Knitting samples

Making knitting samples

If you are the owner of a knitting-machine, you should be able to make your own models; otherwise it will be very expensive, because you have to buy yarn with knitting models included. To get maximum pleasure out of your machine, you must not be dependent on bought patterns, but make them yourself. Therefore, this text is a guide showing how to make your patterns yourself, and how to calculate the yarn consumption. This can be done in a simple or a more sophisticated way. In any case it requires that you are able to:

1. Take the correct measurements
2. Actually obtain the correct garment sizes when you knit on your machine

The latter may not be easy. Machine-knitted materials do not act like those knitted by hand. You cannot measure while you are knitting, as the knitting is stretched out as long as it is fixed on the machine. The width depends on the distance between the needles and is not the same as the width of the swatch removed from the machine. Also, the length will be shorter when the knitting is stretched out on the machine, so you cannot use that either. Therefore, you will always have to make a sample with the yarn before starting the real knitting. But you cannot just make a sample, remove it from the machine, measure it at once, and then go on knitting right away based on these measurements.

If you measure the length as soon as you have removed the sample from the machine, it will be too short, and the actual garment will in the end become much too long, because you have measured too many rows per centimeter (cm) in the sample that had been stretched on the machine. Therefore, you will always have to stretch the sample lengthwise by hand and leave it until the next day, and let it find its final shape. But even so you may easily make errors. You may have stretched the sample too much, so that it now measures too few rows per cm. In most cases you have to measure the edges, where the sample is a little shorter, because it is tighter there. This is so unless you have used a casting-on comb and weights. In that case, the edge will get the same length as the rest of the knitting. On the other hand, there are cases when the sample should be measured along the midline. It depends on the material. Inelastic yarn, e.g. cotton, has to be measured in the middle.

The width is usually to be measured in the middle, but only after the sample has been stretched lengthwise and been left until the next day.

Methods for casting on knitting samples

1. If you have weaving brushes, activate them. Push the needles into knitting position and every other needle in resting position, but in such a way that they are included in the knitting (look in the machine instructions how to do this). Then thread the machine and put the thread across the needles, winding it a single turn around the first and the last needle. Set the row counter to 0. Hold the thread, and knit one row. Knit a few more rows before you inactivate the weaving brushes. Do not worry about the knitting rolling inwards, that will not do any harm, for it will correct itself when you have removed the sample and stretched it. You always finish off with approximately 4 to 5 rows of waste yarn of another color (contrast colored yarn). After that, you simply run the carriage across without yarn; thereby, the stitches will fall off. Later, when you measure the sample, you measure until the bottom of the first contrast colored stitch.

2. Another method is loose casting on with a thread through the stitches: Push the needles into knitting position and every other needle in resting position, turn on the idling and knit one row. Set the row counter to 0 and release the idling. Put a nylon thread or some other smooth thread inside the gate, hold both ends tightly with one hand, knit approximately 4 to 5 rows before pulling out the nylon thread, and go on with the knitting. When you measure the sample, you have to pull the beginning thread, which otherwise hangs in curves, and then measure from the first row up to the bottom of the first contrast colored stitch.

3. You may also start with a few rows of contrast colored yarn, followed by one row of nylon thread or some other smooth thread. In that case you measure from the bottom of the first ground color stitch, i.e. the color used for knitting the sample, until the bottom of the first contrast colored stitch. The smooth thread may be pulled out later.

A procedure for making a plain knitted sample

When you have decided which number on the tension dial you want to use, cast on 40 stitches without using comb or weights. Knit 60 rows and a few rows with waste yarn of another color. Then remove the knitting from the machine without casting off. Don't worry if the knitting rolls. You stretch it when you have removed it from the machine. Then roll it sideways into a sausage and stretch it. Unroll it, and leave it for about 24 hours. The next day you attach the edges of the sample with pins on an ironing board. It should be smoothed out without tightening. Then, measure the width across the middle with a precision of one millimeter (mm). The width is most easily measured with the wrongside up, because the edges tend to roll that way. After that, measure the length. This is easiest with the rightside up, because in that way it is easier to see where one stitch ends and another begins.

Having measured the knitting sample as precisely as possible, you are to calculate the numbers of stitches and rows per cm. There are 40 stitches, so you take a pocket calculator and divide 40 stitches by the figure giving the width in cm (with a precision of one decimal point). Write down the result. Then calculate the number of rows per cm in the same way by dividing 60 rows by the figure giving the length in cm. Write down this, too. If you have chosen a suitable stitch size, you will recognize that your result fits fairly well with the knitting tension indicated on the label collar of the yarn.

Example: You have a knitting sample with stitch size 7, 40 stitches and 60 rows. The width is 14.6 cm and the length 15.0 cm. You obtain the following ratios:

40 stitches / 14.6 cm = 2.74 stitches per cm.

