Gauge describes the size of knitted stitches. It is a measure of how large the stitches are, and is defined by how many stitches and rows or rounds there are in one inch (2.5cm) or 4 inches (10cm) of knitted fabric. Why is this important?
- Every knitter is unique (when it comes to gauge)
- What is gauge and why does it matter?
- The gauge swatch
- Measuring your gauge
- Once you’ve measured gauge, what’s the next step?
- Should I go up a needle size or down a needle size?
- Why bother checking gauge… does a small difference in gauge really matter?
- But sometimes… gauge just doesn’t matter
Every knitter is unique (when it comes to gauge)
Every knitter is different – we hold our needles and yarn slightly differently, we are more tense or relaxed as we work. This means is that if I knit a square using aran weight yarn and 5mm needles, and Alexa knits a square using exactly the same yarn and needles, the two squares of fabric will likely be slightly different sizes because Alexa and I have different tensions.
Why does gauge matter… what is it FOR?
The gauge stated on knitting patterns acts as a universal equalizer – it allows different knitters to follow the same pattern and achieve the desired size.
If a sweater pattern was simply written for worsted weight yarn and 5mm needles, then everyone’s sweaters would come out differently – there would be no way to predict finished size.
So instead of simply casting on with the needle size suggested in the pattern, when knitting garments you must make a ‘gauge swatch’, to confirm which needle size you will need to achieve the pattern gauge.
What is a gauge swatch?
A swatch is a little piece of knitted fabric, usually about 6″ square-ish or round-ish. Making a gauge swatch gives you a bit of an insight into what your finished garment will look like. It shows you how dense will the fabric be, what gauge you achieve with a given needle size, and what the fabric will look like close up.
Rounds or rows? If you are working on an item that is worked back and forth in rows, like a scarf or a cardigan, you will have a row gauge. If you are working on an item that is knit in the round, like a hat or a pullover, you will have a round gauge.
Why does this matter? Knitter’s gauges (both stitch gauge and row/round gauge) in rows and rounds can differ, even if we are talking about the same knitter on the same size needles.
So, if you are going to be working in rows, your swatch should be in rows. If you are working in rounds, your swatch should be in rounds.
Making a flat gauge swatch
To make a flat gauge swatch, in rows, I typically cast on about 6″ worth of stitches using the needle size suggested by the pattern. If the pattern gauge is 5 sts / inch (5 sts x 6″ = 30) then cast on approximately 30 stitches. Knit a little square starting with a few rows of garter stitch, then working a section of stockinette stitch with little garter borders, then finishing with a bit more garter stitch (the garter edging makes the square lie flat, because stockinette stitch on its own curls).
Making a tubular gauge swatch
If you are swatching an item knit in the round, the most critical gauge is your stockinette gauge worked in the round. There are a couple of ways to do this: you can either knit a small tube and cut it, or you can work a speed swatch.
The tubular swatch
To make a tubular swatch you can use the Magic Loop method, or DPNs, to knit a small tube. Cast on about 6″ worth of stitches, work a few rows in garter (knit 1 round, purl 1 round), then work about 5″ of stockinette, then a few more garter stitch rows and bind off. Then you can cut your swatch to give you a square of fabric you can measure your gauge from.
The speed swatch
A speed swatch is worked on circular needles or DPNs, a right side row (knit) is worked, and then the stitches are moved to the other end of the needle and the yarn is carried across the back, so you can work another right side row. This way you are always knitting, no purls.
Tube or speed swatch, which one is best?
The benefit of the tubular swatch is that it’s a little less fussy to knit, while the speed swatch has lots of yarn carried behind that can get a bit messy. Once you’ve cut your tube though you can’t re-use that yarn, but with a speed swatch you can unravel and use that yarn in a pinch.
So you’ve knit your swatch…time for some measurements!
After completing the square or tube, measure how many stitches and rows there are per inch. I use my handy gauge checking tool, but if you don’t have one you can just use a ruler. Take note of this number – it is your unblocked gauge. While you are working on the garment you can check to make sure your gauge matches this un-blocked gauge.
Next wash the swatch, dry it, and lay it out (this is called ‘blocking’… more on that here). Once dry, measure the stitches and rows per inch once more, and take note of the number again – this is the BLOCKED gauge. Many yarns change gauge quite drastically with blocking, and since you are going to block and wash your finished garment, the gauge after blocking is the really important one to know.
Now is the time to re-measure!
Once you’ve measured gauge, what’s the next step?
If the gauge of your blocked swatch is exactly the same as the gauge required by the pattern, you are lucky! You can proceed to start the pattern using the needles you used to make your swatch.
Should I go up a needle size or down a needle size?
If the gauge of your blocked swatch is different than the gauge required by the pattern, you need to make another swatch (I know I know, but it really must be done). If the pattern gauge is 5 sts / inch, and you got 5.5 stitches / inch, your stitches are TOO SMALL. You need to swatch again using a larger needle size. If the pattern gauge is 5 sts / inch and you got 4.5 sts / inch, your stitches are TOO BIG. You need to swatch again using a smaller needle size. Make sense?
Once you have finished your swatch you may want to label it. This can save you time later if you use the same yarn and needles.
If you have MORE stitches per inch than you need, try a BIGGER needle, if you have FEWER stitches per inch than you need, try a SMALLER needle. size down.
Why bother checking gauge… does a small difference in gauge really matter?
Say you want to knit a sweater to fit your 40″ chest. The pattern gauge is 20 sts / 4″ (or 5 sts per inch), and the suggested needles are 4.5mm (US 7). You choose a worsted weight yarn and cast on 200 stitches with the suggested needles. But you are a slightly looser knitter, and you get a gauge of 4.5 stitches / inch.
