Jakku Jakku KAL - Week 1

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Helloooooo KAL'ers! I'm so excited to start the Jakku Jakku cowl pattern with you all for our Spring/Summer KAL! The shape of this cowl has become one of my favorites and hope you'll agree that it's super easy-wearing and fun to knit!

GAUGE - WHERE IT'S AT!

As it's week 1, we're going to start out by talking a little bit about gauge. And by "gauge" I mean the dreaded S-word - Swatching! I know that the S-word is often met with groans, eye-rolls and maybe even a little bit of whining, but it's worth it to get a project that fits. Now, I'm the first to admit that gauge doesn't always matter (like with shawls and scarves where fit doesn't have to be exact), but in some cases it does. This cowl, for example, it does matter a bit. Here's why! 

The cowl is narrower at the top than at the bottom. It's finished top circumference is 19.75". The human head, or rather the adult woman's head, is typically around 21" in circumference, so there's some negative ease coming in to play. We want to make sure that we're not any smaller than 19" or we run the risk of not being able to pull the cowl over our heads! But fear not! We do use a stretchy cast-on to safe-guard the ability to pull the cowl on without too much discomfort.

*Warning! Do take your glasses off before trying to pull the cowl on... ask me how I know... 

HOW TO SWATCH FOR GARTER STITCH

The first trick with swatching is to knit with the yarn and needle that you'll be using for the actual project. So if you're going to use a 16" circular bamboo needle to knit the cowl, use a 16" circular bamboo needle to swatch. And if you're using our Berroco Remix Light Yarn for the project, guess what? Use that same yarn to swatch. Each yarn behaves differently, not only in how we hold and tension it, but in its interaction with a needle. The same yarn swatched on slick, metal needles vs. rougher bamboo needles will result in a different gauge. 

To swatch in the round, without needing to cast on a large number of stitches, is to do what is called Speed Swatching. Sounds miraculous, doesn't it? But there is indeed a way to swatch quickly for an in-the-round project. 

Step By Step

  • Step 1: Cast on AT LEAST the number of sts over 4" given in the gauge category. So, as an example, the Jakku Jakku cowl calls for a gauge of 20 sts and 40 rows taken over garter stitch. So I'd recommend casting on between 24 and 30 sts just to be sure but definitely cast on at least 20 sts. 

  • Step 2: Knit across the first row.

  • Step 3: Instead of turning your work, slide your sts back to the beginning of the needle as if to work across the front again.

  • Step 4: Carry your working yarn loosely behind all of those stitches and purl across the row (working garter stitch in the round means we have to knit 1 row, then purl 1 row). 

  • Step 5: Slide the sts to the beginning of the needle again, carry the working yarn behind the sts and into position to work the row and knit all the sts. 

  • Step 6: Slide the sts to the beginning of the needle again, carry the working yarn behind the sts and into position to work the row and purl all the sts. 

    • Repeat Steps 5 and 6, alternating between knit rows and purl rows until your swatch is at least 40 rows (20 ridges) tall. You can, of course, knit taller but who wants to make a swatch larger than necessary, right?

Here is a video tutorial to show you how to "speed swatch" - swatching flat to knit in the round. Please note that this video shows you how to swatch for stockinette (knit on every row). Be sure to knit 1 row, then purl 1 row to swatch for Garter in the round. 

HOW TO MEASURE YOUR SWATCH

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Once your swatch is done and off your needles, cut all of the long yarn carry's across the back so that your swatch can lay flat. You'll have the cutest little set of fringe along the left and right edges of your swatch!

Next, you'll need to wet block the swatch. I recommend soaking the swatch in lukewarm water with a delicious-smelling wool-wash like SOAK for 15 to 20 minutes to make sure the fibers are fully saturated. 

Remove the swatch from the water and press the water out (trying not to wring to twist the swatch). Now lay the swatch flat to dry, no pinning is necessary. Just smooth the swatch out into a square and allow it to dry completely. 

Once the swatch is completely dry, it's time to start measuring. We're going to measure Stitch gauge and Row gauge. Albeit, row gauge is less critical for this project - what we're really looking for is to match Stitch gauge! 

In the Stitch Gauge image above, the ruler lines up with the stitches, running parallel. Choose one row, line up your stitches (I typically like to start a the 1" mark and count to the 5" mark) and count the number of sts. The stitch, in garter, is EITHER one row of "smiles" - the stitches that form the lower half of a row, or the "frowns" - the stitches that form the upper half of a row. Just be careful not to count both sets. 

