Swatching to see what might happen ... This sounds so innocent, yet opens so many options. There is a reason behind this madness. Many of us are creating garments that don't fit quite right. For those who do get gauge one way but not the other, maybe it's too short and pinches us somewhere or the length is great but that quarter of a stitch we didn't think would matter in the 4 inches has now made a sweater or skirt wide enough to drive a Mac truck through.
Keeping the yarn, stitch pattern and needles the only constant, these are some options. Gather all your different materials of needles, making sure they are the same size, mm not US.
1. throw the yarn, yarn held in right hand, English style
2. pick the yarn, yarn held in the left hand, Continental style
3. yarn around the neck and flicked with the thumb, Portuguese style. I have yet to be able to do this.
4. aluminum needles
5. bamboo needles
6. rosewood needles
7. plastic needles
8. chromed needles, steel needles
9. straight needles
10. circular needles
11. Western knitting, knit in the front of the stitch
12. Eastern knitting, knit in the back of the stitch
13. combinations 1, 2, 3, 11, 12,
14. each combination from 13 with different materials of needles.
15. knit from left to right instead of right to left
Work two repeats wide, one repeat tall (a stitch pattern 8 - 16 stitches wide by 8 - 10 rows is good for this exercise) of your chosen stitch pattern with each method. Keep a written list of which method or tool each repeat corresponds to. Wash and block the final swatch. Do not stretch, just pin out. Let dry.
Now take your measuring tool. A quilter's square is very useful in this event, as it is a solid piece of clear acrylic marked off in 1/4". Do you find that certain styles of knitting are wider, shorter, thinner, taller? How about the different materials? Do they have any effect that you can see? Count your stitches and rows..... make notes on your list of what does what as well as your gauge for each. Now keep the list and swatch together. You have proof of what does what.
Ready to start a garment? Use the extra ball of yarn you bought to swatch and work your first swatch. Wash, dry and measure. What's going on? Check your list against the swatch you just finished. Swatch using the method or tools that seems like it might make the change needed. Wash, dry and measure. Good? Now either change again and repeat or start your new project.