200 sts / 5 sts per inch = 40 inches (the sweater fits)
200 sts / 4.5 sts per inch = 44.5 inches (the sweater is 4.5″ too big at your chest… and probably WAY too big everywhere else. This is especially tragic because you spent 40 to 50 hours knitting it, plus spent significant money on beautiful yarn).
What seems like a very small difference in gauge has very significant ramifications in the finished size of a garment. Taking an hour or two to knit a gauge swatch can save you hours and prevent disappointing results.
But sometimes… gauge just doesn’t matter
There are, of course, projects in which gauge is not very important, because fit is less crucial. If you are working a cowl, or a scarf, a shawl, a blanket, or a hat, slight differences in finished size will be less important or evident. For the blanket, cowl, and scarf, the finished size isn’t too critical. For the hat, there are really only so many stitches so you can only be off by so much. It’s also just a hat so a few hours of knitting to find out it’s too big or small isn’t as killer as a sweater (personal experience). So in these cases it is up to you whether making a gauge swatch is worthwhile!
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February 21, 2022 @ 7:18 am
Great tutorial! I’m going to knit Flax Light as my first sweater. Can I do a speed swatch for the swatch in the round? It seems like that would be quicker than having to cast on so many stitches for a 16″ long cord. But wanted to see what you thought as I don’t see that mentioned as an option.
Also – you mention measuring before and after blocking. Assuming you should always go with the blocked guage, what is the purpose of knowing the measurement before you block?
February 23, 2022 @ 10:00 am
Hi – You can definitely do a speed swatch for Flax light! I like to have the pre-blocking information because it gives me a better idea of how lengths will change with blocking (that way I know if I knit my yoke to 8 inches, it will block to 9, for example).
December 24, 2021 @ 1:34 pm
I’ve been a knitter for aa couple of years but this will be my first sweater. My questions are:
1) I have a beautiful yarn that I love (and I have several skeins) BUT it’s DK weight. Can I use it rather than a worsted on the Flax sweater?. I have done a swatch and the gauge using the size 8 needle is a little shy of 4 inches – maybe 3.75. I upped the needle to a 9, and it just looks messy. Do I need to find another use for my DK yarn and resign myself to buying worsted?
2) Could you explain what the terminology “XX inches ease positive…or negative” means?
Thanks so very much!
December 27, 2021 @ 10:11 am
As you’ve found, working your DK yarn at the gauge for Flax (which is designed for a worsted / aran weight yarn) may be a little loose / messy. So I’d suggest, since you’re making your first sweater, to go with another pattern, or get worsted / aran weight yarn for Flax. You can adjust for gauge (we have a tutorial here: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2016/04/07/how-to-knit-a-garment-at-a-different-gauge/ ) but I wouldn’t generally suggest that for a first sweater project).
December 31, 2021 @ 2:29 pm
Thank you! This website is fabulous!
October 26, 2021 @ 4:47 pm
Hello – I’m knitting a gauge swatch for the Flax sweater pattern. Size 8 needles were too big, so I tried size 7 needles which gave me 18.25 stitches/4″, but 4.5 stitches/1″. Is that good enough or should I see what I get with size 6 needles? Thank you!
November 1, 2021 @ 10:34 am
Hi Christy – It seems like 18.25 is as close as you’re going to get. If you find it;s 18.25 but you are getting 4.5 sts per inch it’s probably the right gauge.
October 13, 2021 @ 1:16 pm
Hello! I am so excited about your website. And even more excited that you answer questions.
I am ready to knit my first sweater – Flax – and am looking forward to using your tutorials. (I also couldn’t resist buying Gramps so that I can learn how to do cardigans. But first things first.)
I have quite a bit of Patons Classic Wool Worsted, so thought I’d start with that. I knitted a large swatch. (Such a helpful suggestion – as was the idea to use garter stitch for borders. I had previously tried swatches but they were too small to really be useful.)
First question: For pre-blocking gauge, I counted the number of stitches and rows in a 4″ square. Is it possible to have knitted a 16×20 swatch when Patons says that a #7 needle would be 20×28?
Second question. How do I know what size to block the swatch? I got overzealous and knitted a 8″ x 9″ swatch. Is that what I block it to?
Thank you so much!
October 17, 2021 @ 11:54 pm
First: Yes, it’s possible your gauge is much looser than the gauge noted on the ball band. If it feels too loose, or you are aiming for the gauge of 20 sts / 4″ (which is 5 sts per inch), then you will swatch again on 1-2 needle sizes smaller.
Second: Just wet block the swatch, and lay it out in a way that doesn’t overly stretch it in either the vertical or horizontal direction. Kind of just be gentle with it, and lay it out flat, rather than blocking it to a specific size. Then you can see what size the stitches are ‘naturally’.
Hope this helps! ~Emily
July 31, 2021 @ 5:58 pm
Hi! I knit a gauge swatch flat for the Flax sweater in the round and 18 stitches and 22 rows gave me 3.5 inches. I’m unsure on what I should do?
August 3, 2021 @ 3:55 pm
Hi Emily – Check out the section on how to knit a gauge swatch. It sounds like your swatch is a bit too small to accurately measure your gauge. You also might need to go up a needle size.
February 14, 2021 @ 5:14 am
I’m ripping my hair out to figure out gauge. I’ve knit since I was five, over fifty yrs but I’ve never taken time to gauge! This project I have this gorgeous wool on hand I’m dying to use and a pattern that doesn’t relate ( asks for 11 sts per inch and my wool is 15) so I knit a swatch. Truth be told I’ve knit two because First tried doubling the yarn with smaller needles and knit a square w the 2 yarns and I hated the thickness and density of the square even though my gauge was correct. Then I knit one with recommended needles and one strand. Then I bought a conversion app on my phone cause I suck st math and tried to adapt one strand to the pattern. The trouble comes in with the pattern. It has a number of different squares of alrernating a cable twist with a garter stitch square. In other words a checkerboard of cable and garter squares. I’m worried that I’m going to end up with areas with not enough stitches to make a cable I.e. half and quarter cable squares on ends that I can’t make into cables. Any advice? Should I just give up on that pattern with this wool? Is there anyone I can pay to look at my pattern to see what to do to help me? Please I’m lost! I’d like to use Patons Shetland chunky with bernat textured checks sweater for bernat softee chunky. (Deceiving cause not a chunky but a super bulky!)