In the Row Gauge image above, the ruler runs perpendicular to the rows of stitches. To count the number of rows, count each ridge as 2 rows. In general, when working in garter stitch, it's typical for the row count to be roughly double that of the stitch count. There's a random fact for ya! 

Now, if you don't have a full 4" to measure over, here's what you can do to check your gauge math:

  1. Count the number of sts over a certain length. For example, if you have 3" over which to measure, count the full number of sts over your 3". 
  2. Divide that total number by 3. For example, if you have 15 sts over 3", divide 15 by 3. This gives you a total of 5 sts per inch. 
  3. Then multiply this 5 sts by 4 to determine how many stitches you have over 4" - conveniently 5 sts multiplied by 4 = 20 sts over 4". 

Repeat this same math for the Row gauge. 

WHAT IF MY GAUGE DOESN'T MATCH?

Confession time? I learned this the hard way! When I set about a number of years ago to knit my very first garment I swatched, as per the pattern, on a US 6. I was supposed to get 24 sts over 4". I had 26 sts over 4" which means that I had a SMALLER gauge than specified. If the number over 4" is larger than that specified (i.e.: 26 is larger than 24), my project is going to wind up smaller than I want. But as a newbie knitter I did the math the wrong way and decided to go DOWN a needle size, instead of up. Yeah... a month of knitting netted me a sweater that was so tiny my petite little mum couldn't even wear it. Major bummer. 

SO! If your gauge is SMALLER than that specified (i.e.: your count is 21, 22, 23 {or higher} sts over 4") you need to go UP a needle size. If your gauge is LARGER than that specified (i.e.: your count is 19, 18, 17 {or lower} sts over 4") you need to go DOWN a needle size. 

A BRIEF LOOK AT YARN SUBSTITUTIONS

This cowl was originally designed for a 100% superwash merino yarn. Superwash merino is a pretty heavy yarn (if we're talking about a yard to oz ratio) compared to the Berroco Remix Light. If you're looking to substitute yarns, the best way to go about it, is to look at the Gauge Indicator on the ball band. 

I we compare these two labels (the right is the band for the Berroco Remix Light) we see that the gauge is pretty similar. The tag on the left says that on a US 6 we should get a gauge of 20 sts / 4" (though they say it as 5 sts over 1" - a rubbish way to take gauge, IMO), and the band on the right shows approximately 22 sts / 4" on a US 5. I know, I know... they're not exactly the same, but it's a good way to make an educated guess as to whether a yarn is suitable for substitution. 

The other thing to take a look at, is the weight of the yarn. Is the yarn I want to use a lot heavier or lighter than that specified in the pattern? If so, what do I know about the makeup of the fiber content? Is it' going to stretch? Collapse? Be really stiff? 

In this case, the weight-per-yard difference is fairly significant. For the same weight of yarn (100g), the tag on the left indicates you will get 268 yds, whereas the band on the right indicates you'll get 432 yds! Wow! I'm not gonna lie, if I looked at that alone, I'd think the Remix was a fingering weight yarn. But the Gauge Indicator tells me otherwise! 

So... maybe less brief than intended, but there's the rundown on subbing in yarns.

FINALLY... CASTING ON!

And now the reason we're all here for the KAL party: casting on! For a cowl such as this where the top of the cowl is tapered and will be a snug fit over our heads, I always recommend a stretchy, but stable cast-on: the German Twisted Cast-On

This particular cast-on is set up very similarly to the traditional Long Tail Cast-On method whereby we wind off a length of yarn to be used for the cast-on, and place a slip knot to get started. The German Twisted method does use a bit more yarn to cast-on per stitch than the traditional Long Tail but I found that if I wound off just a little bit more than my total wingspan (my arms held out wide side-to-side) I had enough yarn to successfully cast on the required number of stitches - roughly 70" / 178 cm.

Here's a video tutorial I created a while back to help with the German Twisted Cast-On. 

NOBLE GOAL!

See what I did there? NobleKnits... Noble goals??? You get it... but I digress.

To stay on track for next weeks post, it'd be a very noble goal indeed to complete the main body of the cowl, through Rnd 68 and the "Next Row" that follows. Next week is going to focus on short rows - why we love 'em and why we hate 'em! 

I hope you have a great first week of the KAL! I'll be keeping an eye on the blog for comments and on our new NobleKnits Community over at Mighty Networks so ask questions, get engaged, share the good stuff and have fun! And if you're on social media, feel free to tag @nobleknits and use #nobleknitsjakkuKAL. I'm excited to do some knitting with you!