60 rows / 15.0 cm = 4.0 rows per cm.

From now on, it is easy to multiply any measured width or length (in cm) with one of these ratio figures.

If the yarn is cotton, measure in the middle of the sample. Mixtures of cotton and acrylic are likewise measured in the middle. Samples of these yarns need not be left until the next day, but may be measured after about one hour. By the way, remember that cotton will shrink about 5 % when washed. Therefore, add 5 % to all measurements when knitting cotton. Also, if the label collar has the text "shrink treated" or "shape stabilized", you may measure in the middle. You come across yarn with no such text on the label collar, but where it turns out that you have to measure in the middle anyway. The explanation for this must be that the factory has given the yarn some kind of treatment.

If, on the other hand, the yarn is wool or artificial material, you measure at the edge. However, not until you have stretched the edge a little (not too much). Hold out the beginning thread and measure from this up to the bottom of the first contrast color stitch. You have to attach the edge with pins all along. Below, at the beginning thread, the edge will curve a little. Do not straighten that curve, but measure straight along. If, instead, you measure in the middle, you attach with pins above and below at the middle of the sample. Here, you have to measure right from the bottom of the stitches up to the bottom of the first contrast colored stitch. To be able to take correct measurements, you must place the rightside up. Even if you do not use comb and weights for the knitting sample, you may still use them for the actual work, if you think it is easier to deal with in this way.

As to samples for pattern knitting: See chapter 8 on pattern knitting.

If the yarn you are using is a little too thick or somewhat hard to pull, you have to wax it. You do so by winding it on the yarn ball winder and at the same time letting it slide over a stump of stearin candle. A yarn ball winder is not always included when you buy a knitting-machine, but is practically indispensable. The waxed yarn runs more easily and gives a somewhat looser knitting. It will stretch further, so if you wax your yarn, you have to make the knitting sample with waxed yarn, too. Some machines are furnished with a piece of wax which can be put on the machine so that the yarn slides along it, but in my experience, this does not help enough.

Brother's knitleader is based on how much space 40 stitches and 60 rows take up. It is easy to use. If you have made your knitting sample as described above, you simply use the measurements of the sample. But if you only have stitch and row numbers per cm, you have to calculate the other way around: 40 stitches / (stitches per cm), 60 rows / (rows per cm).

ROYAL's knitleader is based on a knitting sample of 10 cm × 10 cm. If you have calculated stitch and row number per cm, you can just shift the decimal point. You need half size. Here it is very convenient to use chequered paper, with squares of 0.5 cm width, and then proceed as if one square were one cm. Then you draw the pattern with the measurements you need, and afterwards you put the roll of parchment paper on top and draw the pattern on that.

You see that the knitting sample is the basis of everything you make, whether you use a knitleader or just draw an outline to knit after.

If you have a sweater that fits you well, you can use its measurements and multiply by the ratios from your knitting sample.

If you want to follow a knitting pattern, you may in principle recalculate it according to your own knitting sample, as it is always indicated how many stitches there are to e.g. 10 cm, but rarely how many rows. Usually, only the height will be indicated in cm, and that may sometimes give you problems. Luckily, it has become more common to include a small drawing of the dress pattern with measurements.

Expanded samples

If you want to knit something fitting tightly to the body, say underwear, or leggings that must not take up much space, you have to use an expanded sample. Otherwise the knitting, which expands when you use it, will be too short. You put the sample e.g. on an ironing board, fix it with pins on one side, expand it e.g. 20 %, and pin it on the other side the whole way around. Then you can measure how many stitches and rows there now are per cm.

However, you must always also measure the sample before you expand it, for a knitting will rarely become expanded everywhere. There will usually be some parts where the knitting has to be dimensioned according to an ordinary sample.

For tutorials modele de tricotat

How to calculate the consumption of yarn

If you want to know how much yarn you have to use, e.g. for a sweater, you must take some of the yarn, make a sample and find the area in cm2. Weigh it on a letter-balance. Divide the weight in grams by the number of cm2 to get the weight per cm2. The result will be 0.0...something grams.

Let us take the example of the acrylic sample referred to above. It measured 14.6 cm × 15 cm. Multiplying width with length gives us 219 cm2. Then we remove the contrast colored yarn and weigh the sample. It weighs 6 grams. Now we divide the weight by the area:

6 g / 219 cm2 = 0.027 g per cm2.

