Knitting to Fit – Know Your Gauge !

It may seem like a nuisance to knit a 4-inch square swatch that won’t be part of the
finished project, but this gauge swatch is the most important piece of knitting you
will do. Besides, you can put all your gauge swatches together for a patchwork
throw someday.

Once you choose the yarn and the stitch, experiment with different size needles
until you find the ones that give the effect you want. Some yarn labels suggest
needle sizes; generally the yarn and the needles are in direct proportion—the
thicker the yarn, the larger the needles. You may vary from this rule of thumb for a
special effect, or you can combine several yarns of varying thicknesses for a tweedy
or multicolor look. Just be sure to use the exact yarns and stitch for the gauge
swatch that will be used for the finished project.

Knit your gauge swatch 4 inches square—any smaller and the gauge may prove
inaccurate. Any discrepancy of even 1/4 inch will show up in a swatch 4 inches
square. Press the swatch lightly and pin to a flat surface. With a tape measure or
ruler and straight pins, find both the number of stitches and the number of rows per
inch. In most cases, there will be more rows per inch than stitches per inch. Measure carefully—a fraction of an inch or half a stitch may seem insignificant, but it can make a big difference over the width of a sweater.

If you are following written directions, rather than creating your own, the gauge
swatch will indicate whether or not you will achieve the same results as the
designer. If your swatch does not measure up to the given gauge, change needle
sizes until you find the correct one. Do not try to adjust the tension of your knitting
to suit the gauge; this will be difficult to maintain for more than a short time. If you
have more stitches per inch than given in the gauge, use larger needles; fewer
stitches, use smaller needles. When the stitch gauge is correct, the row gauge
usually follows. If not, you can always add or subtract a few rows to make up the
difference. Write the gauge on the back of the yarn label and pin this to the gauge
swatch for future reference.

(Number Of Inches) x (Stitches Per Inch) = Knitting That Fits

It’s simple multiplication—you want a sweater to measure 38 inches around the
hips and the gauge you’ve worked out is 5 stitches to the inch, so you cast on 190
stitches. Some patterns call for smaller needles to be used on ribbing or border
stitches for a snug fit; the gauge then applies only to the body of the sweater
worked on larger needles. Double check written directions to see if the gauge will
give you the measurements you want. The pattern may allow more or less ease
than you like and it is best to find that out before you start to knit, so adjustments
can be made. Be sure to read through all the directions and note in writing any
changes in number of stitches or inches before you start—you may forget later.

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  1. beth June 28, 2009
  2. Tagsmith December 11, 2014

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