Squam part 1: Gauge lessons

Squam part 1: Gauge lessons

I have so much to tell you (or show you) about my six days at Squam Art Workshops (aka art camp for grown-ups) that I’m breaking it into two parts! First, let’s talk about my classes. This year and last, I’ve taught a class called In the Company of Cables, which is ostensibly a class about how to knit cables but is really a class about getting comfortable with reading charts, tracking your progress, fixing mistakes, seeing the pattern in a way that often frees you from needing to keep referring to the chart, and so on. Which is good, because this year all but six of the people who signed up already knew how to knit cables! I’m always saying you should take classes from people you find interesting, even if you already know the thing they’re teaching, because there’s always something to be learned in amongst all the dialogue that happens in a knitting class. I say that, and then I freak out a little bit when people who already know everything I’m teaching take my class! So hopefully even the pros in the room picked up a good tip or two. I certainly enjoyed spending the day with both groups, and feel very honored that people would want to listen to me yammer on about something they already know. So thank you to everyone who signed up, beginners and lifelongers alike!

(Gravest apologies to the half of the cutie-pie sister duo I accidentally cut off in the only still photo I took of Friday’s group! Everyone is in the frame in the video version found in my Instagram highlight reel.)

In Friday’s class, we had an amazing demonstration of why gauge matters. For myriad reasons, I don’t ask my students to swatch for the hat that I teach, but they do have homework. They’re asked to cast on 90 sts and work the first few rows of the pattern before coming to class. Everyone uses the identical yarn, Osprey, and size US8 needles. Obviously, because everyone’s tension varies, everyone’s finished hat size will vary, and my hope is that everyone winds up with a hat that will fit someone they know. But I do state that if you know yourself to be a loose knitter, cast on 80 stitches instead, so your hat won’t be gigantic. Check out this photo:

Squam part 1: Gauge lessons

Am (@oystersandpurls) is on the right, and she cast on the prescribed 90 stitches. Am is a tighter knitter than me, so her hat is smaller than my pattern/samples. Brienne (@brienne_moody), on the left, is a loose knitter so she cast on only 80 stitches, and her hat is still bigger than my samples! Think about this for a second: the hat on the left has 10 fewer stitches and is significantly larger than the hat on the right, even though they were knitted in the same yarn on the same size needles. Fortunately, they both still fit: One is a slouchy beanie and the other is a fitted skullcap. But it was an incredibly vivid example of the difference gauge makes in the finished dimensions of a project — even a little hat.

(And how cute are they with their matching toffee Field Bags? I just noticed that.)


PREVIOUSLY: Squam 2017 reflections and outfits

10 thoughts on “Squam part 1: Gauge lessons

  1. Wow, I know gauge matters, and I do swatch for sweaters, but that’s an amazing example!
    May I ask a question, how do you measure someone’s head for a hat? I’ve searched and haven’t found a definitive method. Do you measure above the eyebrows and go around the head? Or do you measure above the ears and angle the tape measure? Help!
    Thank you,

  2. Excellent question!! My son has a Big Head (size-wise) and I would really like to make some watch caps, etc., for him, that won’t be so large that they fall down to his nose, or so small they give him a headache.

  3. Agree with Cheryl – pretty amazing difference. My impression is that continental style knitters often knit more loosely. Remember buying a Filati pattern book years ago and being baffled by the gauge because I couldn’t get near it without going up a couple of needle sizes.

  4. What a dilemma – I know I am a loose knitter but I also know I have a large head!

  5. I knit continental and am a loose knitter. When I knit a dishcloth I go down 2 needle sizes automatically and then the cloth is still bigger than gauge, which doesn’t matter for a dishcloth but can mean that the cardigan I’m knitting could double as a Smart Car cozy. (ask me how I know) Gauge IS important. Hat pattern someday? Please?

  6. Measuring heads: Easiest method is to have the person put on a hat, then measure around where they like it sitting. Remove the hat first. Then measure from the forehead over the crown to the base of the skull. This measurement halved is the height of the hat. Add a little to the height measurement for ease, 1/2 – 1″. Subtract 1-2″ from the circumference for stretchy fit.

  7. Ahhhhh your squam photos look like my idea of heaven!! I’m so interested in the psychology of teaching and learning intermediate to advanced knitting now after my experience last weekend. I was totally floored when it became apparent that a few of my students were ‘professional’ knitters, and then thrilled with how much they contributed and said they learnt afterwards. Having said that I would totally love more than anything to do your class someday. What a joy! And thanks for the photos, so inspiring. xx

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