To find the area of the sweater, you first calculate the area of the body by multiplying the circumference (including as much extra width as you need) by the back length. To find the area of the sleeves, measure the upper arm circumference + wrist circumference (including the extra width) and multiply by the arm length from shoulder to wrist. If you had only one sleeve, you should divide the upper arm circumference + wrist circumference by 2 to get the average; but I suppose you have two sleeves. Add the two calculated areas, and you have the area of the whole sweater. Now you can multiply the whole area by the weight per cm2, and this tells you how many grams of yarn you need. You had better calculate with a little extra yarn, as you use some more for the selvedge and neck edge, especially if you are using rib knitting.

Let us take an example: We have a remnant of the yarn referred to, and want to know if there is enough for a sweater for a 4 year old child. The chest circumference is 68 cm, and the length of the sweater is 39 cm.

68 cm × 39 cm = 2652 cm2.

The upper arm circumference is 28 cm, the wrist circumference is 20 cm, the sleeve length is 37 cm.

28 cm + 20 cm = 48 cm.

48 cm × 37 cm = 1776 cm2.

The body area 2652 cm2 + the sleeve area 1776 cm2 = 4428 cm2. Weight per cm2 is 0.027 g.

0.027 g × 4428 cm2 = 119.56 g.

That is, we need 3 balls of 50 g each, or perhaps 2 balls plus a remnant. If there is not enough, you may have some other remnants which may be inserted as stripes or a pattern.

Knitting samples with KNITTAX

The KNITTAX machine is no longer sold, but as there are still many used machines around, I will nevertheless describe a method to make a knitting sample. It deviates in several respects from all other machines. Firstly, the needles have a different knitting position, the same as with intarsia carriages, however with the difference that the stitches sit behind the needle latches. This allows you to place the thread by hand, which by the way was necessary in the oldest machines. They had no yarn feeder at all. For the person who is interested in intarsia knitting, it is ideal, because it is the only machine that can knit intarsia knitting and colour patterns simultaneously. It does not do this automatically, but you may go empty back and fetch the next colour. Another difference is the platings which hold the knitting, so that you do not need weights. Weights do not exist for KNITTAX. This makes it easy to knit on. And, lastly, it has larger needle distance, about 5 mm.

When I was knitting on KNITTAX, I had to unpick everything three times. It would never fit. Finally I used to cast on 100 stitches and knit to the end of one yarn ball, pull it, and leave it until the next day. That made things fit approximately, but not completely. The knitting was always a little too large in both directions; the length was the most difficult to make fit. Not until I had knitted on other machines for several years and had experimented with knitting samples, did I find out a method, which may be a little awkward, but is nevertheless effective.

When I make the knitting sample, I put the thread by hand, and for every row I prevent it from going down around a plating at the edge. Thereby, the outermost needle is not knitted properly, but then I have to knit it manually. In this way I obtain the firm edge which is obtained in other machines if you do not use weights, and then, by measuring it after having stretched it, I get the correct length. As to the width, it has to be measured 1 - 2 cm below the contrast coloured yarn, provided that you have knitted 4 - 5 rows with contrast colour, and removed the stitches so that they stand loose. If you have a machine with a different needle distance and with a different casting off system than the Japanese machines, I will recommend that you experiment yourself with how to make the knitting samples. You may keep the knitting sample till you have knitted a complete piece, e.g. a back, that has been left for 24 hours, and then compare it with the knitting sample. Thereby you may learn something about where to measure the knitting sample.

The ratio between stitches and rows

It is a clever idea to realize what the ratio is between stitches per cm and rows per cm. In a normal, plain knitted sample, the ratio will be somewhere between 2 to 3 and 3 to 4. Henceforward, I will designate this as "normal ratio between stitches and rows". It may fall a little outside without making any serious difference. But it matters when you are to increase or decrease the stitches, for instance if you are to decrease for an armhole, or slant a sleeve. So long as the ratio between stitches and rows is approximately the same, it does not matter whether you knit with thick or fine yarn, or what stitch size you use. The slants will be the same, and you can always decrease for an armhole in the same way, or increase or decrease with the same number of rows in between. This is especially important when you knit an arm cap, in the case that you sew in the sleeve. The same is true if you cast off a shoulder e.g. with 7 stitches at a time. This too can be done every time, as long as the ratio between stitches and rows is normal. If, on the other hand, there are many rows relative to the stitches, then there has to be greater intervals between the de- or increases, and fewer stitches are cast off at a time on the shoulder. In some pattern knittings there are more rows relative to stitches, e.g. tuck, and with colour patterns the opposite may be the case, especially if you knit with large stitch sizes. In that case you must have fewer rows between the de- and increases, and cast off more stitches at a time.

If your knitting is very tight, there are more rows relative to stitches, but then it has to be very marked before it is noticed. This applies maybe mainly to small stitch sizes below 5. The other way round, if you knit very loosely, the stitch and row numbers per cm will approach each other, for instance if you knit on every other needle even though the yarn is not thick.

