Gauge and lace. I’ve come to believe them non sequiturs of the first degree.
I swatch. But time after time, those stockinette swatches lie. I’ve learned a few things along the way, though.
The finish on your needles matters. I like fast needles. Really fast needles. It doesn’t matter what fiber I’m knitting with, the slicker the better. Because I knit a lot of lace, I do have a lot of Addi Lace needles for their pointier tips. I’m not fond of the more grippy finish on them, but I’ve found it wears off a little over time. Still, it makes a difference in my gauge. A US 4 Addi Turbo does not yield the same gauge as a US 4 Addi Lace when I’m doing the swatching. The finish on the needles makes a difference.
I used to like it when a designer would give me gauge in stockinette (or even the dreaded garter). I’ll be dogboned, but time and again, I’m finding it’s not an accurate way for me to see where my lace knitting will be. I suppose it may be the anticipation of casting on a new project or something, but my swatches are always tighter than my actual knitting with the same needles and yarn. Especially lace. Just maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m more relaxed knitting lace than anything else – I dunno.
It. Is. Making. Me. Mental.
Good thing I am a process knitter. Because I’m looking at this:
This is the utterly ingenious start of Gudrun Johnston’s Wast Side Shawl, a model for Spirit Trail Fiberworks for Rhinebeck. It flies like the wind and is as addictive as sea-salt-and-vinegar kettle chips. Only problem is, it’s already long enough to be a tablecloth and I’m only halfway done.
Ruh roh, R’Astro.
Furthermore, I know that the composition of the lovely Ixchel (colorway Blueberry Fields), is 100% prime alpaca. I have long been a bit of an alpacaholic. Alpaca lacks natural elasticity. When you block it, it has no memory to bounce back. This is a good thing when it comes to blocking lace. But this is unblocked, knitted on good old US 5 Inox circs.
(I had a full collection of Inox circulars before Addi Turbos were available. While the cords may not be as flexible as I would like, the tips are sharp and they’re slick as snot. I am not a needle snob: they are a tool that I reach for when the fiber isn’t so fine as to snag on the joins.)
With nothing but the prospect of Knitting Time Lost hanging in the balance, I grabbed some smaller needles. Inox calls them US 3, but they are really US 2.5 (or 3 mm). Time for the dime test.
On the “heads” side, the border on US 5. Note how the dime is smaller than the two yarn-overs. for “tails,” the same stitches on US 2.5. The dime is larger than the same yarn-overs.
Verdict: The frogs are serenading me.
In the cosmic sitcom I’m dubiously starring in, this fits perfectly. My word to describe work is “untenable.” After a few truly horrific days (where among other things, I learned by being screamed at, that no, it is not permissible for me to actually leave my office for something other people call a “lunch hour” one time in two weeks), I haven’t mustered the energy to clear the blocking bed for the parade of FOs on the runway.
It’s not that I will mind having to reknit what I’ve done so far: Shetland Trader patterns are wonderful and the colorway has a real Monet thing going on. It’s the Knitting Time Lost. And the lesson learned: jigger it however you have to, but start swatching the actual lace pattern instead of some other well-intentioned stitch.