On gauge, speed, and a little voodoo

It’s no secret that I’m not the most precise person in the world, which is why one of My Old Man’s nicknames for me is “Miss Approximate.” I suppose that many of my mistakes (in knitting and in life) could be traced to my tendency towards approximation rather than precision.

So it is something of an exercise in growth and self-discipline every time I make myself do a gauge swatch for a project. I have to overcome every natural tendency I have in order to do it. And I certainly don’t always do one. But for a big project, like a sweater, I’m pretty diligent about making myself make a swatch. Nine times out of ten, I discover that I have to go up a size in needles in order to get gauge.

It was a surprise then, when I got gauge spot on, with the suggested needle size, when I first swatched for my Easy V-Neck Raglan. So I went full steam ahead, on size 9s, and I never looked back. Only yesterday, when someone on a Knitting Help forum asked a question about the gauge of this sweater, I decided to double-check what mine was. Surprise, surprise, my gauge on the sweater was actually somewhat different than the gauge I got when I swatched. Pattern gauge is 14 sts/4 inches. My sweater gauge? 16 sts/4 inches. Perhaps this explains why everyone else got a lovely loose, almost sweatshirt-like effect, while mine is somewhat fitted? Hmmmmm, maybe my problem is this: perhaps when I measured my gauge swatch I only approximated 14 sts/4 inches?

note to self: Maybe you should start doing gauge swatches for socks. Especially if you want your KH Sockintine Socks to actually fit your sock pal. Just sayin’.

I don’t understand why I can’t knit any faster. Seriously. I used to type 96 words a minute (don’t know what my rate is now, though I’m guessing upper 70s to low 80s). I’ve played the piano since I was 7 and the guitar since I was 19. Manual dexterity is kind of my thing. I have long, slim fingers, and I always thought they were fast. So why isn’t my knit speed any higher? I timed myself on the Easy V-Neck at one point. 28 stitches per minute. Of course, knowing me, that was approximate. Maybe it was 26. Maybe it was 30. At any rate, not especially speedy. When I read that SpiderWoman called the Easy V a weekend knit, I was stoked, thinking I’d be done with it by the time I got back from vacation. If I hadn’t ripped a sleeve 3 times, it probably would’ve been a two-week knit for me (one week of which involved lots of knitting hours on the road). Not two days. Two weeks. Eunny Jang knits 75-80 stitches per minute. EZ knit between 70 and 80. Amy from KnittingHelp can knit around 50 stitches per minute. How do they do it? What about you? Ever timed yourself? Anyone got suggestions for getting faster?

edited to add: I should’ve mentioned this already (Melinda, thanks for your question on this). I knit continental. But I do it kind of weird, I guess because I’m self-taught from books, which don’t actually show how the hands and fingers move between pictures. It wasn’t till I watched the videos at KnittingHelp that I realized my idiosyncracies. I do most of the work of knitting with my left hand fingers, though I’m right-handed. I guess it’s kind of like throwing instead of picking, because I use my left thumb and middle finger to wrap the yarn around the needle in my right hand (instead of actually “picking” the yarn with my right hand needle). I don’t put the needle down the way I’ve seen some English knitters do. I just lift my left thumb, index finger, and middle finger off the needle to do the wrap (the index finger keeps the yarn taut while the thumb and the middle finger do the work, my ring finger and pinky, along with my palm, keep the needle stable). All I use my right hand for is to insert the needle into the stitches on the left needle, and then pull the new stitch out. Same when I purl, except my left thumb does basically all the work there. Pretty weird, eh? And probably slowing me down. Perhaps I should take the time to learn to do it right….

I know that knitting’s not about speed. Fact is, I actually miss working on my Easy V now that it’s done. It’s just that there are so many things in my queue, it would be really nice to be able to zip through some of them. I have a couple of deadlines looming large that are starting to stress me out a bit. Knitting should not be about deadlines and stress, but there ya go.

A little voodoo
These really are a quick knit. Though I still managed to give them to CJ nearly a month late for Christmas.

pattern: Voodoo Wristwarmers, size small
yarn: Malabrigo, Brown Berries, less than 1 skein
needles: size 4 dpns
dates: January 17-20
modifications: none
verdict: love the yarn (duh), love the pattern, made these to go with this scarf
The only thing is that my own Voodoo Wristwarmers are seriously starting to pill. Malabrigo looks so lovely when first knit. But WOW. I feel like I need to give away a sweater shaver with any Malabrigo gift I make.

6 thoughts on “On gauge, speed, and a little voodoo

  1. I gauge swatch all the time, but I can still end up with an off-gauge project – go figure! Those armwarmers look mmmm, mmmm good.

  2. Do you throw your yarn? While I don’t think one way is any better than another I do think picking is faster. I used the combined method which seems even faster to me. I started off throwing and had to retrain my hands to pick but the slow goings for one project were definitely worth it.

  3. I am so bad about swatching! Recently, when I was swatching for an upcoming project, Hubby asked what I was doing? I knit all the time, with no comments from him. His comment was that he had never seen me do that before. See how often I swatch? Ha Ha! And usually when I get cranking along, I get interupted by a child. So my knitting is pretty slow!

  4. Those wrist warmers look great — lovely colour. I’m disappointed to hear about the pilling, though. I guess it goes hand in hand with softness.

    Re speed: I liken it to a rocking chair. Yes, I can rock faster if I really want to, but there’s that one mid-ground rhythym that’s so relaxing — I go for the zone. 🙂

  5. I timed myself yesterday on garter stitch, and I cruised along at about 40 stiches/minute. It felt fast, but that’s clearly not anywhere near as quick as I could be. Maybe I’ll go into speed training. 😉 With typing, I know they tell you to try for a steady rhythm first, and that actually helps you go faster- maybe it’s the same for knitting?

  6. i’m so glad i am not the only one who takes the time to get gauge and has the gauge change mid project!!! i’m sorry it happens to you too, but i was thinking it was some knitting anomaly.

    i really love what you’ve said in these last 2 posts about speed. i tried really hard to get both technique and efficiency, but now that i’ve discovered how much i truly enjoy combined knitting, i don’t care. i’m just enjoying it! the ‘joy of process’ thing is really a tough one for me, but i am getting there. as long as you’re loving what you’re doing, keep doing it! 🙂

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