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>Have I mentioned that one of the perks of being a crochet designer is that I never have to match any other crocheter’s gauge?  Given that I design the project, make the sample garment and write the pattern, I am allowed the luxury of setting the gauge.  I never realized how empowering it has become being the one to dictate the number of inches per a specific count of stitches or stitch pattern repeats.  It tends to make one unspeakably smug and self-righteous.  Can’t match my stated gauge using the exact same yarn?  Too bad.  Want to substitute another yarn?  Good luck with that!

All of it, every single fracking hubris-laden moment of my designing career, has returned to bite me in the butt.  This month I have promised to release the next design for my independent pattern line, DJC2: Tank Girl. I started working on Tank Girl not that long ago while the Northeast was still in the grip of stinging winter cold, snow and ice. At the time it seemed like a good idea to offer Tank Girl in a warmer, cozier fiber as a layering vest.  So the design began with the wonderful yarn in hand, Spud & Chloe Fine, a fingering weight blend of superwash wool and silk  that probably makes awesome socks, too. And, for fun, I also sampled a tank in Kollage Sockalicious, which is a softer, plumper yarn but worked perfectly to the same gauge.

Sample in DMC Senso, fine gauge

The universe being what it is, a gang of cosmic forces kept me from completing Tank Girl right away.  So now the seasons are threatening to change and think I should switch gears, stay ahead of the curve and make my tank samples more spring/summer-like.  I tossed the stash looking for substitute fingering weight yarns in cotton or blends with cotton, linen, bamboo, whatever would work to gauge and be kid-friendly, washable and durable.  I discovered that there aren’t a lot of choices for comfortable, easy-care yarns in this weight class, at least not to be found in this house.  So I amassed a few that came the closest and swatched them all.

Imagine my dismay when none of my intended swaps would work to gauge, partly due to the fact that wool and animal fiber yarns have some give or stretch, whereas cotton and other plant fibers have none. Also, most animal fibers have some surface texture and stick-to-itself qualities that many plant fibers do not. Whatever the reasons, I found I could get the cotton/plant yarn swatches to match either stitch gauge or row gauge but not both.  I switched hook sizes.  I switched hook styles.  I wound and rewound balls in case the tension off the skeins was making any difference.  I cursed, I prayed. I did everything except crochet standing on my head and still I could not get any of the non-wool, warm weather choices to match my own gauge.

What I swatched:

  • DMC Senso, a soft blend of microfiber and cotton that is listed as a Size 3 crochet thread.  Not a thread, trust me.  It is a lovely fingering weight yarn and is terrific for fashions.
  • Aunt Lydia’s Size 3 Crochet Cotton, not as soft but workable.
  • Red Heart Lustersheen, a cabled acrylic fingering weight, very soft, a better color range than the cotton threads.
  • Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, a sportweight blend of hemp, cotton and rayon; not as fine as the above, but would make a terrific spring tank.
  • Tahki Cotton Classic Lite, a sportweight mercerized cotton in awesome colors, but a touch heavier than all of the above.
DMC Senso, Spud&Chloe Fine, Tahki Cotton Classic Lite Swatches

I also tried a few fingering weight yarns that I’d be loathe to use for kid wear.  Fine gauge silk and fine gauge linen. Still no joy. Looking at the swatches this way, it doesn’t seem as though there’s much difference, but when the gauge is multiplied over the width and length of a garment, it really gets messed up.

Tahki Cotton Classic (pink), Kollage Sockalicious (blue)
Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy (green), Spud&Chloe Fine (pink)

My solution?  Heck, if the yarn won’t come to the gauge, then re-tool the gauge to fit the yarn.  This would not be possible in traditional pattern publishing where space is a limiting factor.  We don’t worry about word count in download land, which leaves me free to offer as many sets of instructions in as many gauges and variations as necessary to cover the bases for the range of yarns you might want to use.

It’s going to be a crap-ton of work, but worth the extra pages, trust me. Barring any unforeseen shifts in the universe, you should be able to find DJC2: Tank Girl, a seamless, lacy layering vest sized for girls, tweens and teens, in a couple of weeks at www.designingvashti.com.

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