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Gauge in Knitting

August 17, 2013

swatchesGauge 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 (or 4 inches) of knitted fabric.

::: 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.


An example of how yarn, gauge, and suggested needles are listed in a knitting pattern. Needle sizes given are just a SUGGESTION – you need to swatch, and change needles until you achieve the gauge stated in the pattern!

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’, and determine the gauge that you achieve with the yarn and needles.

::: What is a 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 worked 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 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.

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).

To make a gauge swatch in the round it works almost the same way. You will want to cast on and join for working in the round (either casting on enough stitches to work on a 16″ circular needle, or on DPN’s for a smaller circumference, or using the magic loop technique. I like to work a little garter stitch to start, knitting 1 round then purling the next, then knit every round for a few inches, then work garter at the top.


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.


Measuring the swatch gauge before blocking.

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.

Wet your swatches

Wet your swatches

Lay them out flat on a towl

Lay them out flat on a towel

Roll 'em up

Roll ’em up

Give 'em a stomp to get out all excess water

Give ’em a stomp to squeeze out all excess water

Pin them out to dry

Pin them out to dry (don’t stretch them, just pin them square)

Now is the time to re-measure!

::: WHAT NOW? :::

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.


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 are using the same yarn and needles!


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 to knit a gauge swatch can save you hours and prevent disappointing results.


wah wah :(

::: 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 even 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!

122 Comments leave one →
  1. Elaine Hammer permalink
    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!

    Greensboro, NC

    • 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

  2. Emily Couture permalink
    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.

  3. 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!)

  4. Cheryl permalink
    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.

  5. Jess J permalink
    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?

  6. Amanda B permalink
    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.)

    • Amanda B permalink
      January 7, 2021 4:40 pm

      Note: This is for the 6-12 month size.

  7. Amanda "TwinkleFluff" Bombardier permalink
    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!

      • Amanda permalink
        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.

      • Amanda B permalink
        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!

  8. Geraldine permalink
    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?

  9. Aimee permalink
    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

  10. Doris reynolds permalink
    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 😛

  11. Stephanie permalink
    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: . 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

      • Steph permalink
        November 9, 2020 4:32 am

        Thank you so much! That’s incredibly helpful.

  12. Liz permalink
    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.

  13. Kat permalink
    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!!!!

  14. Iris Yogev permalink
    September 25, 2020 12:34 am

    I find it very helpful and clear. Thanks

  15. Luisa permalink
    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.

  16. Penny permalink
    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.

  17. Dot Ttrewhitt permalink
    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?
    Thanking you.

    • 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.

  18. Van permalink
    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.

      • Elizabeth Ann permalink
        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″

  19. Anna permalink
    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.

      • Anna permalink
        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.

      • Anna permalink
        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!

  20. Susie Behrman permalink
    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?

  21. Kathy permalink
    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.

  22. 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 (on larger needles) – so that means you’ll swatch on the larger needles.

      • Karen Thuesen permalink
        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.

  23. Annie permalink
    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)

      • Annie permalink
        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…

  24. 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.

    • September 6, 2018 5:14 pm

      Hi Carole – that’s right, if you are already at 6.5″ you can stop there.

  25. Bettina permalink
    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.

    • Heather permalink
      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!

  26. Erin Duffy permalink
    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?

  27. Wendy Emmerson permalink
    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

  28. 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.

      • Sue permalink
        March 31, 2018 5:08 am

        Thanks so much. Great info and advice.

  29. chpeaubien permalink
    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

  30. Cam permalink
    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

  31. Bun permalink
    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

  32. Nikki Blum permalink
    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.

  33. Bee permalink
    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?

  34. Michael R. permalink
    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.

    • Kathy S. permalink
      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

  35. Catherine Gagnon permalink
    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:

      • Catherine Gagnon permalink
        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’

  36. Martha Adams permalink
    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!

  37. 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….

  38. Joanne permalink
    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

  39. Daisy permalink
    May 19, 2016 1:47 pm

    Is gauge knitted in round or flat for flax sweater?

  40. Claire permalink
    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.

  41. Sara Elsholz permalink
    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.

  42. Shelly Mitchell permalink
    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?

  43. Barb permalink
    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.

  44. Kellie S permalink
    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.

  45. Gillian permalink
    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?

  46. Red permalink
    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?

  47. Chris permalink
    March 9, 2015 8:06 am

    This is an amazing site for knitters. Wow I’m excited to make the flax sweater

  48. Suzanne permalink
    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.

      • Rhonda permalink
        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.

  49. Dawn Carter permalink
    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.

  50. Elizabeth permalink
    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

  51. 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!

  52. 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!

  53. adamalia permalink
    December 25, 2013 11:50 pm

    Very very well explained. You convinced me too. Thanky you.

  54. Helen Stephens permalink
    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.

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