Swatching to get the right gauge for your knitting project

Make a swatch to get the gauge right

Making a swatch is the best way to meet the gauge of your pattern

New yarn, a cup of tea and all you want is to cast on for that new sweater, right? Then you read the line about 'knitting gauge' in the pattern and get a bit annoyed about having to swatch before casting on. Why is this swatching to meet gauge so important?

Knittin g a swatch, is actually the easiest way to make sure your final project will fit. If your gauge is different from pattern your size L sweater might easily turn out as a size S or Size 2XL. 

What is a knitting swatch?

A knitting pattern always suggests a certain yarn and needle size to meet the gauge, but all knitters knit differently. If you knit differently from the designer you might not get the right gauge with the designer's suggestion for yarn and needle size.

Knitting differently means e.g. finger placement, how you hold on to needles, how you tighten your stitch and even the material of the needle can make big differences. 

When you make a swatch, you check the gauge = how many stitches you have on 4"/10 cm across (width) and how many rows you have on 10 cm in the height of your knitting. The stitch count from your swatch should always match the give gauge of a pattern. 

Fun fact.... A lot of knitters experience a change in gauge between cold and warm climate or when they switch from metal to wood knitting needles. Warm hands cling to the yarn and creates tension, hence you knit more tightly. Metal needles have a more smooth surface than wooden needles and many knitters find that they can knit more tightly on metal needles. A great tip if you're are loose knitter. If you tend to knit too tightly, om the oterh hand, you should try wooden needles ;-)

Knit a good swatch

Start by finding the gauge instruction in your pattern. Let's take Chunky Easy peasy Sweater as an example. Pattern says: 

Gauge: 14 sts og 20 rows in stockinette stitch on needle no 7= 4" x 4" // 10 x 10 cm

What we're checking is that you have 14 sts across and 20 rows in the height on 4"x4"/10 x 10 cm of your knitting. The swatch will reveal which size needle you should knit on. 

Remeber we're checking the number of stitches on 10 cm - not the measurement of 14 sts. 

  1. Cast the number of stitches on, that is required to meet gauge + 10 sts. Your swatch must be bigger than 4"x4" / 10 x 10 cm because stitches are loose and irregular on the edges. To check gauge for 14 sts you should have 14+1+ stitches on you swatch. 
  2. Knit the given amount of rows + 10 in stockinette stitch (knit on one side and purl on the other side). To check a gauge of 20 rows you should knit 20 + 10 = 30 rows. If the gauge is given in a other technique than stockinette you must change accordingly.  
  3. Cast-off, wash and block your swatch. 

NOW, you're all set to measure your gauge.  Measure 10 cm/4" and count how many stitches and rows you have on a 4"x4" / 10x10 cm swatch. Consider marking the 4"/10 cm with pins and counting the stitches with the tip of your needle.

Too many stitches per inch

What to do if your gauge has too many stitches per inch? If you have more stitches than indicated in the pattern, you knit tighter than the pattern and you should go up in needle size.

Too few stitches per inch

What to do if you have too few stitches per inch? If you have fewer stitches than indicated in the pattern, you knit looser than the pattern, and therefore you should go down in needle size.
Now make a new gauge swatch with the new needle size, according to the instructions above, and measure your gauge again. Sometimes several swatches are required in order to get the gauge exactly right.

Wash your swatch

Like making a swatch isn't enough of a bother, we actually recommend a good soak before measuring gauge. Yarn can change structure and thickness after washing, hence you need to wash the swatch in order to measure on stitches 'that look like a real sweater'. 

Tip: We find that the gauge sometimes vary with varying types of needles, so if you keep being unable to get the gauge right, try changing to needles in other materials.

Yes, we know. Making gauge swatches is not the most interesting of tasks, but we promise you it's worth the effort.

With love 

Team Önling

The cute measurement tapes can be purchased here.