Blocking Tips – How to Block a Gauge Swatch
I was recently swatching for a new design and I was truly practicing what I teach. I thought I’d take a second to talk about the most commonly asked questions I get, how (and why) to block a gauge swatch.
Let’s talk about those three pesky gauges one needs:
The yarn I was working with was a cotton hemp nubby blend. I knew a couple of things that demanded I be very careful with gauge:
1) It was going to be a tank top with i-cord straps, so I knew that the weight of the whole garment would be hanging off some very small anchor points.
2) This yarn was going to change a LOT with blocking.
So the first thing I did was make a mini swatch to see how the look of the fabric was going to change. You see, when I swatch I focus on getting the fabric I want. Since I knew the look of this fabric would change significantly, I made a little 3″ x 3″ swatch, and then blocked it. This way I could see if the needle size I was using was going to give me the look I liked.
Here you can see the difference between the unblocked (larger) swatch, with it’s skimpy looking, uneven stitches, versus the fluffy, nice, fat and juicy blocked stitches. The mini swatch told me that the US 6 was a go, so I made my larger swatch.
I measure my unblocked gauge, so I know not to freak out while I’m knitting. I always tell my students that you knit to your unblocked gauge, but you design to your blocked gauge. If I know what my unblocked gauge is, I will be able to make sure I’m staying on track as I knit, and I also won’t worry if my piece is seeming the wrong size as I work.
You’ll notice how wildly uneven the row gauge is for the unblocked swatch. This is caused by the fact that I’m doubling a very nubby, thick thin, no elasticity fiber.
Unblocked gauge = 21 st + 26.5 r / 4″
I soaked the swatch and gave a stretch to redistribute slack . . . a horizontal, vertical and diagonal pull
Lay swatch out to dry. Notice how the row gauge is now even on both sides. The larger, greedy stitches have shared with the stingier smaller ones. The rows loosened up with moisture to allow the tight rows to relax. It’s like taking your swatch to the spa. Once it’s totally dry, measure it again.
Blocked gauge = 21.5 st + 27 r / 4″
Finally, I need to see if this fiber is a “grower”, so last step – hung gauge. After the swatch is fully dry, I need to simulate gravity. I clip the swatch onto a pants hanger and hang some heavy earrings on it to see if it stretches. Let it hang overnight, remove the weights and let the swatch rest.
Final step is to measure your hung gauge. If the fiber you’re working with has elasticity AND memory, the swatch might stretch, but it might return to it’s pre-hung gauge after a nice rest. If your fiber has elasticity and NO memory, the swatch might stretch and not return.
Since the taller a stitch gets the narrower it gets, you will have to remeasure both stitch and row gauge.
Hung gauge = 22 st + 26.75 r / 4″
If you think the numbers aren’t “that different”, and that was a whole lot of work for nothing, consider this . . . the difference between the unblocked gauge and the final hung gauge is a 32″ chest vs 34″ chest. It also means the difference between your tank top growing until it’s obscene v.s. fitting you perfectly.
As a designer this means since I know the fiber will stretch, the pattern will be written primarily with row instructions and not “work until piece measures”.
It didn’t take that long, and you’ll get a garment that fits you perfectly!
To learn more about fiber qualities – “Secrets of Yarn Substitution”
To learn more about blocking – “Fantastic Finish: Blocking Techniques in Knitting”
To take a class about Gauge or Blocking (and tons of other stuff) with Patty – click here
. . . or “10 easy steps to becoming a Knitwear Designer”
I often get asked by my students to talk about my “design process”. So, since it’s just us, I’ll let you in on Patty’s 10 easy steps to knitwear design.
The most important thing to do when you get an e-mail for a “Call For Design” from a book or magazine, is to note the submission deadline, then save the e-mail as new, and don’t think about it again until the day before the submission is due. I will not count that as a step, because the real work has yet to begin
The day before the proposal is due, review the types of designs the publication is looking for and check your sketch book and existing designs to see if anything you have fits the bill. You see, I have a tendency to design for what the buyer is buying. It’s all well and good if you are a baker that’s committed to Key Lime pie, but if all the bakeries are buying apple . . . well, you’re gonna get stuck with a lot of pies.
Go to your bookshelf and gather all your stitchionaries for inspiration, which causes you . . .
to notice what a mess your knitting books are in, and decide it would be a good time to reorganize your bookshelf. Pull all the books off the shelf while you try to decide if you are going to organize them by author, or type or . . . .
wait, you now notice how dusty the bookshelves are, grab a swiffer and dust all the shelves in your office until . . .
the freshly dusted shelves show how dusty the floors are. Sweep all floors in apartment, then wonder. . .
What was I doing? Oh yeah, organizing my knitting books. Put them all back on the shelf, step back and admire your work which causes you to notice . . .
how many knitting magazines have piled up that haven’t been added to your Ravelry bookshelf. Gather them all up and sit down to the black hole of knitter’s time suck affectionately known as Ravelry, and start adding them all to your library. As long as you’re there . . .
Look at what you’re friends are up to, which leads you to their blogs, and well, while you’re there, you can click through to Twitter and Facebook, and then two hours later notice . . .
You are quite hungry as it’s now nearly dinner time. See what leftovers are in the fridge, heat up a wonderful meal while you reflect on all the great work you’ve done today, but wonder . . .
if you forgot something. Check your e-mail, see the call for design spend the next three hours, madly swatching, sketching, drawing schematics and hit send on the e-mail at 11:59 pm!
