Knitting Gauge

What is Gauge?

It tells you what size your stitches should be.

It is measured by: how many stitches are in a row (or a round) 

What is a Swatch?

A swatch is simply a knitted fabric sample.  It is best worked in a 6″ piece (either flat or faux-round). This helps you to see what the final fabric will look like.

Flat or Round?

If the pattern is knit flat (worked back and forth across rows) then your swatch should be knitted flat.

If your pattern is knit in the round…your swatch should be knitted in the round (you can make a faux-round instead of making a tube).

How can I find out? Check the gauge section of your pattern. If it does not tell you specifically to knit your swatch flat or in the round…then look at the pattern to see how the item is constructed (i.e., do you knit the garment flat and then seam it or do you knit it in the round)?

How Many Stitches?

Here is how to find out how many stitches you should cast on to make a 6 inch swatch. First, we will find out how many stitches are in 1 inch of the pattern gauge. Then we will multiply that number by 6 inches to give us the approxiate number of stitches we should cast on.

Example:

  1. Locate the gauge section of your pattern. For the pattern I am using…the pattern tells me: 22 sts in 32 rows = 4″ on a US 4 (3.5mm) needle. So that tells me how many stitches are in 4 inches…I want to know how many stitches are in 1 inch.
  2. To find out how many stitches are in 1 inch…I divide 22 sts / 4 inches =  5.5 sts per 1 inch. So this means there are 5.5 sts in 1 inch of knitted fabric.
  3. To make a 6 inch swatch I will multiply 5.5 sts per inch x 6 inches = 33 sts. So I will cast on approximately 33 sts. 

Now that I have the number of stitches I need to cast on….I need to make sure my cast on is nice and stretchy.

Cast On & Cast Off

IMPORTANT: Make sure your stitches are not restricted by your cast on and cast off. Not sure which cast on/cast off to use? Try this video tutorial from Patty Lyons.

 

IMPORTANT #2: To work your swatch use the SAME EXACT needles (material and type) you are going to use for the pattern. Example: Do not use bamboo DPNs for the swatch and then switch to a metal circular needle to work the pattern. Use the same needles you are going to use to make the pattern – needles (both material and type) can also affect your gauge, as they impact your knitting tension and they way the yarn interacts with the needle.

Wild Stitchers Wooden Swatch Gauge

How to Measure

Once you have completed the 6″ square or the faux-round swatch, you will measure how many stitches and rows there are per inch. There are many different handy dandy gauge tools available. If you do not have one – no worries – just get a ruler.

WRITE THESE NUMBERS DOWN BEFORE BLOCKING

  1. How many sts + rows = 1 inch  of knitted fabric
    1. (i.e., # sts + # rows = 1 inch)
  2. How many sts + rows in 4 inches of knitted fabric 
    1. (i.e., # of sts + # rows = 4 inches)

Blocking

Check the gauge directions for your pattern to see if there are specific instructions on how to block the swatch. Make sure to follow the directions in the pattern. 

Once your swatch has been blocked…and dry its time to measure once more…

  1. How many sts + rows = 1 inch  of knitted fabric
    1. (i.e., # sts + # rows = 1 inch)
  2. How many sts + rows in 4 inches of knitted fabric 
    1. (i.e., # of sts + # rows = 4 inches)

The Numbers Game

Okay – Let’s look at your measurement numbers:

If your blocked measurements matched the pattern – Congratulations. You can start the pattern using the same needles you used to make your swatch. 

If your blocked swatch measurements are different than the pattern gauge. Then you will need to make another swatch. 

  • I have more stitches than the pattern gauge recommends. If the pattern gauge is 5 sts / inch and you got 5.5 stitches (so more stitches than the gauge measurement) your stitches are too small. So — if your stitches are too small how do you make them larger? Try using a larger needle size. Time to work another swatch in a larger needle size.
  • I have fewer stitches than the pattern gauge recommends. If the pattern gauge is 5 sts / inch and you got 4.5 sts (so you have less stitches than the pattern gauge) your stitches are too big. So — if your stitches are too big how do you make them smaller? Try using a smaller needle size. Time to work another swatch in a smaller needle size.

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