Tuesday 13 October 2009

why tension [gauge] is important

In the week after DD's wedding, WM and I had a lovely holiday at Bundeena. In the evenings I knitted. I made one solitary Waving Lace Sock.

I was very happy with the sock and it was a perfect fit so I soon cast on for the second sock. But...

The yarn on the second sock pooled.

I stopped knitting. I put the second sock in the knitting basket and it slowly made its way to the bottom of the basket. Finally, after several months, I admitted that I couldn't live with the pooling and ripped the sock out. But...

I had already sewed in the ends of the first sock [so much enthusiasm] and I had done such a good job that I couldn't unpick those sewn in ends! Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I had about ten minutes to spare before I needed to leave for an appointment. I took that beautiful sock out into sun and unpicked the cast on edge. Now I could see the point in the colour repeats at which I had started and I cast on again for the second sock. I knitted and knitted and the yarn didn't pool. The sock was coming along beautifully. I turned the heel on the second day and on the third day I reached the toe [I was away on holidays at my parents' place]. But...

Something didn't seem quite right. I measured and looked and measured and looked some more. Then I laid the sock-in-progress on top of the finished sock. That didn't tell me anything so I laid the finished sock on top of the sock-in-progress. The second sock was about 1.5cm longer in the leg and definitely wider around the foot.

"That can't be," I thought. "I am knitting on the smallest needles I own [2.25mm] - how can it be so much bigger?" So...

I checked my tension/gauge over the stocking stitch at the toe and, dear readers, it was true. My gauge for the first sock was 10 stitches to the inch and the new sock was eight stitches to the inch! That equates to a seven inch diameter for the first sock and and nine inch diameter for the second sock! I had not tried on the second sock during its knitting. The weather had turned cold and I was wearing socks and shoes. I didn't want to take them off to try on the sock. I'm the same knitter using the same yarn on the same needles to the same pattern - of course it would be right! But...

It wasn't right of course. I had obviously been very stressed in the week after The Wedding to be knitting so tightly! So, both socks are in the knitting basket while I decide what to do? Should I buy some smaller needles and try to get the same gauge as perfect sock #1 or should I rip them both out and knit them both at the same time so that my gauge is the same for both socks?

The moral of the story, dear readers, is check your gauge. It is not always the same!!


  1. Give yourself room to be miserable and then rip them both out and start again! I don't think you will repeat the first gauge and it will always be a 'chance' to try. JMHO-eat chocolate and then rip out! The sock yarn is too pretty for you to give up on it!

  2. That happened to me too, just the once fortunately. I'd finished a sock. Most of the second sock was knitted while I was watching the skating at Winter Olympics. I think my fingers were knitting in time to the music and my tension was much tighter than when I'd ambled along on it.. However, it still fit me and I could get it on so I left it. I was surprised at the difference.

  3. Maybe that is called 2nd sock syndrome....

  4. Oh dear. But you know what, I've given gifts of socks that the first one has striped and the second one pooled, and the owners have absolutely loved them, as it made them unique. I actually like it when they both turn out different (colourwise / not sizewise) LOL.


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