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You can achieve gauge without knitting tightly

by Cindy O'Malley

This week, I’m knitting with Fibra Natura Lina, which combines the softness of cotton with the durability and luxury of linen. Pleasant to work with, Lina is light, lovely, and luscious, and makes the perfect summer knitwear.

Fibra Natura Lina yarn – ever so soft!

Today I’m knitting some swatches to test the recommended gauge as well as the gauge I need to achieve for my three chosen projects. Also, if you remember from yesterday, this is a great opportunity to test which needle tip is best for your style of knitting to minimize the separation of plies.

First, I’ll test the recommended gauge for Lina, which is 24 sts and 34 rows over 4” [10cm] using a US 4 [3.5mm] needle. Since Lina has a high linen content as 68%, I think the gauge will change slightly after laundering. As such, I won’t try to knit tightly, but instead comfortably and measure from there.

swatch using US 4 [3.5mm[ needle produced 22sts and 30 rows before laundering – 24 sts and 32 rows after laundering

After being thrown in the laundry – warm wash cycle, medium tumble dry, my swatch changed from 22sts and 30 rows over 4” [10cm] to 24sts and 32 rows, without blocking. The resulting fabric is very soft and can easily handle blocking to a particular size. Since none of my projects call for this gauge, I’ll swatch using different needle sizes to see what I get.

Two of my projects call for a gauge of 21sts and 29rows over 4” [10cm] using yarns other than Lina. I know from experience in knitting with cotton/linen blends of this weight, that there is flexibility in the gauge. Some yarns don’t drape very well if knitted at a different gauge, but not so with this blend. It maintains a beautiful drape when knitted at a higher gauge, so I’m confident that it will work for me.

Using Fern and a US 5 [3.75mm], my 4” swatch resulted in 20sts and 29rows before laundry, and 22sts and 30rows after, again no blocking. I’m comfortable with that result because blocking can easily make it to size.

Using Lina Fern with a US 5 [3.75mm] produced 20sts and 29rows before laundry, and 22sts and 30rows after.

Next, I used a US 6 [4mm] needle and tested out a lace pattern to see the effects. I just love this color … it reminds me of pink flamingos and the crystal clear waters of a tropical island. So it was no surprise to find out the name of the color is Caribbean.

Caribbean ocean blue produced 22sts and 26rows after laundry using a US6 [4mm] needle.

Before laundry, my swatch measured in at 20sts and 26rows in stocking stitch, and 22sts and 26rows after laundering and without blocking. Interesting, but not that unusual for different colors of the same yarn to produce varied results. Quite often, the dye can impact how the yarn knits. But, it could also be attributed to how I was holding the needles for this particular swatch.

I’m good with this result as well because I know that the finished garment will need blocking after washing because of the lace motif. Lace always looks better with blocking so a little extra effort in the laundry cycle will be taken. Also, I love the feel of the fabric knit to this gauge.

Last up is a significant deviation from the recommended gauge. My goal is to create a light and lacy cardi so I want to use a larger needle size and test out a pattern. This time, I used a US 8 [5mm] needle to create my swatch.

Before laundry produced 13sts and 20 rows

After laundry produced 14 sts and 20 rows

The appearance changed a fair bit after laundering. I did iron the swatch after it came out of the dryer, and yes, you can use a medium iron on Lina. The lace holes seemed smaller after laundering. This isn’t a concern, just an observation. In this test, I wasn’t trying to achieve a particular gauge, rather trying to determine what I’d get with this needle size so I can calculate the required stitches and rows needed for my final project. I must say, the fabric is so soft. I can definitely visualize a baby blanket or sweater being made with this yarn.

After knitting these swatches, I decided to use the sharper tip knitting needle. Normally, I’d use the rounded tip because I find that it doesn’t separate the plies as much as the sharper tip, however, the lace patterns convinced me to use the sharp tip as it’s easier to psso and k2tog with this tip rather than the rounded. I’ll just have to frequently check my knitting for separated plies.

I’m happy with my overall results and excited to get going on my projects for the balance of the week. Join me tomorrow as I start the tank top for a little girl using Fibra Natura Lina.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Summertime with Fibra Natura Lina yarn

Go to part 3: How to alter a knitted pattern to add a personal touch

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