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Light Box Solution!

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I have been frightfully annoyed by my inability to see the stitches in this twisted crepe yarn. This is Silk City’s Wool Crepe Deluxe, the premier suit and dress yarn, a difficult one to knit because it’s so twisted and slubby. It is the type used in the classic St John’s Knits and it holds its shape very well. However, I was ready to drop the navy color and switch to red just so I could count my stitches!

Finally I remembered my husband’s light box he had made 30 years ago from a flourescent bar encased in a plywood box. Using a metal ruler I marked out 4″ in width and in length in the center of the swatch and marked the end points with easy to see pins.

This swatch is knit at the requested tension (T4), this time 80 stitches wide. I knit 5 rows in the yarn I’ll use for the skirt, transferred 4 stitches onto neighboring needles to indicate the tension used and thereby created the picot holes you see at the top. Yeah! I feel so accomplished!

I then knit another 5 row, added two rows of red in the same wool crepe deluxe and switched back to the navy for another 100 rows. I finished with 2 rows of red and 10 of navy and cast off. The red gives a clear boundry from which to take measurements. Very slick.

Following a suggestion from the book I showed you yesterday I pulled needle 30 on each side of zero into A position, “out-of-work” on the Japanese machines, so that these needles did not knit. Ha! Now I can count the “ladders” formed by the empty stitches.


Guess what? My gauge matches that gauge called for in the pattern! Oh boy, now I can start to actually knit. Machine knitters have to get the gauge just right so that the garment will fit when it finally comes off the machine. Swatching takes time and maybe more yarn than hand knitting. With hand knitting you can simply change needle size.

Why, you may ask is the swatch so much bigger than the 4″ square area that I measured. Well, because I have read that you want to have an area large enough to take into account the differing tensions that might occur through out your knitting. For instance, if you forget to move the cast on comb or you speed up or down or the yarn has a variance in it, you could have differing stitch and row results. You want an average and you’ll need a bigger area from which to take this average.

Now that I’ve solved the problem of seeing the stitches in this twist-y fabric I feel much better about the upcoming skirt. If you don’t have a light box you can also just put a light bulb or lamp under a glass topped table as I used to do when tracing off Burda World of Fashion sewing patterns. Or you can tape the swatch to a glass window or door after carefully marking off your required square. You don’t want to stretch the swatch first and then measure and count the stitches

I am relieved that I found this easy lightbox solution for the next time I’m working in a very dark, densely knit yarn.


About Mary Beth

I am fascinated by changing patterns and colored threads. I sew garments and am teaching myself to machine knit. Since selling the building that housed my workrooms, The Stitchery, I'm searching for a place to set up the knitting machines again. There must be room here somewhere!

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