Browsed by
Category: gauge

Gauge on a CSM

Gauge on a CSM

A while back, I really got into using the ribber on my CSM and I looked at all the factors that affected how the ribber worked.  One thing I did was reduce the amount of weight I was using on my socks and suddenly my socks were coming out in unexpected sizes.  It got me thinking about all the factors that affect gauge when making a sock.  Gauge included both stitch gauge and row/round gauge.  Stitch gauge determines how big around the sock is and is usually measured in stitches per inch/cm.  Row gauge (sometimes identified as round gauge) determines how long the sock will be and is usually measure in the number of rounds per inch/cm.   Although there are various charts on the internet that claim to list the number of stitches and rows you will need to make a give sized sock on a given cylinder, the only way to really know your gauge is to do a swatch yourself and measure.

Here are all the thing that will affect your gauge:

Cylinder size: All the cylinders for a given sock machine are the same diameter and circumference (different brands of machines will have different diameter cylinders).  The difference is in how far apart the slots are cut for the needles.   Fewer needles mean the needles are spaced farther apart.  More needles will mean they are spaced closer together.  The yarn will run a shorter distance from needle to needle when the needles are closer together and a longer distance when they are further apart creating smaller or larger stitches respectively.

Number of needles used in the cylinder: For mock rib or for patterns worked every other needle, removing needles creates short strands of yarn in the space where the needle is missing.  These aren’t as long as the path going around a needle, but they are longer than the usual path between side by side needles.  Removing needles for mock rib or other patterns will tend to tighten the stitch gauge but may lengthen the row/round gauge.

Two sock yarn samples on different cylinders with different cam nut settings every 30-40 rounds.

Tension as set on the cam nut: The position of the cam nut determines how far down the needle pulls the yarn as it creates a stitch and makes the stitches “tighter” or “looser,” affecting both stitch and row/round gauge.  The cam nut is the main thing we usually think about when adjusting gauge, but it works in tandem with all the other factors listed here.

Using the ribber:  Knit and purl stitches tend to draw in when combined, giving a tighter stitch gauge when measured in a relaxed state.  Ribbing does stretch, though, and a stretched ribbed fabric will have the same gauge as a plain knit fabric if all the conditions of making it are otherwise the same.

Amount of weight hanging on the sock: The amount of weight hanging on the sock will affect how large stitches become.  Less weight means less pull and less yarn in each stitch.  More weight means more yarn can be pulled into each stitch.

Heel spring use:  The heel spring puts drag on the yarn, meaning that less yarn can get to each stitch because it’s being pulled taut.  That means both stitch and row gauge are generally tighter with the heel spring on.

Yarn used:  All fingering weight yarns are not exactly the same.  They will be of slightly different diameters which can fill the space between stitches and affect both stitch and row gauge.  The amount of nylon in the yarn, the twist or springiness of the yarn, and if you add a thread of lycra to the yarn will all affect the size of the stitches.

Special patterning:  Cables, Fair Isle patterning, and slipped stitches will all change the gauge of a sock.  Cables tend to affect stitch gauge more and slipped stitches will change row gauge more.

Resting and washing:  The gauge you measure when a sock is fresh off the machine will not be the same as the gauge after the same sock has rested and been washed.  When the yarn has been under tension, it is much more stretched.  In addition, some yarns will “bloom” after being washed, which also affects gauge.  For a true gauge check, the sock should at the very least rest until it has relaxed to it’s “normal” state and should usually be washed to determine how washing changes the yarn.

Knit fabric is stretchy, so there is some range in which a sock will fit comfortably.  For consistent results in gauge and sock width and length, all the above conditions should be the same from one sock to the next.

Counting Your Stitches

Counting Your Stitches

There are a lot of tools out there for counting your stitches on a gauge swatch.  Here are three that I like and use regularly.

My good ol’ Susan Bates ruler:  Gauge rulers like this come in many variations, but the all involve an L-shaped hole in some kind of rigid material.  Lay it over your swatch, line up the L to a horizontal and vertical line of stitches and count away. Double the number you get to find your gauge over 4″ (10 cm).

