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In an ideal world all knitters get stitch and row gauge and happily produce a garment that fits well and they love. Reality says that this is a rarity. Knitters may get stitch gauge but not row gauge or vice versa or they might not meet either gauge at all. From all that I have read knitters mostly focus on getting stitch gauge if they embrace the importance of gauge at all. Row gauge seems to be a bridge too far for most knitters, hence the length of the pieces are better off being given in inches and centimeters rather than in specific row counts.

When a designer designates row counts as the sole identifier of length bad things happen to the knitter. While knitter X may get 2″ (5) cm out of 14 rows, knitter Y may get significantly less or more. I am not saying row count can’t be included in a pattern. What I’m saying is it can’t be the only marker for length that is in the pattern.

If the designer must include row count in his / her directions say it like this: “Knit 14 rows or until piece measures 2″ (5) cm.” This gives the knitter a tangible goal. If the 14 rows don’t measure 2″, then the knitter has the okay to continue knitting until the 2″ goal is met.

Another thing I am noticing in patterns is the standard X stitches and X rows = 4″ (10) cm is starting to fall by the wayside. Lately, I’ve seen patterns by indie designers that use X stitches and X rows = 2″ (5) cm. The 4″ (10) cm standard is there because knitting that amount gives a more true idea of how many stitches and how many rows are really in 1″ (2.5) cm. The width and length of the standard 4″ (10) cm allows for all the idiosyncracies to be offset.

When I ask indie designers why they use 2″ rather than the standard 4″ their answers deal with math. They don’t want to work with fractions or decimal points in their calculations. This is crazy. Knitting, garment creation, is all about fractions and decimals, knowing when to round up and when to round down to help a garment fit and lay right. The only way to become comfortable with fractions and decimals is to work with them over and over again.

Knitting design is math centered. It’s not the warm and fuzzy math of 1 + 1 = 2. It’s geometry and algebra, fractions and decimals included. Designing is having an idea then running the numbers to see if it is mathematically doable.

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After a big ship has rotted away, there still remain three thousand nails.

Chinese Proverb

What, did they count them? The nails, I mean. Three thousand sounds like a number that has been rounded. It’s too nice; too easily divisible by more than one number. Two, 3, 4, 5, and 6 divide nicely into three thousand. They don’t leave messy remainders over which a knit designer must agonize.

When I begin a design I swatch. I need to know how many stitches per inch and how many rows. Row gauge can be less precise at first when you are knitting to a length. “Knit until piece measures x inches / centimeters from the beginning.” If you have to make a second knitted piece — sock, sleeve, front or back, whatever — that needs to come in at the same measurement then row gauge is important. To get the same length and have it all even I count the number of rows it takes to get the “x inches / centimeters.” I write down the number of rows on the pattern so that I can duplicate the exact length for the other sock, sleeve, front or back, whatever.

The numbers game in knitting gets challenging when both stitch and row gauge need to come into some agreement with the knitting stitch pattern as well as the size of the piece.  In an ideal world the multiple of stitches needed to complete a knitting stitch pattern would divide evenly into gauge for all sizes. But who lives in an ideal world?

In my next few posts, I am going to show you the behind the scenes stuff that goes into designing a knitted sock pattern. Til then, have a good one.

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