A Guide on Gauge

I am not sure if this post ought to be called A Guide on Gauge or Gauge Guiding.  In either case, I have become a huge fan of knitting up gauges!   To the uninformed, the process of taking time to work up a gauge might seem like an unnecessary and/or optional step in working up a hand knit.

There is one reliable way to get that hand knitted garment that you’ve been slaving over or about to slave over to fit the way you want each and every time.  And, that way is to TAKE TIME TO WORK UP A GAUGE.   I know of no other way to gain knowledge in how your garment is going to fit except for this.  Gauge simply means to knit up a swatch or a little square knitted piece of fabric in the stitch or color work that consumes most of your sweater.  Seems simple enough and the directions always state that a knitter ought to start with this step, first!   However, and under very understandable circumstances, you are so excited to begin the project itself, this task seems tedious.  Let me tell you, it becomes a whole lot MORE tedious when you knit that swatch and it does not measure what it should.  Normally a swatch measures 4 in. x 4 in. (10cm. x 10cm.) with the specific number of stitches and specific number of rows given in the directions.

I remember in the early years of knitting, I would read that step, even though in every pattern it is written in capital  letters (as above), I would ignore.  And, I can sit here and remember exactly how many sweaters fit exactly the way I wanted back in the day.  Very few to none.  Many mistakes later, I now am fully committed to this step.

So, I’m currently working up gauges (notice the plural form) for this lovely project I call March of the Elephants designed by Martin Storey for hubby, photographer who is long overdue for a hand knit.  Isn’t he gorgeous…. yes, I am meaning the sweater!  Can you imagine taking the time to knit this beauty only to give it away and that person saying “hmmm… love it but…”
Noah's Ark

Somehow, when I knit for another, I am even MORE committed in making sure the finished project fits as I am fully aware of  the excitement any beautiful, new garment is in a wardrobe and the anticipation and imagination of when and where it might be worn.


ACCURACY :  Knitting a larger swatch gives you more accuracy.  Many knitting experts say the gauge ought to measure 8in. x 8in. (20cm. x 20cm.)  Finishing School a Master Class for Knitters by Deborah Newton speaks to this end.  Rule of thumb is for more stitches to the inch, choose a smaller needle size than required.  For fewer stitches to the inch, choose a larger one.

ORGANIZATION:  Starting with the recommended needle size, keep the completed gauge on the needle.  That way you will be able to remember which gauge was done with what size needle and can continue to knit onto it if needed.

IMG_3653WASTE NOT:  Do not worry about the yarn amounts you might use up in gauge work as they can easy be ripped out and the yarn and can  be used in your project.

AWARENESS:  Think about what you’re knitting!  Remember, you are in full control and literally creating the fabric for your garment.  Compare those finished gauges because you might like the tightness or looseness of one gauge over the other.  The ‘math’ or number of stitches per inch/number of rows per inch can always be altered if you prefer a gauge that is of a different needle size than what was recommended.  This is the beautiful part of creating from scratch.  You are the master of your own creation!

CONFIDENCE BUILDING:  I feel much more confident and fully in command of my project when I know exactly how many stitches and rows to the inch I am getting.  I will know exactly the length and width of every section of my project.   Then, I am confident that the time I am taking to knit this masterpiece will fit the recipient the way he/she wants.

PREPAREDNESS:  My tape measure is by my side at all times.  I check my gauge regularly throughout the knitting process.

Please keep in mind there is a certain science on the topic of gauge.  This is simply a plea for the reader to understand the importance of realizing taking time to check YOUR gauge will indeed make the difference between fit success and fit failure of your project.

8 responses to “A Guide on Gauge”

  1. For the first time in my life, I’ve not only done the gauge swatch but also washed it. You are so right, it is worth taking the time. My most recent FO fits perfectly because I checked carefully using two different needle sizes, and chose the size that gave me the recommended gauge. I am now an adept of the gauge, if not an expert yet. Looking forward to seeing your version of this sweater, love the colors you selected.


    • Yes, I have read on Ravelry how some wash their gauges. Then, you likely are planning on treating the finished garment the same way you treated the gauge. I tend to minimally block my finished garments, if at all. So, I might minimally block my swatches. There really is a lot to this process but like you have discovered, it is well worth the effort. The yarn is beautiful! Stay tuned. Goal: to finish for hubby’s birthday in November.


  2. So, are you going to strand during the non-elephant parts? You will probably need to do another gauge if not. (I always have to change needle size for the stockinette only sections alternated with stranding)

    This looks really lovely. I wish that elephant’s head wasn’t cut off for the cardigan opening, the poor dear!


    • Yikes and NO, for sure regarding stranding during st. st. part. Yes, to another gauge (maybe) however I am suspecting the same needles may be fine. I had to go down two sizes for the stranded part and can actually CHANGE that gauge as to how I knit those elephants as they are knitted with both stranded and intarsia technique. (Carrying yarn tightens, intarsia loosens.) I think the plain stockinette will not have too much of a gauge difference, least that’s my prediction but I’ll know by tonight! (In the meantime, no bobbins… yeah!!) My eye sees the rest of the elephant on the other side! No worries! But focus right now MUST be on fit!


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