Everyone who knows me in my knitting life knows I covet gauge. I teach about it, talk about it, stress the importance of it, and always do it. Each time I have checked my gauge, for the past sixteen-plus years, I have used my Susan Bates “Knit-Chek.”
For all these years, this gauge ruler was in my bag, at the ready for any measuring I might need to do for myself or for others. This cheap metal ruler has served me well, always accurately and precisely measuring gauge for countless future sweaters. Through the years, I’ve used other gauge rulers, but they never quite measured up to this one, either being too thick, too narrow, too fussy, too fancy, or too hard to use. Every single time, even if I had checked gauge on another ruler, I’ve had to double-check using my “Knit-Chek.”
Without wanting to admit it, my most trusted knitting tool had begun to fail me. I started noticing inconsistencies about a year ago, when my students were certain they had gotten gauge, but my “Knit-Chek” told otherwise. Not wanting to believe my tool was fallible, I would continue to compare the gauge I read using my students’ rulers versus my own, insisting something was amiss.
It has taken me this whole year of wonky gauge readings, causing a ridiculous amount of confusion and reswatching, only to finally realize what has been true for at least the past year:
My trusted tool is not to be trusted. Not anymore and not ever again.
After years of hard use, of always being there when I needed it, my tool is now bent. Sadly, a bent gauge ruler is a useless gauge ruler. Every time I use it, it measures at least a quarter stitch off per inch. And, as we already determined, if you know anything about me as a knitter, you know that that quarter of a stitch matters. A lot.
So, I am forced to move on unwillingly. I have purchased another cheap metal gauge ruler, this time by Boye. It is much the same and yet different enough that I don’t like it. And yet, its edges are straight.
And so I move on.
I don’t quite know what to do with my Susan Bates “Knit-Chek.” I worry that if I hold on to it too long, it will be like my daughters’ lost teeth, uselessly stored in my underwear drawer, because it seemed wrong to just throw them away at the time, and now it’s just weird and wrong and embarrassing. My sentimentality prevents me from just tossing it in the trash, but it no longer works as it should; donating it just seems vindictive, cursing some other knitter to years of unknowingly kniting ill-fitting sweaters due to poorly measured gauge swatches. Framing and hanging it seems silly and yet kind of endearing.
Perhaps this post can serve as its eulogy, acknowledging its time with me from a novice knitter and beyond. I am grateful for all the information this simple tool taught me. It did exactly what it was supposed to do and nothing more.
Until it didn’t.
If only everything in our lives could be so straightforward.