Accepting my Gauge (and myself)

When I started knitting I knew nothing and taught myself entirely by YouTube and Google.  Needless to say, phrases like "strangling your cast on / bind off", "check gauge for proper sizing / yardage", and "adjust needle size to gauge" completely stymied me.  So I ignored them.

I soon learned that was a mistake.  Gauge matters.  Maybe you want to end up with a giant shawl like the one above, but the original pattern called for a shawl size of 106" by 35" and mine is clearly larger than that.  And while it doesn't matter for a shawl in terms of fit, perhaps you don't want a blanket sized shawl.  More importantly - you'll end up using more (or less) yarn than planned for.

Here's the same shawl - I knit it twice, first because I loved it and second because I was sure I made some poor choices with the first version, namely the gauge.

Still big, but much more manageable as a wrap that can be worn in public vs. a cozy wrap for cold days on the couch.  

Another gauge disaster in my early days was a blanket.  Knit in acrylic yarn from a pattern off the back of a ball band, odds weren't in my favor to start.  That project took months and I ended up going back to the store for more yarn 5 different times.  The blanket ended up being over 12' long and 10' wide, and weighs almost 8lbs.  5 years later that blanket is still on my mother's couch and in use as an awesome winter curl up under blanket, but still . . . . 

After these few experiences I went on a mission.  For some reason I thought I absolutely had to have the "perfect" gauge.  I had to be able to knit a project with the "right size" needles and the "proper" yarn.  And I needed to be one of those knitters that complains about having to go up 4 needles sizes on cast ons and struggling to get a bind off loose enough.  So I read a ton and confused myself more.  I tested techniques and made myself crazy trying to change my innate style.  I posted to various help boards for advice and got berated, I went to a local yarn store and asked for help and was told I needed to join a guild and learn to knit correctly.  I was shamed into hiding, not sharing my joy of projects and certainly not publicizing them in the ravelry community I had begun to love.  I was the dreaded loose knitter who's projects would never be perfect.

And then the lightbulb finally flashed and I realized I was taking a hobby I loved and making it a chore.  So I relaxed, I accepted that I was a loose knitter and that was ok.  I started to drop my needle size by 2-4 sizes from the recommended size for the pattern.  I stopped stressing it and started to understand the implications - loose gauge = bigger garment and more yarn used.  I manipulated my strategy to determine if I wanted the right size (drop needle size) or a bigger piece (get extra yarn).  I learned to swatch when it was important (sweaters) and not worry about it when it wasn't (scarves, shawls).  I started to understand the impact on stitch definition and texture - and I began to take pride in my knitting again.

And now, a few years down the road, my experience as a knitter has increased exponentially, my natural gauge has tightened up a bit, and I find I can instinctively know what size needle to use for the project.  I'm sure I'll continue to evolve my style and my technique over time and I'm ok with that.  You should look back on your projects and laugh a little.  I was so proud of these shawls - I presented them as gifts - and now I see they were not exactly works of art.  But they were works of love and I appreciate them for what they are.

I will no longer be ashamed of my gauge and I will no longer worry about why I'm not able to use the same needle size the designer did.  I accepted my gauge and my knitting style and I enjoy the works of art I create.  So much of this is a synopsis of life . . . don't let anyone shame you into changing and certainly celebrate who / what you are, and welcome the experiences that will shape you into your future self.

Now, when I do an epic sized project I do it on purpose, but I still look back on those early days and early projects and smile.