Ta Da – 8 hours before the deadline. Now go to bed and start fresh in the morning. Oh, look I have a design due tomorrow . . . ah well, as Scarlet O’Hara would say “tomorrow is another day”.
Dear Abby for Knitters!
I’m so excited to announce my new column for KNITstyle magazine. The magazine has been totally reinvented by the new editor Cari Clement, and I’m so proud to be a part of it . . . but I need your help. I need letters from you amazing knitters out there.
Coming soon in KNITstyle magazine! A new knitter’s advice column called “Patty’s Purls of Wisdom.” We are looking for great, funny, interesting e-mails to feature from great knitters. We are here to talk about ANYTHING: techniques, tips, how-tos, knitting etiquette, lifestyle questions, you name it. Doesn’t matter how silly you think it is (in fact, we encourage the silly, as it helps us keep our life in perspective).
– What’s the best short row method for a scarf?
– What are the tricks to keeping your sanity when knitting lace?
– How do you avoid killing your spouse when he moves your shawl off the couch making your delicate stitches slip off the needle and your stitch markers tumble to the floor?
Please write them in letter form, just like the old letter’s to Dear Abby. We’d love to feature the full letter in the column, not just the questions, so have fun with it! Let’s all learn from each other and let’s start talking knitting! So e-mail your questions to:
We look forward to reading your letters, and stay tuned for the first column of “Patty’s Purls of Wisdom.”
Contacts for Knit Style mag:
5 Best and Worst Things About Working From Home
Image from Empower Network
About a half a year ago, I made the amazing leap to become a full time knitting teacher and knitwear designer. It’s been an crazy ride with some pretty bendy learning curves. My plan for starting slow did not work (not complaining), so I had to scramble to get my systems in place. In the last six months I’ve:
- Finished 10 sweaters, 2 shawls, 2 cowls, 1 hat and 1 wrister design for magazine & book publication
- Taught at 5 knitting shows
- Taught at 3 knitting guilds
- Taught at 2 knitting shops
- Attended 2 trade shows
- Taught 1 online webinar
and a partridge in a pear tree . . .
Here’s some things I’ve learned about working from home (drum roll please)
5 Best Things About Working From Home
5 Worst Things About Working From Home
|5. Spend less money on metro card.
I know, does not seem like a big savings, but it really is!
4. No annoying corporate meeting where nothing gets done.
3. I can listen to whatever music I want. Pandora has become my best friend. She can really surprise me with her odd choices.
2. You never have to go out in the terrible winter weather.
and the # 1 best thing about working from home
1. Pants optional!
|5. Spend more money on firewood.
Especially this winter, I’m already on my second firewood delivery
4. No stopping by offices of your favorite people.
3. Neighborhood noises.
2. You never leave the office.
and the # 1 worst thing about working from home
1. Pants optional!
* annoying sound provided here
Audio version of a sharp stick in the eye!
What are your top 5 best and worst things about your work place. Let me know!
Catch up blogging part two . . . when last we left our heroes . . .
Jan began with TNNA our annual trade show. It’s a great time to reconnect with your business contacts, you friends, see all the new yarns and fashion trends coming in the Spring.
My first official appointment was on Friday for the Teacher Meet and Greet. This is an event where all the national knitting teachers sit at a table, and in a bizarre shop owner version of speed dating, folks walk up and down the tables sussing us out.
Here’s my nutty friend Melissa Leapman and I amusing ourselves with a selfie in the slow times
I decided to come a day early and take the rare treat of being a student. I took two classes that were like the designers yin and yang, art and science. First I took my pal Lily Chin’s draping class. I’ve really wanted to break out of the flat pattern drafting world I’m in, to the 3-D world of draping. I immediately came home and started shopping for an adjustable dress form – of course the problem is, I have NO space for it. ah well. I did put the theory into practice when I got home by draping an old t-shirt on myself to design a neck line for a new sweater. I can’t show any pics because it’s not published yet. It was such an interesting experiment, once it’s published, I’ll write a blog about the whole trip from sketch to weirdly draped t-shirt, to swatch, to pattern, to garment.
In the afternoon I took on the science part with an excellent class on Excel taught by my other pal, Edie Eckman. This was the perfect companion to the draping class. I use Excel for pattern grading (changing the size of the garment), but knew I would learn some new tricks from Edie. Better than the tricks was seeing how Edie uses excel to help her think through the pattern. I use it in a very similar way when I grade, but she had a spin on the “if this, than that”, way of thinking that was really great.
Saturday was spent in meetings and walking the sales floor collecting all sorts of wonderful new yarns for swatching . . . now all I need is a moment to play.
One of my favorite things about walking the floor was discovering my own designs hanging in booths. Not going to lie, that was kind of a thrill. Here I am geeking out over seeing my sweater at the KnitStyle booth:
Geek out #2 came at seeing my design hanging up at the Vogue Knitting booth:
Vogue Knitting Live New York
Speaking of Vogue Knitting, shortly after getting home from TNNA it was time for one of my all time favorite times of year, Vogue Knitting Live New York! I love all my teaching shows (mother loves all her children equally), but there’s a special place in my heart for VK Live NY, as it’s in my own hometown and it was the first big national show I ever worked.
I arrived before the sun was up. An unique experience in Times Square
I hardly took any pictures, or in fact did anything but eat, sleep and teach. I had a wonderfully, crazily full schedule and rocked a record (for me) of 20 hours of teaching in 3 days! Here’s a few shots from my classes.