Got Gauge?

Making a gauge swatch is the best, most accurate way to determine whether your knitted or crocheted finished project will fit and/or be the right size.

So why would you want to skip this step?

Just think, if you are making a hat to fit a 21″ head and the requested stitch is 5 sts/inch, but you’re working at 4 sts/inch, your hat will end up being 26¼” around – you’ll be swimming in that hat. It just won’t fit! What if you were making a sweater and your gauge was off by that much???

Gauge swatches are essential!

Here are some basics to keep in mind when making your gauge swatches:

  • Check your pattern for the recommended gauge (stitches and rows).
  • Use the needle or hook size recommended in your pattern, unless you are not using the yarn recommended in the pattern. In that case use the needle size recommended on the ball band for your swatch.
  • Make your swatch at least 6″ x 6″ in the stitch required.
  • Knitters – Work your gauge swatch in the round if the pattern is knit in the round – your purl gauge is probably different than your knit gauge.
  • Bind off (knit) or finish off (crochet) your swatch.
  • Measurement #1 – measure your swatch, making note of the stitches/inch and the rows/inch (this is your pre-washed gauge or pre-blocked gauge).
  • Wash and block your swatch as you would your finished item. If you plan on throwing your finished sweater in the washing machine then laying it flat to dry, treat your swatch the same way.IMG_5061
  • Measurement #2 – measure your swatch again, making note of the stitches/inch and the rows/inch (this is your finished gauge)

Our sample was:

  • Pre-washed gauge- 18 sts = 4 3/8″ and 28 rows = 4″ (or 4.1 sts/inch and 7 rows/inch)
  • Finished gauge – 18 sts = 4 1/4″ and 28 rows = 4 1/8″ (or 4.2 sts/inch and 6.8 rows/inch)

While those differences don’t seem significant, if you are knitting a sweater and you’re pattern says to cast on 178 sts for a 42″ circumference sweater, your pre-washed sweater will be ~43.5″, but after washing it will be ~42.5″. You might think that you need to go down a needle size based on the pre-washed swatch, but in reality you don’t…

If your finished stitch gauge has more stitches per inch than the recommended stitch gauge, switch to a larger needle, and swatch again.

If your finished stitch gauge has less stitches per inch than the recommended stitch gauge, switch to a smaller needle, and swatch again.

If your finished row gauge is different than the recommended row gauge, your pattern and/or the quantity of yarn you may need and/or the type of knitting needles you are using may need to be adjusted. Please ask us for advice!

Why do you want to make note of both your pre-washed gauge as well as your finished gauge? Well, you will actually be knitting/crocheting to your pre-washed gauge, so you will need to know how different it is when figuring out how far to knit/crochet. For instance, let’s say you’re knitting a sweater, and the pattern says to knit the body until it is 10″ from the cast on edge before you start your armhole (for our purposes, we’re going to pretend that there is no edging, you cast and just knit, never changing your needle size, until you have 10″). Now suppose your pre-washed gauge gave you a row count of 8 rows per inch, but your finished gauge was 7 rows per inch. That means when you wash and block your sweater after you’ve knit it, your sweater is going to “grow” in length from 10″ to 11″ from the bottom edge to the armhole. Not good – unless you wanted a longer sweater! Instead, if you know that your finished gauge is 7 rows/inch, you know that you should knit 7 rows/inch x 10″ = 70 rows. It means you have to count your rows rather than pulling out your handy tape measure, but you’ll be so much happier in the end!

Learn from our mistakes (yes, we’ve made sweaters … and hats … and mittens … and other things that didn’t fit)! Do your gauge swatch.

~ Cecilia and Laura

PS Check out our video podcast, the Yarn Mews, for more useful tips – and some silliness.

3K Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, Winter Solstice… Whatever holiday you are buying for is right around the corner, so we thought we should give you some ideas of great gifts for people on your list.

For Anyone



Ovella Wool Dryer BallsFor the eco-conscious

These dryer balls help speed up drying, control static clean, last for hundreds of washes, and completely eliminate the need for dryer sheets.