February 14, 2021 @ 11:35 pm
Hi Annie – Perhaps you knit a different pattern size, but follow the instructions precisely? That way you wouldn’t have to worry about pattern repeats. We have a tutorial on that here: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2016/04/07/how-to-knit-a-garment-at-a-different-gauge/
February 8, 2021 @ 12:11 pm
Just did a flat swatch for the Flax sweater instead of knitting one in the round. I got 18 st in 4 inches but I got 25 rows in 4 inches instead of 22 rows. Should this present a problem?
If so how do I correct this?
February 10, 2021 @ 2:07 pm
Hi Cheryl – I might mean that you will need a little extra yarn, but other than that no problem. The sweater calls for ‘knit to xx inches’ rather than specific rows/rounds so you are all good.
January 18, 2021 @ 5:59 am
Hi there, thanks so much for this explanation. I have made a swatch with plans of making the FLAX light sweater. The pattern calls for 24 sts & 32 rounds / 4” in stockinette- 6 x 8/inch. My swatch with size 8 needles is 7 x 8 and with size 9 is 6 x 7. Neither needle size works out perfectly…. what should I do next?
January 18, 2021 @ 12:55 pm
Hi Jess – Go with the size 9. That’s 6 sts per inch and all of the lengths in Flax Light are ‘knit to xx inches’ so it isn’t critical that your round gauge be right on. I’m surprised at that needle size though, it’s pretty significantly bigger than the suggested needles. Are you a SUPER tight knitter?
January 7, 2021 @ 4:38 pm
Apologies if this is a repeat. I thought I had left one, but don’t see it.
I’m about to take on the Flax sweater. This will be my first time using a gauge swatch (as I’ve only done scarves and hats so far, where it wasn’t super important). I have enough yarn to also make the Barley hat to match. Since hats are a bit less finicky, is it possible to take on that project, and use the hat to figure out my gauge in the round? (Then, if needed, make additional flat ones for adjustments.)
January 7, 2021 @ 4:40 pm
Note: This is for the 6-12 month size.
Amanda "TwinkleFluff" Bombardier
January 7, 2021 @ 1:02 pm
This is a great guide! I realized that I might need one more skein of yarn as a padding. Each one is 157yds and I’m trying to make the 6-12 month size, 14 yards excess feels a bit too little, especially with swatching. The extra skein will give me enough to make the Barely Hat as well. Would it be safe to make the hat first, and use that to figure out my gauge for the sweater since hats are a bit more forgiving in that sense, or would you advise against that? (Then make additional flat swatches for adjustments if necessary)
I’ve never done a gauge swatch before, as I’m fairly newly back to knitting and only ever did scarves before. I’ve already made 2 hats and I’m about 1/3 of the way through my 3rd and have been fairly consistent with my stitches (more or less — the areas where I haven’t I know why and what I did).
January 8, 2021 @ 12:23 pm
Hi Amanda – We tend to be on the more generous side when it comes to yardage so you will likely be fine with only 14 yards of excess (for a kids pattern. For a grown up sweater, I personally wouldn’t cut it that close, but that’s because I sometimes decide to make things longer etc. and there is more room for extra yardage needed). So, if you do decide to go with the extra skein you will definitely have enough for the Barley hat too!
January 8, 2021 @ 4:29 pm
Great! I went ahead and picked up a 3rd skein. Any thoughts on the gauge swatch? Would making the hat first be a good substitute to figure it out for the sweater?
January 11, 2021 @ 6:19 am
Hats are always a great swatch for the sweater; as long as both projects are aiming at achieving the same finished gauge. As a bonus, you get to see how you like working with the yarn, and see how it wears once the hat is done, before committing to a sweater project.
January 12, 2021 @ 1:16 pm
So much truth about seeing how you like working with the yarn! Let’s just say I already bought new, and need to return the old. Oy. But hey, I have an additional baby hat to gift along with what will be another one in the new yarn, and hopefully a sweater to match!
December 21, 2020 @ 1:20 pm
I’m knitting a toque/hat.gauge is 11stitches in 4 inches on 7:50 mm needles.I made swatch using 7:00 mm & got 12 stitches/4 inches.Went to an 8:00mm & got 10 stitches/4 inches.what do I use the lesser # or the greater #?If you can help that would be great.Thanks Geraldine
December 22, 2020 @ 9:10 pm
Hi Geraldine – It’s really up to you. Do you like the fabric of one of your swatches better? Would you prefer if your hat was a smidge bigger than the listed measurements or a smidge smaller?
December 13, 2020 @ 4:56 pm
Hi – I’m a beginning knitter working on the Wheat scarf.
If a pattern says the gauge is 18 its and 22 rows / 4” in stockinette stitch
Does that mean to cast on 18 stitches and do 22 rows
And see if it comes out to about 4”x4”?
If it also says 14 its and 28 rows / 4” in garter stick
Does it mean that I cast on 14 stitches and knit 28 rows
In garter stitch
December 14, 2020 @ 10:54 am
Hi Aimee – Check out our tutorial on Gauge in Knitting here, I think that will answer your questions: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2013/08/17/gauge/
November 21, 2020 @ 9:51 am
I just have to say I love your slippers! I lived in Alaska for awhile & had a similar pair…30 years later they were so worn out the shoe repair guy refused to fix them 😛
November 8, 2020 @ 5:03 am
Thank you, this is very helpful! I made the Clayoquot toque to gague for the Trek sweater, but there isn’t enough colourwork vs. non-colourwork to measure both. Is a combination fine or do I do a separate swatch for the solid part?