If you cast on many stitches and knit few rows, e.g. on selvedges, the knitting will expand, whereby there will be fewer stitches and more rows to a cm. The other way round, if you cast on only few stitches and knit many rows, for instance for shoulder straps, belts or bands, the knitting will be pulled long and narrow, especially, of course, if you hang a weight on it.

If the ratio between stitches and rows deviates much from normal, it may be an indication that the measurements of the knitting sample are wrong. It could be that you have not left it long enough before you measured it, or forgotten to stretch it, but it could also be because you have knitted too loosely or too tightly. Especially, it may be difficult to knit with fine yarn with small stitch sizes. In this case it may be wise to make the sample larger. Knitting is something live, you see, and if you have not tried before to measure a knitting sample, it may be difficult. By checking the ratio between stitches and rows, you have a guiding principle. If you keep the knitting sample until you have knitted a complete piece, which has been left for 24 hours, then you may compare it with the knitting sample. If they differ a lot, then you must find out how you should have measured.

Here follow some examples of how to calculate the ratio between stitches and rows:

Pearl acrylic stitch size 7: stitches per cm: 2.74, rows per cm: 4.0.

Let us first try as 2 to 3.

We say 2.74 / 2 = 1.37

1.37 × 3 = 4.11.

Actually, the row number is 4.0, so this gives slightly larger distance than in the sample.

Next, we try as 3 to 4:

2.74 / 3 = 0.91.

0.91 × 4 = 3.65.

Here, the distance is less than in the sample, i.e. the sample lies between the two ratios, and is closer to 2 to 3 than to 3 to 4.

The supermarket's stocking yarn, stitch size 8 1/3:

2.65 stitches and 3.65 rows per cm.

2.65 / 2 × 3 = 3.975. That is slightly too long.

2.65 / 3 × 4 = 3.52. That is slightly too short.

So, this sample too lies between as 2 to 3 and as 3 to 4.

Another sample of pearl acrylic, knitted somewhat tighter relative to the thickness: Here, there are 2.68 stitches and 4.29 rows per cm.

2.68 / 2 × 3 = 4.02.

We see that this is slightly closer than as 2 to 3. Then we try as 3 to 5:

2.68 / 3 × 5 = 4.47.

So, it lies between as 3 to 5 and as 2 to 3.

Angle table

If you have drawn your pattern on chequered paper in the right proportion, e.g. 1/2 or 1/4 size, and take care that the pencil is pointed, in order to draw as exactly as possible, you may, instead of calculating how often you have to increase or decrease, measure the angle of the slope relative to vertical, and read in the table below how often you must increase or decrease, even if you have another ratio between stitches and rows than the normal one. The drawing shows how you measure the angle of a sleeve slope.

Angle in degrees
rows/stitches Decrease or increase at every:
2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th
2/5 51.3 39.8 32.0 26.6 22.6 19.7 17.4 15.5 14.0 12.8 11.8 10.9 10.1 9.5 8.9
1/2 45.0 34.1 26.6 21.8 18.4 15.9 14.0 12.5 11.3 10.3 9.5 8.7 8.1 7.6 7.1
3/5 39.8 29.1 22.6 18.4 15.5 13.4 11.8 10.5 9.5 8.6 7.9 7.3 6.8 6.3 6.0
2/3 36.9 26.6 20.6 16.7 14.0 12.1 10.6 9.5 8.5 7.8 7.1 6.6 6.1 5.7 5.4
3/4 33.7 24.0 18.4 14.9 12.5 10.8 9.5 8.4 7.5 6.9 6.3 5.9 5.4 5.1 4.8
4/5 32.0 22.6 17.4 14.0 11.8 10.1 8.9 7.9 7.1 6.5 6.0 5.5 5.1 4.8 4.5
1/1 26.6 18.4 14.0 11.3 9.5 8.1 7.0 6.3 5.7 5.2 4.8 4.4 4.1 3.8 3.6

If, for instance, you knit with an expanded knitting sample, the ratio between stitches and rows will be much changed, so it is an advantage to be able to use the angle table. Likewise, various pattern knittings may give another ratio. But of course, you may always calculate it instead, if you think that is easier.

You may also use the table the opposite way around. If you want to knit a raglan sweater and want to make the pattern so that you decrease at every other, then you can find out how to draw the slope for the armhole. If you have the normal ratio between stitches and rows, you have to count on a figure between as 2 to 3 and as 3 to 4, and if you look in the angle table, this will be between 36.9° and 33.7°, so let us say 35°. This is the angle that the slope must form relative to vertical.

You cannot always find an exact figure, but then you take the figure that is closest (look in the table).

Raglan is described in the chapter garment patterns.