SoakGreat Stocking Stuffer 

Soak is our go-to wool and delicates cleaner.





Gleener to Go For the Style Maven

Some people always look put together, and their clothes are impeccable. This handy tool helps rid clothing of pills and lint, plus it’s the perfect size for travel.




Lolo Bar Gift Sets – For Travelers and Makers

These little gift sets are perfect for people who travel and for makers of all types. Keep their hands soft with a Cuticle Intensive and two travel sized Lolo To Go lotion bars with our Gift Set. The Lolo Travel Lite Set has a mini-deodorant, mini-face pudding, Lolo To Go, and a mini-lip balm.




Bullenbees Skin Care Because it’s Winter

Locally made Bullenbees products are filled with vitamins (much more than most other skin care products) and are beloved by our customers. The Chapped Hand & Foot Therapy is our favorite item and comes in a travel size, 6 oz tube, or 8 oz pump bottle.


Beginning ClassFor the Novice Maker

With the new year, our beginning classes will be ready to go again! Click for more information about Needlepoint, Knitting, Crochet, or Rigid-Heddle Weaving. All classes (except weaving) can also be handled as private or private group lessons. Just call us at 651-457-4969 for more details. (See below for children’s classes.)


Minnesota Maker DecalsFor Established Makers

Help your maker show their love of their state and their craft with these 5″ decals – a 3 Kittens exclusive! Perfect for cars, laptops, windows, and more.


For Children



Bundle Up Betty For the Girl Who Loves Dress Up

Bundle Up Betty is a wooden version of the paper doll. Little girls (or their adult makers) can create their own outfits to dress Betty in. Patterns are available on Ravelry to knit, but sewn clothes would be great as well.




Kids Knit Too Bunny

Kids Knit Too Class – For Little Makers-to-Be

Schedule your little ones (ages 10 and up, please) for two private lessons with our knitting instructor to learn how to cast on, knit, bind off, and create a cute little bunny. After the Kids Knit Too Class, your little maker will be on her/his way to a knitting life.


For Needlepointers






Needle Bling/Magnets 

Needle magnets are essential to needlepointing – they keep your needles handy and safe when not in use. And, if you have to use needle magnets, why not make them something special with these blingy ones? (Sorry, not available on line.)




Stella Light TableStella Light

These are our favorite lights by far! With Tri-Spectrum Technology which allows users to easily change their light from a warm spectrum similar to incandescent lights, to a natural white similar to sunlight, to a cool white similar to moonlight and  5-level dimming, the Stella light is simply the best. Available in floor, table or clamp models.

K's Floor Stand


K’s Floor Stand

Needlepointers love this stand, because it allows them to stitch hands free, giving more flexibility to execute complicated stitches and relieving muscle aches and pains. Give this to someone you love!



For Yarnies


Yarn Bowls

Yarn bowls are beautiful and functional – they keep yarn from rolling across the floor (or under your chair) while working with it.




True Colors 1


True Colors Color Pack

This beautiful shawl by designer Melanie Berg will flatter anyone and be a joy to knit. Our kit contains all of the colors chosen by the designer died in luscious Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. (The color pack does not include the pattern, but it can be downloaded here.)





June Cashmere

Treat your knitter or crocheter to true luxury with this 100% Cashmere yarn. June works with nomadic Kyrgyz shepherds to collect the fiber for this beautiful and oh-so-soft yarn. One skein will make the Journey Mitts or three skeins can make the His or Her Scarf.


Of course, these are not the only gifts we have available at 3 Kittens – there are too many to choose from to list them all here. But, hopefully, this gives you a few ideas!

Remember, a thoughtful gift is always more exciting to open than a gift card (although, we sell those too!).


Last Minute Gifts to Knit or Crochet

Looking for some ideas for last minute making? We know that the holidays are right around the corner, so we’ve done some searching on Ravelry to find some quick gifty projects.



Troll by Gabriela Widmer-Hanke

What child wouldn’t look cute in this hat? The pattern is free and would be great knit out of Malabrigo Rios (100% superwash merino wool).



