Welcome to the Raglan Mesh Cardigan Crochet-Along (CAL)! As an over-view, here's what you can expect in the upcoming blog posts, which go up every Thursday:
- This week: Gauge!
- 7/14: Starting chain and raglan increases
- 7/21: Underarms and Body
- 7/28: Sleeves
- 8/4: Finishing and blocking - sweater is done!
Some people will work a little ahead of this, and others a little slower, but remember to check the blog each week for help in these different sections (and remember that the blog posts will remain online). Read the comments below and participate in the discussion for even more help. From the many comments in the last week I can tell that you are all as excited as I am to get started on this project, so let's get to it--onto the the swatch!
As you may know, the intended idea behind doing a gauge swatch is to find out if your working tension is giving you the same gauge as the pattern is written to--this is how you will know if your finished item will turn out to the intended measurements. If your gauge is fewer stitches per inch than the pattern, your gauge is too loose and you need to try another swatch with a smaller hook to tighten it up. If your gauge is more stitches per inch, your gauge is too tight and you need to try a larger hook to make it looser.
But your swatch tells you so much more than that! It is your first chance to try the yarn you have chosen for your project with the pattern stitch and see if you are happy with the resulting fabric. This is especially important when you are substituting yarns. If you have chosen a yarn that is a different fiber than the original, it may not produce the same affect, which can be good or bad. You may also find that although you are able to get the pattern gauge, you may not like how the resulting fabric looks at that gauge and might have to use a different yarn.
Another useful purpose of a swatch is to see how it changes when washed. Wash your swatch according to the care instructions of your yarn to know how it will respond, as some fibers may fluff up or stretch after washing. You may also find the gauge or feel of the fiber changes with washing as well, which I'll get into shortly.
Now let's talk about how to swatch. The pattern states that the gauge is 18 stitches and 7 rows is 4" x 4" IN PATTERN. This means in the same stitch as the body of the pattern, which in this case is a mesh stitch worked as "dc in next dc, ch 1, skip next ch-1 sp, rep." I know the V-stitch is highlighted in the notes of the pattern, but it merely used for increasing as we'll see as we work through the yoke next week.
I always create a swatch that has more stitches than the intended four inches so that I have plenty to measure over. This gives me a more accurate idea of my gauge. In this case I used an H hook and created a chain of 30, worked my first double crochet in the 6th chain from the hook (5 chains skipped = one base chain + three for the turning chain + a chain-1 space), then worked across the chain by skipping 1 ch, dc, ch 1, repeat across. I also work more rows than the intended gauge, so I stopped after 10 rows. Nice big swatch to measure!
Next I washed the swatch because I'm going to want to get the finished sweater wet too for washing and I don't want any surprises! I soaked it on the sink for 10-15 minutes, gently squeezed out the excess water and laid it out flat to dry. Once it was completely dry, I was ready to measure.
Now how do you measure? Again since our pattern is "dc, ch1" each of those parts counts as their own stitch. This means I lay out my swatch and place a ruler on it, lining it up with the edge of one stitch then counting each double crochet and chain one across until I have counted 4 inches worth of stitches.
Looks to me like 15.5 sts over 4 inches. Uh oh, too loose :( Time to try again with a smaller hook - a G hook in this case.
This one is just about 18 stitches over 4 inches. Great, G hook it is! I know sometimes it's hard to know which hook to use, especially if your gauge is a little too tight with one hook and a little too loose with another. Just from personal experience with other garments, I've found that it's much easier to make something bigger with blocking than smaller, and also that crochet fabric is more likely to stretch a little than it is to shrink over time, so unless it's really tight, I'd suggest the smaller hook.
Editor's note: Some people may find that their gauge will also change with different types of hooks (metal, wood, plastic), since these provide a different amount of "grip" against different fibers. So if you're in between hooks, you may want to try a hook of a different material to see if that makes a difference.
I know I've focused on stitch gauge, but what about row gauge? Measuring in a similar manner by placing the ruler lined up with the bottom of one row and counting up over 4 inches, I found that I achieved roughly 7 rows over 4 inches with the H hook and 8.5 rows over 4 inches with the G hook, but I need the G hook to achieve the stitch gauge. Bummer!
Luckily with most garments, stitch gauge is much more important to achieve because that gives the width of the sweater, which is much harder to change, but if my garment needs more rows to get the correct length in the end, that's OK and easy to adjust! Again, we'll talk pattern modifications in upcoming posts, but if you can only get the stitch OR the row gauge (very common!), go with the hook that gets you the correct stitch gauge.
As an aside, this sweater is made from the top down in one piece which is incredibly helpful because you can try it on as you go! More on that next week as we finally jump into starting the sweater! For now, work on your swatch (or swatches!), and next week I'll be showing you how to get this sweater going. See you then!