And I’m off by 1.5 sts…should I go down just one needle size or more? (should be 22, I got 23-23.5)
(my rows are also off, should be 28 but I got 26-26.5)
November 9, 2020 @ 2:06 am
Hi! I think it’s probably best to make a stockinette hat (and block it) to check your stockinette gauge in the round, because this will be more relevant for the Trek sweater fit. Or you could start with a sleeve, and use that as a swatch – we’ve got a tutorial on that here: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2017/03/02/the-sleeve-swatch/ . If you are getting too 23.5 sts in 4 inches rather than 22, you need to try a LARGER needle size, not a smaller one, because your stitches are too small (that’s why you have more in 4″). If it were me, I’d try going up a single needle size, but you may require two sizes change to get to 22, it’s impossible to know until you try. Best luck! ~ Em
November 9, 2020 @ 4:32 am
Thank you so much! That’s incredibly helpful.
November 4, 2020 @ 9:56 am
Hi Alexa and Emily,
My question relates to swatching. Do the yarn requirements stated in patterns take into account the swatching or should knitters purchase more yarn than the pattern states? Thanks in advance for your help and for all your fun patterns! – Liz in Ontario, Canada
November 4, 2020 @ 10:40 am
Hi Liz – Our patterns include enough ‘padding’ for a swatch, but I can’t speak for other designers. Worst case scenario you can always unravel your swatch to use that yarn in your project.
September 26, 2020 @ 4:56 am
Can I just say I have been searching and searching for an explanation for gauge, and this is PERFECT!!!!!!! I was looking into the Flax Pullover because many said it was an easier first sweater with the top-down pattern, but I was nervous because I didn’t know what “gauge” was because nobody ever really explains it in patterns, just tells you what you should have. THIS IS GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel like I could now knit a sweater with confidence, THANK YOU!!!!
September 27, 2020 @ 1:55 am
Haha you’re welcome :()
September 25, 2020 @ 12:34 am
I find it very helpful and clear. Thanks
August 26, 2020 @ 7:47 am
Hi, came across your website recently and have been busy reading all your blogs. I knit my first sweater last year before I found your wonderful site. As a new knitter, I bought yarn and the needles corresponding to the yarn. I think I did a swatch and was off by a stitch or two and thought, oh, that is good enough. Set off knitting my sweater and when I was done, I had a whole ball of yarn left over and a sweater that was very very tight on me. The knitting was tight too, not soft but could likely stop a bullet. Not what I wanted at all. Abandoned it because I followed the pattern precisely and really did not understand what I did wrong. Then I read all of your information about gauge and I had an AHA moment. Spent some time knitting swatches with different size needles and noticed the changes in fabric and the stitch count per inch. Washed my swatches and noticed the changes after that step. Yes, it does take time to do swatches, but it is less time than it takes to knit a whole sweater, frog it, wash the yarn so it is no longer kinky, rewind it all and start again. But I have now done all that and just finishing the yoke of a FLAX sweater. So much better than my first sweater. Thanks so very much for putting this info out there for all of us learning to knit. After a trip to Iceland, I had a goal of learning to knit so that eventually I could do an Icelandic style sweater, which is why I found your website in the first place. Now, with your helpful tutorials, I feel like that I may be able to reach that goal.
July 19, 2020 @ 1:23 pm
I’m wondering if there are more than one color in a project do u need to make a swatch for all colors?
July 20, 2020 @ 9:51 am
Hi Penny – Hmm, it sort of depends on a few things. Are we talking stripes or colourwork? Is it just at the yoke or all over? Are they all the same yarn? If you are doing a colourwork sweater, for example, you would want to check your stockinette gauge and your colourwork gauge, but I don’t think you need to make a swatch for all colours.
June 17, 2020 @ 5:45 pm
Hi, I am starting the Love Note sweater. I have two options the 7.0mm needle I’d knit the small size, using the calculations I get 42″ bust, or, on a 6.5 needle I would knit the Large getting a 43″ bust. However my row gauge is way out.
Pattern calls for 24 rows, my 7mm needle gives me 16 rows and the 6.5mm needle 18 rows So I am thinking the 6.5 would be better. My concern is only in the length of the yoke so I add enough extra rows (I’d probably increase the pattern rows) before separating for the raglan shaping. There appears to be no measurement for how long the yoke is. Or will I be okay and be able to figure it out by trying it on?
June 18, 2020 @ 12:36 pm
Hi Dot – if your round gauge is different the yoke is the only place that will matter. You will need fewer rounds in the yoke, because each of your rounds is longer than one of ours.
June 7, 2020 @ 6:01 am
Hi! I’m currently working on my gauge swatch for the Flax Light sweater, and I have a quick question. I have it about 5 inches across, and about 3 inches vertically, and when I measure the stitches, I have 28-29 over 4 inches, when it should be 24. Should I keep going until I have enough done to measure a 4×4 square to measure the rounds as well, or should I start over with larger needles? Thank you!
June 8, 2020 @ 10:47 am
Hi – I would start over with larger needles. For our patterns the stitch gauge is always more important than the row or round gauge.
January 26, 2021 @ 5:18 pm
I am working on a gauge swatch for A hat. The directions say 18 stitches =4 inches. Does this mean 18 stitches for 18 rows?
January 26, 2021 @ 9:53 pm
Hi Elizabeth – 18 sts = 4 inches means 18 stitches. Rows/rounds would be a separate instruction, like 18 sts and 26 rounds per 4″
April 7, 2020 @ 11:35 am
I am trying to make a gauge swatch in the round for the Flax sweater. I’m having trouble because I find since my floats are loose, the stitches on either edge of the swatch become loose and I am worried the swatch will unravel and be looser than my actual gauge would be. Have you encountered this before? Do you have any tips?