Basic Children's Mitts


Basic Children’s Mittens by Elizabeth Durand

Brrr! It’s getting cold out there, so whip up a few pairs of mittens for the little ones. Another free pattern. Yarn recommendation: Cascade 220 SW Effects (100% superwash wool).

Emergency Hat


Emergency Hat (& Cowl) by Frankie Brown

This cleverly constructed hat can also become a cowl – user’s choice. Another free pattern that would be terrific in Noro Silk Garden (45% Silk, 45% Kid Mohair, 10% Lambswool) or Freia Ombre Worsted (100% wool).


Cables Love Pompoms


Cables Love Pom Poms by Jami Brynildson

Another free pattern that would look great with our Faux Fur Pompoms! Make the hat out of super bulky Cascade Pacific Chunky (60% acrylic, 40% merino wool) for the quickest gift ever.




Crunching Leaves Cowl


Crunching Leaves by Casapinka

We love this two color cowl made with bulky yarn. Try it with Malabrigo Mecha (100% merino wool) or Sugar Bush Canoe (61% wool, 26^ alpaca, 13% polyamide).



Simple House Slippers


Simple House Slippers by Simone A.

These sweet little slippers will fly off your needles. Try new Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone DK – a 100% British wool (25% Wensleydale, 50% Blue Faced Leicester, 25% Masham).



Make In One Evening Mitt


Make-us-in-One-evening-With-a-great-movie-Mitts by A French Touch

A great free pattern for striking crocheted mitts. Yarn recommendation: Anzula For Better or Worsted (80% wool, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon).




Comfy Square Buttoned Cowl


Comfy Squares Buttoned Cowl by Rebecca Langford

This cozy (and comfy) cowl can be whipped up quickly using The Fibre Company’s Arranmore (80% Merino Wool, 10% Silk, 10% Cashmere).




Crooked Coffee Cozy


Crooked Coffee Cozy by Danyel Pink

Make one of these for everyone on your list. They’re so fast, you can make one in every color imaginable! We recommend Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok (100% Fine Highland Wool).



Slipper Boots


Slipper Boots by Erika Knight

A free pattern and bulky yarn equals a great last minute gift idea! Try Superwash Soft (80% Merino Wool, 20% Nylon) from Sweet Georgia for deep rich color.




Join Our

Gift-A-Long 2017

Saturdays from 2-5pm

December 2, 9, 16, 23


Got other great last minute knit or crochet gift ideas? Share them in the comments below!

Join the Antler Cardigan Knit-A-Long


The Antler Cardigan Knit-A-Long is less than 2 weeks away. I am looking forward to making myself a “go to” cardigan. I have decided to use Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted. It comes in many colors and doesn’t have merino so I can knit with it [editor’s note – Cecilia is the only person I know of who is allergic to merino – not other types of wool, just merino!].

I have started my gauge swatch… I will not know how the fabric is going to look until I wash the swatch. I find that Superwash yarns act differently once they get wet; they tend to grow one way or the other, so I am making a nice big swatch.

Antler Swatch

The Antler cardigan has a little cabling at the top so when choosing a color, I wanted something that would not hide the cables and went with a lot of clothes. I decided on grey, which is totally outside my comfort zone; I prefer bright reds and purples, but I do like how it is coming out. There is just a little heathering, but not too much. I think it is going to be very nice.

The Antler Cardigan by Tin Can Knits starts at 6 months and goes to 4x so you could make one for any one you know. Make a baby one – because there are always going to be babies – and the 6 month size only uses 280 yards. A child size could actually be used as a gauge swatch for a bigger one, and you could make a matching cardigan for you and your favorite child. It is definitely a unisex sweater.

It is not too late to sign up to join me. We start on 9/23. I hope to see you there.

~ Cecilia

Phase 2 of Road Construction – How to Get to Us

Whew! We successfully survived the first phase of the Hwy 110 construction project. Over the weekend of August 5-6, MnDot opened up all of the east bound lanes! Yippee! But, they’ve now closed the west bound lanes. Sigh!

