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Monday, October 22, 2012

Gauge Rage

I was reading a page on crochet, where the woman admitted that she prefers to crochet with the yarn held tight to the barrel of the hook in order to get an appropriate gauge.  She did not admit.  She boasted that she crochets tight.  We've all heard it, straight from s^#@ crocheters/knitters say.

First I want to say, I hear you, lady.  I do understand where you are coming from.  Since you have hooks of different sizes, and you have said hooks at your disposal, why play around?  Why, you've seen those pictures of swatches done with a J hook and K hook and isn't the difference measurable?  Isn't that important to your overall enjoyment of the project?  Doesn't each and every stitch matter in the completed whole, I mean, have you seen missed stitches?  Isn't the scale incredible?  How subtle small changes make in the overall finished and perfect...

Let me stop you right here.  See, I can't represent this idea without getting pretentious.  Because it IS snotty, and I do suggest this poor woman step outdoors once in a while and gaze up at the heavens and consider how small SHE is.  Further, maybe making everything measurable in art is a mistake.

I know how it is measurable.  I understand gauge as a ratio between stitches and length. This is due to the circumference of the hook or needle to that of the yarn or fiber you are using and the stitches you make ought to be somewhat consistent.  I see how that is attractive and I do try to be consistent in my crochet, knitting, and needlepoint.  That means making my stitches approximately the same in an appropriate way for the individual piece.  But to sit there through a whole project with the yarn tight around the needle would be counterproductive for several reasons.

First, it is not attractive.  It is not attractive to clench.  The finished piece will be like a picture of a starving person.  It will lack the fluff for which the yarn was designed.  Before knitting or crochet there is the spinning of the yarn; an art in itself, long neglected as an art form by the machine-made yarn manufacturers of nowadays.  That art is lost with tight, unrelenting crochet with no slack.  Your yarn is your material and you should showcase it.  The cheapest yarn can look regal with the right tension.

Secondly, who are you kidding?  Is the magic crochet fairy going to come in the night and "measure" your stitches and make sure that each one was made with the yarn tight to the barrel of the hook?  Is the recipient of your work, family, friend, client or otherwise going to check?  Only you know how tightly you worked a piece.  The tightness of the piece does not make it better in quality.  Ever put a square knot in a plastic bag and have it rip, whereas the untied bag does not rip?  Even though plastic bag handles are two ply, the same principle is at work in your yarn.  The stitches you are making will rub against one another for the rest of the life of the piece.  Do not worship your stitches, just respect them.

Third, good things happen to those who live within the guidelines of moderation.  There is such a thing as too loose, and I've seen it and I do know what the woman was afraid of doing.  Those loose, ridiculous strands that stick out because of a careless lack of tugging the slack.  It is not attractive to have loose strands.  That one strand that can ruin a huge piece, like an afghan or sweater.  Well, those stitches that are not consistent, they are called, "mistakes" and everyone makes them.  Living as if each stitch is a potential mistake is no way to crochet, though.  SUCH IS LIFE.  Slight variations in a piece can mean the difference between master and novice.  Find the Goldilocks way you can crochet, not some imagined perfection.   

One thing I don't do is a gauge swatch.  I make a gauge "whatever I'm trying to make".  I know the differences that can be cumulatively made throughout a piece because of my "way" of doing needlework.  I will not count the stitches in an inch of a 20 stitch piece, and divide the stitches into the inch to find the blah blah blah so it matches the yarn label with the pattern with my "style".  I make the thing, it fits me or somebody, and then if I need to I adjust.  Because Newton was partly wrong, that's why.