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Ch. 17 Gauge

Swatching and Gauge

A swatch is just a sample of your knitting, and it’s almost always done in Stockinette stitch.

It’s a way to make sure your knit stitches are the size they are supposed to be, BEFORE you start out on a pattern.

Since we’ve only done scarves up until now, gauge hasn’t been an issue, but now we have a great opportunity to get our feet wet and learn a few techniques that will save you hours and hours of grief later.

This is important.

Gauge is the number of knit stitches and rows that fit into a specified unit of measurement, usually one inch. It’s important because if your stitches are too big or too small, your project will be too big or too small. Sad. Avoidable. With me?

Checking your gauge is as easy as knitting a small sample square, called a swatch, and placing a ruler or a gauge-checker over the fabric, and counting how many stitches there are in a few inches, and then dividing by the number of inches to get the average number of stitches per inch.

Checking just one inch is a little risky, which is why knitters take the average of two or three inches. You can also check how many rows are in one inch (called the “row gauge”), although this measurement isn’t nearly as important as your stitch gauge.

People really like to skip this step – they think it takes too long, or they feel that their swatch has to be pretty or perfect, or somehow useful later. Nope! It just has to be done. If you care about your project coming out the right size, you’ll check your gauge.

Don’t worry, though – in this next video I’m going to give your four tricks to make checking your gauge seriously fast and fun. Here’s how to knit a swatch and check your gauge.


Yarn Secrets

Okay, good work – you’ve learned how to check your gauge.

Now it’s time to let you in on the secret of always knowing what thickness of yarn you have – you can always tell by the gauge.

Remember the chunky yarn we were looking at earlier? Knit up a swatch- you should get about 3 ½ stitches per inch, which you can confirm by looking on the yarn’s label.

How about aran-weight yarn? It will knit up at 4 stitches per inch. And your worsted cotton yarn? 5 stitches per inch.Worsted Yarn Label

This time when you start looking at yarn labels, you’ll notice the suggested gauge.

Watch out – a yarn manufacturer might use a four-inch square, or 10 cm x 10 cm, to tell you how many stitches you can expect to get with their yarn and using the suggested needle-size.

They might say 20 sts in 10 cm – that’s 5 stitches per inch – a worsted-weight yarn.

One thing to watch out for: while gauge is a holy measuring stick for knitting, needle sizes are not. Knitting tension is individual and varies per person, and therefore so does needle size.

Basically, I don’t care WHAT size needles you use on a project – as long as you’re getting the right gauge.

You can start with the size suggested on your yarn label or in your pattern, but you may need to use a smaller or bigger needle size to get it just right – the only way you’ll know is to knit a swatch and check your gauge. Yay!

You now have the beginnings of the yarn secrets belonging to all Knitting Superstars, which will help you understand more and more about the yarn you buy and knit with.

Okay, ready to knit another project? We’re going to be using the skills we’ve learned so far, plus more advanced pattern-reading practice, so let’s get started.

You’ll need the same materials you used for the garter-stitch dishcloth.


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