What does this change mean for you?

If you’re coming from the North, South or West

You can go back to using Hwy 110 to get to us. Simply follow your normal route to the store and take Dodd Rd to Hwy 110.

Getting home will be a bit more problematic. To go South or West, take Dodd Rd south to Hwy 494 W. To go North, take Dodd Rd north to the Marie Ave (the first stop sign; turn left and go to Victoria (the first stop sign); turn right and go to Hwy 13 (first stop sign); turn right and take go to Hwy 35E (less than 1/4 mile).

If you’re coming from the East

Take Hwy 494 west to Dodd Rd, turn right and go 1.5 miles to the Village at Mendota Heights (take a right on the first street after Hwy 110 – Market St).

110 Alternatives - 494 west to Dodd

You can return home the same way or use Hwy 110 east to connect to Hwy 52 or Hwy 494.

It looks like we’ll have another 6+ weeks until this project is over. Thank you for your patience and support!

Aalto KAL: Part 2, Swatching (again) and Casting On

After completing my 2nd swatch, blocking and hanging it for a while as suggested in the first blog post about our Aalto KAL, my gauge was still off by one stitch per inch – I have 21 sts and 27 rows per 4″ instead of the required 22 sts and 28 rows. So, am I going to make a new swatch on a smaller needle to try to squeeze in that additional st and row? No.

Now, before you jump all over me for not getting gauge since that’s what we preach here all the time, I have my reasons. First, this is not a garment that needs to fit accurately (like a sweater or hat does). I did the calculations and realized that the difference in size is not going to make a big difference for me personally. I’m making the largest size, so I will be casting on 209 stitches.

209 sts divided by 5.25 sts/” = 39.8″ (vs the 38″ shown on the schematic)

Almost 2″ difference. But, I’m tall and can handle that extra 2″ without any issue. I took a tape measure and held the end at the center back of my neck, down over the curve of my shoulder and along my arm. 20″ (half of the approx 40″ width of the front or back) hit me just above the elbow. I think that’s o.k.

Now about that pesky row gauge. What to do about that? If I was making a sweater with a set in sleeve, I would have to either get the row gauge or make some adjustments to make the sleeve work. But… Aalto is unfitted so adjustments aren’t as necessary or difficult. Again, I am tall (5’8″), so I don’t want to the garment to be short on me. Luckily, 26.25″ is pretty good for me. So, I just need to make sure that I get to the required length (23″) before I start the shoulder shaping. (I highly recommend checking the length by holding a tape measure to your body – if you are short, you may need to decrease the length.)

While I could simply measure each piece and hope for the best, the better way to make sure my front and back match in length is to count my rows. For 23″ at a gauge of 27 rows/4″, I should knit 155 rows (wow, that’s a lot of knitting!) before I start the shoulder shaping.

What’s the best way to count my rows? I could use the old-fashioned method of hash-marks on a piece of paper. Or I could use the CountMeme App that I have on my phone.


But, I’m worried that I will forget to “hash” or to press the button on CountMeme, so instead I am going to using locking stitch markers to mark off every 10 rows.

FullSizeRender (4)

For me, this will work the best. What technique will you use?

Finally, casting on…

209 stitches to cast on is daunting – especially thinking that I would have to count those stitches multiple times in order to convince myself that I cast on the right amount. To make it more palatable, I put a st marker on my needle after every 10 stitches – as I was casting on.

FullSizeRender (3)

For 209 sts, I used 20 markers. I could have used regular stitch markers, but I used locking ones because they were handy. After I knit my first row, I will remove all except those marking the 50th, 100th, 150th, and 200th stitches. I’m leaving those in to help with counting later on.

People always ask how to know how long of a tail to leave for long-tail cast ons such as the German Twisted Cast On called for in the Aalto pattern. There are many ways to accomplish this. Check out this Google search for some ideas.

That’s it for now! Who’s started their project?