April 7, 2020 @ 2:48 pm
Hi Anna – You are exactly right, you want to make sure your swatch is big enough that you don’t include those sts. You want to have more than 4″ across to measure.
April 8, 2020 @ 8:40 pm
Thanks for the help.
I made a swatch in the round (with lots of extra stitches). My stitch gauge is roughly right (17-18 stitches per 4″ depending on which row I measure, pattern asks for 18 stitches per 4″) but my row gauge is 24 rows per 4″ when it should be 22 rows in 4″. How can I reduce my rows per 4″ without reducing my stitch per 4″? Or should I knit more rows? (This is for the Flax sweater).
April 9, 2020 @ 2:19 pm
Hi Anna – Great question, the answer is, for all intensive purposes, you can’t*. It isn’t critical for the Flax sweater though, all of the lengths are ‘knit to xx inches’ rather than a given number of rounds so you can go forth and knit with confidence.
* you can sometimes change your round gauge but not your stitch gauge by changing the type of needle materials, eg. going to bamboo instead of metal etc. but that’s pretty fussy and not necessary for this pattern.
April 10, 2020 @ 1:43 pm
I see! How strange that the needle material can help! Thanks for the tips, I will get cracking on my sweater then!
March 29, 2020 @ 8:41 pm
I’ve done 6 swatches. Looks like a size 7 needle is how I knit a 18 st for 4 inches gauge.
So doI assume I use a 5 for the neck or just go to size 6?
March 30, 2020 @ 1:34 pm
Hi Susie – I would probably use a 5, I like a nice tight rib.
April 10, 2019 @ 5:14 am
I am going to be knitting the Prairie Fire; working on my swatch at the moment – is the gauge in the pattern for a blocked or unblocked swatch please?
April 11, 2019 @ 12:19 pm
Hi Kathy – I would say always block your swatch (unless any pattern states otherwise) because you want to treat your swatch like you will your finished sweater.
April 8, 2019 @ 10:06 am
Hello, if a pattern calls for more than one size needle (like the Rye Sock pattern), which size do I use for a gauge swatch? Thank you!
April 8, 2019 @ 1:01 pm
You typically use the larger size, as that’s usually the one with which the majority of the pattern is knit. It will generally state on the pattern gauge… ‘using larger needles’. For example, the Rye Sock pattern states: 22 sts and 30 rounds / 4” in st.st. (on larger needles) – so that means you’ll swatch on the larger needles.
October 20, 2019 @ 4:18 pm
I did my swatch and need to use smaller needles to do my pattern. The pattern calls for 13 and 11 needles. The pattern said to do the swatch with the larger needles. That was too big so I did a swatch with 11’s. My swatch came out correct with size 11 needles, What size do I use for the small needles now? 9’s?
October 21, 2019 @ 9:33 am
Hi Karen – Yep, about 2 sizes down sounds right for ribbing.
December 11, 2018 @ 3:58 pm
What if your gauge is perfect in stitches per inch but the number of rows is off My gauge is supposed to be 18 stitches and 24 goes to 4 inches Well I’ve got the 18 stitches but 24 rows gives me 3 3/4 inches not 4 so what do I do?
December 12, 2018 @ 9:19 am
Hi Annie – I don’t really know that there is anything you can do about it. For Tin Can Knits patterns most of the lengths are ‘knit to x inches’ so it won’t matter that your gauge is off. If you need more rounds per inch though it can mean you will need more yardage (and if you have fewer rounds per inch you may need less yardage)
December 13, 2018 @ 3:34 pm
Thanks I haven’t bought the pattern yet just browsed it on Ravelry so since most in most patterns length knitted is in inches I’ll just hope for the best. The sweater I’m looking to knit is top down so I should be able to adjust Just a little concerned about the shoulders…
September 6, 2018 @ 3:26 pm
On the flax pulloverbefire you take off for sleeve pattern says of tension is right work 6 rounds for 6 and half inches next line says if gauge not right make it 6 and a half inches so I do not think you have to work the 6 rounds if you all ready have that many inches. Am I right. Thanks. firstname.lastname@example.org
September 6, 2018 @ 5:14 pm
Hi Carole – that’s right, if you are already at 6.5″ you can stop there.
August 5, 2018 @ 2:15 am
Thank you so much for this perfect tutorial… I am a little frustrated, though, I never, really, never get the gauge right. I think my knitting looks good, but for some reason my stitches are a little to wide, I always need less stitches and more rows, even going down in needles size, doesn´t work, I only win like half a stitch by going down even a whole size and going down more the knitting becomes to dense. I was wondering know, if I should always go down in the yarn weight? Or maybe I just knit blankets and shawls, what would be such a pity by all the gorgeous sweaters out there….
August 10, 2018 @ 10:04 am
Hi Bettina – Hmm, how curious. Is it maybe your knitting style? I know how hard it is to change knitting styles (I throw with my left hand usually, but in colourwork I hold 1 strand of yarn in each hand, throwing with both my left and my right), but it might be worth looking at. It might help you to adjust your tension.
August 27, 2018 @ 10:50 am
I used to have a problem with gauge too. It seemed like no matter what needle size I used, the gauge was always off and about the same until…….I realized I was knitting with the very tips of the needles. I never really took my stitches down far enough to where the actual needle was -where the difference in needle size is.
Take a closer look at how you actually knit, and this might provide some clues.
All the best!
July 6, 2018 @ 12:57 pm
I am going to be teaching the Flax pullover as a “First sweater” class (thanks to you for making the materials available and for writing a truely simple beginning sweater pattern, I’ve looked and there isn’t much out there).
