My friend C.S. earned the title of Knitting Goddess this week. This is not a title you can study for, practice for, or take a test for. It is a title that is bestowed on you, much like knighthood is bestowed in the British Empire.
C.S. has many excellent qualities as a person and a knitter. She's kind, loyal, funny, and a good dog mom. But this is a knitting blog, so I'll focus on her Goddesshood. She revealed to me the other day that she does a gauge swatch for every pair of socks she knits, then makes note of who the socks are for, what size she's making, the yarn and needles, and the gauge. She also has a needle inventory on her smart phone that even indicates whether the needles are bamboo or metal. I'm scared to think about what else she might be keeping track of. She probably knows which outfit I've worn each day for the past 2 years, and whether I had peanut-butter-breath after lunch.
I bow down to you, O goddess. I will never emulate you, being terminally disorganized (it's called "creative" in my household) and in procrastination purgatory. But I sing your many praises.
I don't usually do a gauge swatch for socks, because after knitting several dozen pairs over the years, my gauge is fairly consistent when I use fingering-weight yarn and size 0 needles. If I go up to size 1.5 needles, I just bump off about 4 stitches.
But I was trying a new (to me) yarn today, Cherry Tree Hill's Sockittome. J. and I had a friendly debate the other day about whether it was a light DK or a heavy fingering. I claimed fingering, and J. claimed DK. So I figured it was worth a swatch.
I did my first swatch on size 1.5 needles, figuring that with a thicker yarn than normal, I needed bigger needles. My gauge came in at 7 stitches to the inch. Many people might think that is a perfectly acceptable gauge for a sock. I, however, usually knit socks at about 10 stitches to the inch, so the fabric felt like yurt felt to me. Trying again with size 0s, I achieved a marginally acceptable 8.5 stitches to the inch, which still felt like light yurt felt, but the subtle color of the yarn enchanted me, so I decided to go ahead with it.
It occurred to me that a swatch need not go to waste, so here is a little trifle for you to try next time you do a gauge swatch for something small in the round, like socks or mittens, and you have plenty of yarn:
Do your gauge swatch in the round, using your choice of method: double points, two circulars, or magic loop. If you are using fingering weight yarn, loosely cast on 40 - 44 stitches. If you are using heavier yarn, make your best guess as to how many stitches you need for a swatch about as big around as your wrist.
Work the first 6 rounds in garter stitch. Remember, garter stitch in the round consists of alternate rounds of knitting and purling.
Switch to stockinette stitch, i.e. knit all rounds, until the swatch is about 2.5" - 3" deep. Work the last 6 rounds in garter, as above. Bind off loosely.
Measure 2" worth of stitches. This is the gauge to use for your main project.
You now also have a jaunty wrist warmer, aka swatch. Or, if you don't want to wear it as a wrist warmer, use it as a cup cozy, napkin ring, decorative vase collar, sew shut and stuff with catnip to use as a cat toy, sew shut and stuff with polyfil to use as a doll pillow ... the uses are endless. Endless, I say!