~ Laura

Aalto KAL: Part 1, the Swatch

We’re gearing up to start the Aalto Knit-a-long starting June 17 (sorry for the delay, everyone; we had two colors that were back ordered…). In prep to start knitting, I highly recommend doing your gauge swatch at least the week before the KAL starts.

I did my gauge swatch this past week. I chose the Poppy colorway (thought it would go nicely with the purples and pink in my hair! The Poppy color is actually a bit darker than pictured).

Here was my process for doing my gauge swatch. I hope this helps you when you do your gauge swatch:

  • Because the gauge is supposed to be 22 sts & 28 rows/4″ and I always want to do a swatch at least 6″ wide (the bigger the better for swatches, people), I decided to cast on 30 stitches (to get a 6″ wide swatch, I really should have cast on 33 stitches, but…).
  • I knew this yarn would be slippery and while I am addicted to Addi needles because they are super fast, I decided that it would be better to go to a less slick needle. I chose Knitter’s Pride Karbonz. Karbonz circularI could have used bamboo needles, but the Karbonz combine the flexibility and “stickiness” of bamboo or wood needles with the speed of metal because of the metal tips. (Keep in mind when doing your swatch to knit it with the same needles you will be using for your garment – your gauge may be different with a wood needle vs a metal needle or a different brand).
  • The pattern calls for a German Twisted Cast On. Instructions for this cast on are provided in the pattern, but I found them hard to understand. Shibui also provides a link to Lucy Neatby’s video on this technique, but again, I was having a hard time following the video. So, I went to the trusty Cast On, Cast Off by Leslie Ann Bestor. Sure enough, German Twisted Cast On, aka Old Norwegian Cast On, was in there, IMG_2282and I was able to figure it out. Your swatch is a great place to practice this cast on if it’s new to you!
  • I started my swatch the way the pattern says to start – with 4 rows of reverse stockinette. This is not necessary, but I just wanted to see how it looked. After that I switched to stockinette for the full width of the swatch.
  • I often will slip the first stitch of every row for an item that is not being seamed, because it produces a nice edge; however, I noticed when I was doing each row in stockinette with this yarn and the bigger than expected needle size that the edge stitch was rolling under to the back. And I knew that the edge of the actual garment is in reverse stockinette, so after I had knit a few inches, I added the edging called for in the pattern to my swatch. Slipped StYou can see that the edge stitch (inside the purple box) is rolling to the front of the swatch now that I am doing the reverse stockinette edging. I decided that I really didn’t like that look, so I switched to actually working the edge stitch (knit or purl depending on the row). Here’s how it looks after I switched (above the black line is the area where I did not slip the first stitch of each row).Not Slipped I wish I had done a few more rows, but I think I like the non-slipped edge stitch better.
  • The gauge in the pattern calls for the swatch to be blocked. Make sure you do this before you measure! I got the swatch completely wet then laid it on my kitchen counter to dry overnight. I didn’t pin or use blocking wires; I just patted it flat and aligned the edges with my hand.
  • After it dried, I measured the center of the swatch in the area where I had only done stockinette (not where I had done the reverse stockinette edging). Measuring in the center will give a truer measurement than incorporating the edging stitches in your measurements. Make sure to measure across at least 4 inches. My blocked gauge was 18 sts/4″ – too few stitches!
  • BUT… because cotton & linen are notorious for stretching, I thought I’d better simulate gravity and hang my swatch up for a few days to see if the gauge changed. I hung the swatch on a pants hanger. Because the swatch is much smaller than the finished Aalto poncho will be and thus won’t stretch by itself as much as the full garment, I wove my circular knitting needle through the bottom of the swatch to simulate the gravitational pull on a larger garment. IMG_2330After hanging for a few days, my gauge had changed slightly to 19 sts/4″. Still not right…

It’s back to the drawing board (or knitting needles) for me – I’ll have to go down a needle size to try to get the right number of stitches per inch. (Oh, and by the way, my row gauge was 27 rows/4″; almost right. I’m hoping changing the needle size will help with that as well. I’ll discuss how to compensate for row gauge in a future post.)

~ Laura