My question was about the swatching. You list the gauge in the round. As a more advanced knitter that would tell me to swatch in the round. Do you think that doing a traditional flat swatch is going to get a close enough gauge for my students? Or should I be instructing them to swatch in the round?
July 9, 2018 @ 7:47 am
Probably a flat swatch will be fine, but for best results you might tell the ‘keeners’ that it’s useful to swatch in the round. If they wanted to do a project, instead of just making a swatch, they could make a baby hat from our Barley hat pattern: http://tincanknits.com/pattern-SC-barley.html or a cowl: http://tincanknits.com/pattern-SC-oats.html
Hope the class goes well! Thanks for featuring our design :) Emily
June 15, 2018 @ 6:20 am
Would it be possible to knit this light flax jumper in sport weight yarn rather than 4 ply fingering? If so so I swatch to try to meet the 4 ply tension or concentrate on stiches ie size to work out? regards Granny Wendy
June 18, 2018 @ 8:17 am
Yes, you could knit it in sport weight. If you get the stated stitch gauge in your sport weight, and you like the fabric at that gauge, just go forth and knit it! If you’d prefer to knit that yarn at a slightly different stitch gauge, we have a tutorial here that explains how to knit a garment at a different gauge: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2016/04/07/how-to-knit-a-garment-at-a-different-gauge/
March 28, 2018 @ 5:38 am
I believe in swatching as well. My latest project is giving me problems. (not one of your patterns unfortunately – the flax sweater worked like a dream) I am using the yarn recommended and needle size 4.5 but am not getting the correct gauge. I’ve tried 5 mm and still too many stitches. How many needle sizes can you go up before it is too much?
March 28, 2018 @ 3:57 pm
Hi Sue – good questions, there are a couple of factors there. You can keep going up until you get the gauge recommended in the pattern, but you may not always like the fabric you get at that gauge (it might seem too loose for you), so it’s a bit of a balance. If you prefer the fabric at a different gauge you may want to adjust the size you are knitting, or you may want to go with a different yarn/pattern combo.
March 31, 2018 @ 5:08 am
Thanks so much. Great info and advice.
December 21, 2017 @ 3:42 am
Ladies, I have definitely drunk the Koolaid and am now all about the swatching. But all the gauge tutorials show flat swatches being measured, How do I measure a gauge swatch knit in the round, please? Many thanks.
January 2, 2018 @ 9:26 am
Hi – you can either knit the swatch big enough to be measured when laid flat, OR you can cut your swatch to block it, lay it flat, and measure
September 30, 2017 @ 11:23 am
Hi I am going to knit your flax jumper, I have knitted a gauge square and have the correct amount of stitches 18 in 4″ however the number of rows are more 27 rather than 22 it has stayed the same almost when blocked 19 stitches and 27 rows. I was planning on knitting the m/L size. Not sure what to do thanks. Cam UK
October 3, 2017 @ 8:31 pm
Hi Cam – for this pattern it’s no problem, all sections have a ‘knit to x inches’ instruction so you will be just fine
September 30, 2017 @ 9:48 am
Hi! I’m going to knit a flax light for my girlfriend (wish me luck!!) I hit gauge with 3.75mm, but in my country, 2.75 mm needles for the ribs are so very hard to find. Is it possible to change it to 3.00 (also very hard to find but I can try my very absolute best)? Would 3.50 be okay (I have these!) or will it be too loose on the ribbing?
October 3, 2017 @ 8:32 pm
Hi – I think a 3mm would work, you can always try them and see, I usually prefer a pretty small needle for a nice tight rib
September 20, 2017 @ 8:38 pm
I am making a baby garment, the pattern for which says that row gauge is more important than stitch gage. My second swatch on needles one size up was still quite far off. The yarn is a super wash merino and I expect the baby’s mom to wash and tumble dry. If I block to gauge and she throws it in the dryer, doesn’t that invalidate my blocked gauge? Oddly enough, unblocked, my row gauge went further off the mark with the larger needles, while my stitch count got closer. Any idea why?
September 22, 2017 @ 10:17 am
Hi Nikki – I’m not really sure how much it will change from your blocked gauge with a tumble dry. I would suggest washing and tumble drying your swatch. That will give you a better idea of what will happen to the sweater.
May 16, 2017 @ 8:57 pm
I’m making a swatch for Flax. I’m using Red Heart With Love and 5.0mm needles. I tried a relaxed tension since I tend to knit tightly (and the rec size on band is 5.5). The result in the round is 16 per 4 inches. D’oh.
I then tried knitting like I usually do, and it yields 18.5. Argh! Should I try a smaller size (4.5? 4.0?) or do I continue to manipulate tension? This is my first sweater and to be honest I’m scared I wouldn’t be able to maintain consistent tension.
If I change my needles down to 4.5/4.0, what size should the smaller needles be?
May 18, 2017 @ 11:30 am
Hi – great question, are you working your swatch in the round? Since the sweater is in the round it is best practice is to do your swatch in the round too. I never try to manipulate my tension, I only adjust my needle size. If you are trying to knit tighter or looser I find it’s only a matter of time before your tension returns to its natural state. 18.5 is pretty close, which size are you knitting?
March 31, 2017 @ 6:51 pm
Hi! I’m trying to gauge for your flax sweater using cascade 220 worsted weight yarn. Before blocking the swatch I’m at 20 sts/4″, but after blocking I get to the 18 sts/4″ specified in the pattern on the recommended size 8 needles. So my plan is to go with the 8s. My question is about following the pattern- When it says, for example, to knit 17″ for the body, do I knit 17″ unblocked knowing that after blocking this will be longer and the pattern accounts for this to come out to the right size, or do I need to adjust and knit less so that after I block the sweater would reach 17″ final for this part? Thanks!
