Knitting Tip: Measuring a Gauge Swatch

Knitting Tip: How to count stitches in a gauge swatchI've been knitting for well over 20 years and even though I understand the importance of it, I admit, I often skip making a gauge swatch when I am following a pattern. I know it's bad. I am just so excited to start making something with all those pretty, new skeins of yarn.

There are some patterns, like afghans and scarves, that you can probably get away with skipping the gauge swatch. However, there are times when your gauge is absolutely critical, like when you are making a garment. It can be difficult enough to knit a perfectly fitting sweater. If your gauge is off, you will have spent hours knitting an item that is ultimately unusable, and nobody wants to do that.

What is gauge?

Gauge is typically measured by how many stitches and rows are in a 4 inch or 10 cm square.

For example, in a pattern you might see a recommended gauge written like this:

With a US size 10 needle, 14 sts or 21 rows = 4 inches.

You probably will be able to obtain the gauge using the recommended needle size. If you tend to knit a little tighter or looser, you may need to use a smaller or larger needle size to obtain the same gauge. Also, if you use a different brand of yarn, you may need to adjust your needle size to get the correct gauge.

How do I measure the gauge?

First, you'll need to knit a swatch, usually in stockinette stitch, although sometimes a different pattern or stitch will be specified. You'll want to knit a piece that has a couple more sts and rows than the recommended gauge. For my swatch I knit a swatch 20 sts across and 25 rows long.

Next, care for your swatch like you will be caring for the finished piece. It may mean washing and drying it. It may mean machine washing then laying it flat or lightly blocking it. It may mean hand washing and blocking.

The gauge given in a pattern is determined after washing/drying/blocking unless otherwise stated.

Once it's dry, lay your piece flat and set a rigid ruler, not a flexible tape measure, on it to measure the stitches. Align the ruler so that it starts at the beginning of a stitch.

Now count how many stitches, both full and partial, are in 4 inches.

Knitting Tip: How to count stitches in a gauge swatch

You can see there are 13 full (green and blue) stitches and 1 partial (shown in pink) stitch. Even though only a fraction of that last stitch is within the four inches, it still counts. So, I knit 14 sts in 4 inches.

Next, count the rows in a similar manner. Make sure to align your ruler at the edge of a row. 

Knitting Tip: How to count stitches in a gauge swatch

This time I had 20 full rows (green and blue) and one partial row (pink). So, I knit 21 rows in 4 inches.

Lucky for me, my gauge matched the recommended gauge on the first try. If your gauge does not match up, rework a swatch with larger or smaller needles. You'll be happier with your finished project if you take the time to get your gauge right at the beginning.

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The Chilly Dog: Knitting Tip: Measuring a Gauge Swatch
Knitting Tip: Measuring a Gauge Swatch
How to measure the stitch and row gauge in knitting.
The Chilly Dog
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