Friday, August 10, 2012

Beware of Sound Bites!

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."  Thomas A. Edison

Modern media brings information to us in the form of fast and easily digestible sound bites. I've included a quote above that is one of my favourites. As a sound bite it works very well. It's inspiring and a simple reminder of what is really necessary for success. Sound bites have become a standard in a world dominated by slick media delivery. It's a format we like, simple, concise and easy to remember. However, sound bites have a nasty habit of biting back. They have the propensity to over simplify complex issues, methods and processes into a surefire path to unsuccessful knitting projects.

In many cases the individual offering the soundbite up is giving accurate information to a specific situation that will cause frustration on later projects.

My most despised knitting sound bite is " row gauge doesn't matter".

When I teach my class Band Practice I have to control myself from going into a huge rant on this one. We create a problem because this little nugget is usually offered up to the novice knitter as they knit their first project, usually a scarf, and usually row gauge doesn't matter very much in this case. As they move into more complex projects that either don't depend on fitting a specific body or have intersecting areas of knitting where rows are matched against stitches they hear this again. By the time they start to work on projects that do require a specific row gauge, the sound bite has been internalized and the knitter is convinced that the naysayers are wrong when we emphasize the importance of row gauge. Usually at this time the knitter does not yet have the skill set to make the necessary changes that would accommodate a different row gauge.

Incorrect row gauge creates problems with shaped areas like raglans, sleeve caps and sleeve tapering, A too loose gauge makes the knitting stretch, droop and pill. I've noticed while doing swatches that loose gauges are more likely to shrink after washing. Too tight, the fabric created is stiff and unflattering. Bands on cardigans droop or gather up the edges of the garment. It makes the yarn amount recommendations wildly inaccurate in both directions, either not enough or too much yarn.

I see many row gauge problems when knitters substitute yarns without considering fiber or weight. If you can get the right number of stitches per inch but have too many rows per inch, your yarn is too thin. If you can get the right number of stitches per inch but have too few rows per inch, your yarn is too thick as compared to the yarn in a specific pattern. If this is the case, the problems I've mentioned above are likely to arise. 

The fixes for row gauge include: 

  • changing needle size, 
  • changing needle type, which could be a different material or style, such as straights vs. circulars
  • changing the way you tension your yarn,
  • changing the yarn,
  • recalculating shaped areas of the knitting
  • knitting extra swatches to recalculate stitch numbers for bands.

What knitting sound bite do you hate?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Robin! This is one of my pet peeves too, and it's why I like to give lengths in # of rows, not just inches, in pattern instructions. Luckily row gauge usually changes less after blocking than stitch gauge does, but if it does change, then the knitter who is counting on measuring work in progress to get a well-fitting garment may be in for an unpleasant surprise.