April 2, 2017 @ 8:35 am
Hi – if your row gauge changes quite a bit with blocking you will want to adjust the number of inches you knit.
May 17, 2017 @ 8:43 pm
Now I’m confused about why one bothers with blocking a gauge swatch. If one has to adjust the number of rows of the work in progress to compensate for the work after blocking, why bother blocking a gauge swatch. I may be not understanding you answer to Michael R?
May 18, 2017 @ 11:32 am
Hi Kathy – gauge often changes with blocking, the stitches relax and the yarn blooms and you can find yourself with a different gauge than the unblocked swatch. When your garment is done you might find you have an extra 4″ of positive ease that you didn’t necessarily want
December 30, 2016 @ 6:51 pm
I am embarking in this great journey of knitting my first sweater for me. reading the flaxlight gauge in pattern says: 24 sts & 32 rounds / 4″ stockinette on larger needles.
I will make this with the 3.75 mm (that is the larger needle recommended)
not sure how many sts I should cast on?
I will be making it in the round
then I am not sure I understand how to check the gauge?
take a section of 4″x 4″ and measure stitches, should be at 24sts, where does the 32 rounds come in the picture?
January 1, 2017 @ 10:00 pm
Hi Catherine – for all the info on gauge you can check out our gauge tutorial here: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2013/08/17/gauge/
January 4, 2017 @ 7:40 pm
I read that tutorial, and then posted my question here! I guess I was not clear in my question ?
January 5, 2017 @ 10:13 am
Hi Catherine – To make a gauge swatch I typically cast on about 6″ worth of stitches using the needle size suggested by the pattern. If the pattern gauge is 5 sts / inch (5 sts x 6″ = 30) then cast on approximately 30 stitches. (that info is in the tutorial)
For the 32 that is number of rounds you will want to achieve in 4 inches, HOWEVER for the Flax Light it is less critical since most of the sweater involved ‘knit to’ lengths rather than ‘knit x rounds’
November 28, 2016 @ 7:58 pm
Just found your site although, I haven’t been knitting that long. Thank you so much for the lessons. I read all the questions to try to learn more. I think you do a great job with explanations. I do have one question. I was trying to get a correct gauge with a linen/cotton yarn. I used needles, #8, #7, #6, #5. There was almost no difference in gauge. I was trying to get 5 sts to inch but would only come out to 4.5 sts. I usually don’t have that particular problem although getting a correct gauge takes me quite some time. Do you have any suggestions?
June 21, 2017 @ 5:43 am
This is the same thing that’s happening to me on a sweater (wool). I’m searching for an answer but can’t find what to do!
August 17, 2016 @ 10:43 am
I have done 2 swatches. Cannot get correct needle size figured out. I think the best things to do is just make a smaller size. What do you think?
August 24, 2016 @ 9:50 am
Hi Irene – it depends on what you are knitting and how ‘off’ your gauge is….
June 30, 2016 @ 10:52 am
Hello, just fell upon your blog and find it so helpful since I’m struggling with a sweater pattern I have. I’m onto my 4th swatch to try to get correct gauge (14 st=4 in) with size 10 needles. I need to use #11 to get that gauge and find it very ‘loosy’…afraid it will change the look of the sweater. I must mention that the pattern calls for aran yarn and I’m using DK…this lovely yarn I have (Berroco Vintage DK). Should I proceed with the size 11 or give up and start a different pattern which calls for DK yarn? There is quite a difference in size between the size 10 & the 11. Hope you can offer a suggestion! Joanne
June 30, 2016 @ 2:34 pm
I think you will get a very different sweater if you are using a 22 stitch gauge yarn (DK) in place of a 16 stitch gauge yarn (Aran), so the changes you would need to make are probably greater. You may need to knit a different size, or make further adjustments to the pattern to accommodate
May 19, 2016 @ 1:47 pm
Is gauge knitted in round or flat for flax sweater?
May 19, 2016 @ 2:34 pm
When knitting an item in the round, you should check your gauge in the round
April 20, 2016 @ 11:59 am
Hello, I am starting to knit a Harvest cardigan and have two questions. I have recently discovered “tincan knits” so thank you for these tutorials and free patterns. This is the first time that I have knit something that the gauge matters and have two questions. The first being are swatches included in the overall estimated yardage? I am worried if I knit too many swatches I will run out of wool for the harvest. And secondly, prior to blocking, I am hitting the suggested size (4″) with 4.5mm needles, so should I then perhaps so to 3.75 for the main body of the knitting? Hope that makes sense to you.
April 21, 2016 @ 9:17 am
Hi Claire – definitely check out our gauge tutorial for more tips. You can always unravel your swatches and use the yarn if need be, so don’t worry too much about ‘over swatching’. You definitely want to block your swatches, you are going to block your finished sweater so you want to treat your swatch the same way. If you are getting gauge on 4.5mm needles those will be the larger needles. You will use needles 2 sizes smaller for the cuffs, so a 3.75mm makes sense.
February 15, 2016 @ 10:36 am
First of all – Thank you so much for the flax pattern! I have never done a pullover before, but I am certain, that I will get there in the end.
So, before I get started I did the gauge. I found this perfect wool, but it’s quite bulky…
My gauge is 8st and 9 rows in a 2″x2″ square with 8mm needles. The pattern requires 18sts and 22 rows. I have never made a gauge before or worked exactly with a pattern. Is it possible to make the pullover with thicker wool? How can I calculate the needed stiches I need to start?
I hope I was able to give you an idea of my problem! Thanks in advance! :)
February 22, 2016 @ 2:47 pm
Hi Sara – sounds like you are getting 16 sts per 4 inches in your current yarn and needles. That isn’t TOO far off from the pattern gauge, I would maybe adjust the size you are making.
