Loose gauge projects create a wonderful fabric, but swatching for them isn’t exactly straight forward. Loose gauge fabrics have a tendency to wiggle around and stretch more easily than denser knits, and that means that the gauge you get when you measure your swatch that has only been laid out flat isn’t necessarily going to be the gauge you end up with once your sweater hangs from your shoulders from a few hours. It’s really easy to end up with a loose gauge sweater that’s much longer than planned with ridiculously deep armholes if you don’t know to plan ahead. So what can you do to avoid this? Hang up your swatch! Some people swear by adding weight too, but just letting it hang can be enough for some projects, like Vianne.
I knit two swatches, one on 5mm needles and one on 4.5mm needles. The 5 mm needle swatch had a gauge of 18 sts by 26 rows over 4 inches after I blocked it. I stuck it up on my bulletin board for a few days, and when I took it down, my new gauge was 19 sts by 24 rows. See how the yarn wiggled around a bit? My stitches got narrower and longer. My second swatch on the smaller needles also changed a pinch. It went from 20 sts by 27 rows to 19.5 sts by 26 rows. As you can see, with my yarn substitution, I can’t match the pattern gauge with my favorite bamboo needles. It’s not a huge surprise because loose gauges are hard to match, but I have a few more things to try before I throw in the towel and have to do the math for a gauge mod. Using different needle materials and/or shapes often changes my gauge, so I’m going to play with that a bit.