How to Measure Hanging Gauge
Yarns with Bad Memories
Some of my favorite fibers to knit and crochet with are silk, bamboo, and cotton. They can provide lustrous sheen and magnificent drape to any garment or accessory like my new design, Nerisse. On the other hand, these fibers do not have the elasticity or “memory” of wool or acrylic meaning they will not hold their shape. This can be a problem when a garment is designed to stop at the hip, for instance, but stretches down to the knees when it is worn. Before knitting and/or crocheting in silk, you’ll want to know exactly how much it will stretch out with wear. What could be worse than investing hours of time and lots of money into a garment that is suddenly too big?
Let’s Say it Again… Gauge is IMPORTANT!
I used to be one of the many who dread making a gauge swatch. Oh, how I have changed! Perhaps it was the prospect of designing a sweater under the watchful eye of Shirley Paden that did it for me. Or maybe I finally got tired of making sweaters that just didn’t fit. Whatever the reason, my belief in gauge is now akin to religious faith. Here’s the bottom line – if you want to minimize unpleasant surprises at the end of your project, an accurately measured gauge swatch is absolutely required. There is simply no way around it. Believe me, I have tried to find one. For more information swatching and measuring gauge check out these resources from Knitpicks, Knitty, or Dummies.com.
When Measuring a Flat Gauge Isn’t Enough
Now that I’ve preached the time-honored gauge sermon, I need to point out that sometimes a standard measurement isn’t sufficient. If you’re working a yarn with bad memory like silk, cotton, or bamboo it is important to know how gravity will come into play. Measuring the swatch while it is lying on a flat and horizontal surface won’t give you enough information. You are not flat nor horizontal. Your sweater, shawl or skirt will hang vertical your body which means gravity will pull on it. Because these yarns can’t remember how they used to be when they were horizontal, they will stretch. So measure your gauge swatch after hanging it up.
You don’t need any special tools or equipment. I pin my swatches to paper covered hangers from the dry cleaners though you may want to invest in these. Don’t measure right away. Let the swatch hang out for a little while to give gravity a chance to do its thing before measuring. You may even want to weigh the swatch down a little as I’ve done in the photo to the right get a really accurate read on how much it will stretch with gravity. June Hemmons Hiatt has an excellent explanation of hanging gauge in her book, Principles of Knitting.
Let the Next Swatch be Hanged!
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of taking a hanging gauge. Use this technique on your next silk, cotton, or bamboo project to get an accurate gauge measurement. Your finished garment will wear and fit better in the long run. Nerisse is a great pattern for silk yarn and would be an easy project to practice with hanging gauge. Buy the downloadable pattern, including a detailed chart, right now at Craftsy or Ravelry.