January 23, 2016 @ 10:11 pm
I am going to make Flax Light for my very first sweater. It is for a newborn baby gift. I purchased Socks that Rock yarn in medium weight. I was able to get gauge with a size 3 needle. My question is, there are two needle sizes listed, a 2 and a 5. The gauge was based on the larger, but my “larger” is a 3. Since this is the case do I need to decrease the size of the size 2 needle?
January 25, 2016 @ 12:51 pm
I would, I like a nice tight ribbing so using a 0 or a 1 would be ideal
December 21, 2015 @ 10:13 am
I would like to make your Harvest cardigan with chunky yarn (Brett Marble Chunky). Using sz 10 needles, my gauge is 15 sts/4 in. The pattern wants 18 sts/4 in. I want to make a size S for a tall 12 yr old. I don’t really want to use a smaller needle.
December 21, 2015 @ 8:35 pm
Hi Barb – while I think making yarn substitutions is great, that is quite a difference. If it were for a little one (3 and under) I would just do a size or 2 down and know they would grow into it, but for a 12 year old fit is a little more important. If you are willing to do the math and alter the pattern go for it, otherwise I would stick with a yarn and pattern that match.
November 16, 2015 @ 8:40 pm
Hello. I’m working up a swatch for your Maize Mitts pattern. I got stitch gauge with a size 7 needle, but am off a little on row gauge. How critical is row gauge? Thanks for the lovely free patterns.
November 17, 2015 @ 8:41 am
Row gauge isn’t too important! You can simply knit to length, so you just may use a little bit more or less yardage than called for.
July 23, 2015 @ 8:12 am
Can you please help, my friend has a pattern that says to do a swatch in a bigger size (7mm) needle than the actual pattern (5.5mm) I’ve never seen this before can you help please?
July 27, 2015 @ 12:06 pm
Hi Gillian – sorry, I don’t know why it would suggest that. Perhaps contacting the designer directly?
June 1, 2015 @ 7:55 am
What if the gauge is different from the actual pattern? I got this knitting book that reads: Gauge 16 stitches and 22 rows= 4 inches in stockinette stitch. However the pattern’s instructions reads: Front and Back: Cast on 55 stitches (60•65 stitches), and this is followed by the instructions for the pattern. I’m confused by the gauge and cast on though. Why are they different from each other?
June 1, 2015 @ 11:21 am
Hi – I’m not sure I understand the question. The gauge is the number of sts you get per 4″ (so, theoretically, if you cast on 16 sts and work 22 rows in stockinette you would get a 4 inch square). For the pattern, you are casting on the number of sts for the front and back of the garment, you would need a lot more than 4 inches to make the front or back of a sweater. Does that help?
March 9, 2015 @ 8:06 am
This is an amazing site for knitters. Wow I’m excited to make the flax sweater
December 10, 2014 @ 12:17 am
And if we are working in the round, must our gauge swatch be worked in the round as well ?
December 12, 2014 @ 9:05 am
It is ideal since gauge over knit sts is often different from gauge over purl sts.
May 10, 2016 @ 10:41 pm
Do you actually work it in the round with DPNs? Or that flat method of doing gauge in the round that seems to use a ton of yarn?
May 13, 2016 @ 9:29 am
Well, if it is a garment that I’m knitting in the round I will probably just do a wee hat to check gauge, it uses up more yarn but then I get something useful out of it. Or, because I know that my gauge in the round and my gauge flat is about the same, I will just swatch flat (although this doesn’t work for everyone). While the other method of swatching for working in the round does use a little more yarn, you can always frog your swatch and use the yarn again.
November 5, 2014 @ 8:56 am
How much stretch should I allow for stockinette stitch when trying to decide how many stitches to cast on for a hat? I got my gauge as close as I could. 5.5 st/in, for a hat pattern written for 6 st/in. At my gauge the finished measurement will be the exact diameter of the head, without stretch. What percentage of stitches should I reduce to allow for stretch?
November 6, 2014 @ 11:28 pm
You would want a little negative ease for a hat, meaning you will want the finished measurement for the hat to be a bit smaller than the head it’s meant for, how much will depend on your design desires but an inch or so of negative ease should work. Don’t forget to wash and block your swatch to get the full picture of your gauge.
October 12, 2014 @ 11:04 am
I am having a hard time figuring out what needle size to use for your Flax pattern, I am using Cascade 220 superwash and my swatch was 5.5 stitches with size needles.
October 17, 2014 @ 2:32 pm
Try going down a needle size and making another swatch, should get you closer to the right gauge
August 18, 2014 @ 2:01 pm
I’m a bit confused–my unblocked gauge matched the pattern (in a size 9 needle) but my blocked gauge swatch is now 16 stitches per inch instead of 18. What should I do?
August 18, 2014 @ 10:52 pm
Good question. Because you are going to block your sweater, you will want to go down a needle size at least. You don’t want a sweater that is too big!
April 1, 2014 @ 7:49 pm
I want to knit the Flax in the 6-12 mos size. How important is gauge when knitting for babies/toddlers? I know some knitters go with the “well-it-will-fit-at-some-point” logic. How many stitches/rows do you recommend knitting when doing a gauge swatch for Flax in the 6-12 mos size?
April 2, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
If you want the knit to come out to the specified size, I would swatch the same way as for an adult (I am one of those ‘it’ll fit someone’ knitters though so I usually won’t swatch and will knit a size larger than the kid is). Cast on about 30 sts for your swatch, that will give you an accurate picture of what your gauge is. Remember to always wash/block your swatch too!
December 25, 2013 @ 11:50 pm
Very very well explained. You convinced me too. Thanky you.
October 2, 2013 @ 1:22 pm
Ok, you’ve convinced me!!!!
Thank you so much for making the reason to swatch VERY clear.
Lovley blog and so many delightful ideas and patterns. This grandma is still learning new tricks – long may it ( and Tin Can Knits) continue.