Gauge is Important Part 1 – Basic Gauge Swatch

17 Mar

I would like to first off apologize for my absence. I know for some it’s not much of an excuse, but I really have been swamped these last few weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, I am getting hitched this summer (like 2.5 months away! Eep!) and moving at the end of this month..which is barely 2 weeks away. So really I am quite stressed trying to find a home for myself & hubby to be.  Atleast we got the big wedding stuff down, except invitations. I really hope to dedicate more time to this blog as soon as I have a moment to sit down and do so. NOW! On to the post:

So like I said a few posts ago or so, I’ve been knitting for a few years. When looking at patterns I’ve always seen:

Needle size: 8

Yarn: worsted

Gauge: 18st X 24Rows = 4″ St St Square.

Back then, I ignored this. Bah! Who needs to make a swatch. It just takes up so much of my valuable time.  Then 2 days+ days later, I have this beanie that is NO WHERE near the size of my head, and wonder…what happened? The only gauge I know of is my ears. HMPH!

Many mis-fitting beanies later, I gave in and realized:

Gauge is important!

Gauge is important!


This is why I’ve decided to write a 3 part segment on gauge.

  • Gauge swatch basics
  • How to alter a pattern
  • Basic pattern making / Freelance knitting.

It seems so ridiculous, but it makes sense if you are making anything that needs to fit something. If it’s a coaster, or washcloth, I can let it slide. However, if it’s a hat, mittens, sweater, leg warmers…anything that will be worn please listen to me. Gauge is important.

Once I got my hands on Stitch & Bitch Nation by Debbie Stroller, it really outlined what opportunities doing a gauge swatch and math can offer. You can use (almost) ANY YARN YOU WANT for a pattern with a little math. You can use  ANY NEEDLES! You can break down pattern motifs and build them up. It’s amazing what’ll happen when you really understand that knitting is all really mathematical. Perhaps, that’s why I love it so much. I am such a math geek. 😉

Today, I will focus on how to do a everyday gauge swatch, and what tools are handy for this. I’m going to use a pattern I made up literally the other day while knitting in a van to meet my Fiancé’s extended family. I’ll call this pattern “Double up the rib, extra slouch on top please” beanie. You can see this pattern here:

This is what we have for the gauge information:

Needles: US 8 / 5.0MM

Yarn: Bulky 12ply

Gauge: 12 st x 16rw = 4″ St St

Now I know I am a loose knitter, and my rows for some reason are always the same as my st, or just a little larger.  now I made a hat that was 20″ diameter, and wanted a number divisible by 4 for my 2X2 rib. See, gauge is key to making patterns.

Well say you knit this gauge up with the same needles & yarn, and got 16st per 4″. That is only 1 more stitch per inch. Well, that would make you hat 5″ smaller over those 60 stitches. That’s right, your adult hat, just turned into a kids hat, that would most likely barely stretch over your head.

Say if you knitted just 2 stitches per inch, making 8 stitches per 4″.  That one stitch adds 10 more inches for your hat. That’s right, the measly 1 less stitch makes you hat into a top for some little girl.

So you wonder, WHAT DO I DO!  I really want to make this awesome hat pattern! But, the supplies do not meet the demands.

First off, calm down! It’s just a beanie. Second, all you need is a little math, and some needles to swatch on. Let’s go over the basic of making a gauge swatch.

What you need:

  • Yarn (or couple) of choice
  • needles – I like to grab a couple a size over and under what’s requested.
  • ruler, and one of those AWESOME gauge square things like I found on etsy or the very handy iPhone app KnitGauge. You can also pick up one with needle gauge at you LYS or Michaels:

1. Knit more stitches than the swatch says. (I cheat, and usually knit about 10-15 stitches. but hey, I’m a rebel) If it says 18, try 20. Really, you need atleast 3″ width to measure for the guage.

2. Knit for about 2.5-3″ in length.  At this point it is recommended you bind off, and block the square as you would the garment. Now, you SHOULD do this. I am not a good example here, since I am so impatient, and lazy..oh yeah, and a rebel.

3. measure. I suggest to measure atleast 2″ x 2″ square. :

I also suggest measuring up to 1/4 of a stitch if possible. 1/2 at the least. It will be a difference in larger garments.

Now say the US 8 gave you 4st per 1″. Well, try to go a needle size up. Maybe the US9 will give you the gauge you need. or even US10.  Now instead of having a beanie that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy, you have a perfect fitting one! How exciting!

I encourage  any and all questions! If something needs to be explained more detailed, or if you need more picture examples, please feel free to tell me. I want this 3 part segment to be as helpful as possible.

Next will be how to alter a pattern for size & yarn. I’ll give you a few nifty math equations.

Happy Knitting!


 Gauge is Important Part 2: Altering a Pattern


One Response to “Gauge is Important Part 1 – Basic Gauge Swatch”


  1. Guest Post | Sew Basted I Wanna Purl | Beginners Guide to Knitting | littlewillowtree - September 5, 2012

    […] information written out for you instead of these neat boxes.These boxes are suppose to represent gauge swatches. See the needles in them middle box? And see how it says use 9US or 5.5mm needles? Lets get some […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: