My reputation is well established as a lazy knitter who doesn’t swatch unless it really, really matters. And I manage to convince myself most of the time that it doesn’t. (I look forward to your letters, better knitters than I.)
If I like the fabric I’m getting, and fit is either not an issue or I’m willing to take what I get, I just skip the swatching and get on to the part I like: knitting my actual project.
Sometimes, I do a quick gauge count early on in the project, to make sure it’s in the ballpark. I’m not a total cowboy. (No offense, cowboys.)
But with a scarf or shawl, how often do I check gauge?
Never. That’s how often.
Chicken Arrives at Roost
This laissez-faire attitude recently jumped up and bit me.
When I finished knitting my Shakerag Top, I immediately cast on a second project from Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide No. 6, Amy Christoffers’s easy-peasy Albers Shawl, using our kit of Shibui yarns.
No swatching. No way.
Knit knit knit. Fun fun fun. Feelin’ groovy.
As I approached the point where the background color changes the first time, it happened: I ran out of yarn before finishing the last blue “window” in the repeat. Only 2 rows before. But still. I ran out of yarn!
How Did This Happen?
Our vigilant tech editor, Sue McCain, requires our patterns to specify an allowance of 15 percent more yarn than was used in the sample, for safety. So I shouldn’t have run out of yarn.
My first theory was that I had been lackadaisical at the beginning of the shawl, where it says to knit 3 inches in the background color before starting the first double-stranded window motif.
I totally measured! But I measured pretty casually. So maybe maybe my border was a very generous 3 inches, which some would call 4 inches.
There are two other possibilities: a short skein, which happens sometimes, or: my gauge was off, causing me to use more yarn with every stitch.
I can’t know if the skein was short, but I can check my gauge.
The pattern calls for 20 stitches over 4 inches. I measured in several places on the scarf.
I got 20 stitches!
In one place.
18 stitches in another.
19 stitches in another.
This means that in those places, I was making bigger stitches, and using more yarn. (Don’t look at me like that. I know! This is basic stuff!)
This is the part where I hang my head and contemplate my shortcomings.
Nobody is going to notice that I started the second background color two rows early. The shawl will be fine. No harm, no foul.
Nothing to see here.
And luckily, since there is no 3-inch section of plain border in the second of the three sections, I am unlikely to run out of the second background color. And if I do, I can start a couple of rows early with the third background color, and shave a bit off the 3-inch plain border at the end. All will be well!
In conclusion, dear knitter, if this would bother you, check your gauge. (If this would bother you, you probably already do check your gauge!)
Go ahead and judge me. I deserve it.