The Gauge Grabber: These are designed to be one time use and may even be intended to keep on your swatch permanently, but I tend to use them several times until the sticky stops sticking.  What I like about these is that it’s a bit easier to count partial stitches than the opaque tools like my Susan Bates ruler above, because you can see the partial stitch on either side of the dividing line, making it easier to tell if that partial stitch is a 1/2 stitch or closer to a 1/4 stitch.  I also like that once they are stuck to the swatch, the stitches underneath don’t shift or move about, so they help keep me honest and make it harder to just give that little tug to make the gauge work out.

The Akerworks Swatch Gauge:  To use this ruler, you need to have a good sized swatch– ideally about 6″ (15 cm) square, really.  Gripping feet on four sides of the ruler keep your swatch from moving while you count.  And the semi-translucent plastic helps you judge the actual size of those partial stitches.  It has the widest counting space of the tools I’ve talked about, and the more inches you count, the more accurate your numbers will be.  4″ (10 cm) is the standard used in most patterns, so you can make a direct comparison to what’s written in your pattern.

No matter what ruler I use, I often count my stitches in several places on the swatch, just to see if there is any variation (and if there is, I go with the average).  On smaller projects, or ones where I’m familiar with the yarn, or ones where gauge won’t make a difference in wearability, I might just cast on and check gauge as I go because it’s not much work to frog a small project and a shawl that’s an inch or two larger or smaller won’t bother me.  If I’m making something where fit counts, it’s a new yarn, and/or it has more than a skein of yarn involved, I make a good sized gauge swatch worked flat or in the round as the pattern will be worked and I play with needle sizes till I get what I want.

Fitting Socks

Fitting Socks

Fitting socks is a bit easier than fitting sweaters, you mainly have to worry about the length of your foot and the circumference of you foot and/or ankle.  Most of my sock books recommend about 10% negative ease for the sock circumference and 1/2″ of negative ease for sock length.

Here’s how I found the ideal sock dimensions for my foot.  First I measured around the widest part of my foot just below my toes.  On me, this measurement is just shy of 9″.  On my calculator I put in my foot measurement times .9 and pressed the equals key.  (9 x .9 = 8.1)  My idea sock circumference would be around 8″.  Why multiply by .9 you might ask?  To make a tube 10% smaller than my actual foot circumference, I need 9/10 of the total size.  Multiplying by .9 gives me an answer that is 9/10 the original number.  Since my foot is really just shy of 9″, I rounded my answer down.

Length is a bit easier.  I measured my foot length while standing and subtract 1/2″.  My foot length is 9 1/2″.  9 1/2″ – 1/2″ = 9″  So I need a 9″ foot length on my socks.

All this works great as long as you are getting the gauge listed in the pattern.  I always swatch in the round when making a gauge swatch for socks.  I usually cast on the number of stitches in 4″ in a tube and knit in the round for an inch or two.  I then measure across the tube.  If it is 2″ across, I’m getting gauge.  If not, I do a purl row and switch needles and try for another inch or two.  If the tube is too large, I try smaller needles, if the tube is too small, I try larger needles.

For my last pair of socks, I simply could not get the row gauge listed in the pattern.  It called for 34 stitches over 4″ (or 8.5 stitches an inch) and even on my smallest needles, I could only get 32 stitches over 4″ (or 8 stitches an inch).  So I multiplied my gauge per inch by my ideal sock circumference (8 stitches x 8″ = 64) and I picked the sock size in the pattern that used 64 stitches– in my case, my pattern had a size that used that exact amount, but you may need to pick a size with a few less stitches than your ideal.  I then went through the pattern circled the numbers for the 64 stitch size for anything that was about sock circumference and I circled the numbers for my “real” size (as if I were getting gauge) for any directions having to do with length.   That way I was able to make a sock that fit!

(Most sock patterns use measurements, not row counts, for directions having to do with length.  If my pattern had included row counts, I would have needed to check my row gauge and adjust those as well, but in sock patterns this is not at all common.)

Of course, if you just enjoy making socks, every pair you make will probably fit somebody!  Here’s a pair that I though I was making for myself but they turned out the perfect size for my husband!