all the stitches and get on with it. But in the end, what do you do when your sweater comes out three sizes too big? Or too short? If you think about it, the couple hours of work it takes to knit up a gauge swatch is worth it to save weeks (or even months) of knitting when the end product is not wearable. Here is my own example. When my niece was a little baby, I decided to knit her a sweater and I chose the beautiful Helena from Knitty Summer 2008. Now, I did knit a gauge swatch but it was very tiny and I (stupidly) only checked the stitch gauge and not the row gauge. After going down a couple needle sizes my stitch gauge was just fine and dandy. I happily knit the whole sweater and didn't realize until the end that it was several inches too short. I didn't have my niece readily available so I thought maybe that is just how short and compact babies are. Well when she put it on, it was a lovely midriff baring 3/4 sleeve cardigan. Sigh. If only I had take the time to really check my gauge properly I could have adjusted the length and ended up with a much better sweater. Another problem that I have with gauge is that I knit very loosely. I really can't help it, I have tried to knit tighter, and although I already have a death grip on my needles it just isn't going to happen. When I knit someone else's pattern, I typical have to go down two needle sizes to get their gauge. I have noticed that some of my testers and knitters who knit my patterns just see what needle size I use and go for it, and then send me emails and complain that it is not even humanly possible to get that gauge with that needle size. Well, it is possible for me. I have tried to add extra notes to my patterns (besides the obvious "adjust needle size to get gauge") to *please, please!! check your gauge because I knit loosely*. I wish there was another way around it. I have thought to even just write the pattern one needle size bigger, but I think it is more important to encourage knitters to take charge of their knitting and make any adjustments necessary to make their project a success.
So I hope this post has encouraged at least one knitter to be more aware when starting a new pattern. We spend so much time (and money!) on our crafts, it is really worth the effort when you end up with a fantastic fit.