Getting Gauge - Heart Swatch

Getting Gauge

There are no hard and fast rules in knitting. And no knitting police to review your work. How necessary is it getting gauge really?

How About Just Spelling The Word Correctly?

Another quirky English word that you can’t phonetically spell. Maybe the hard and fast rule is that you just memorize its spelling?

But on swatches…here are my thoughts.

Does your garment require a specific size when it’s finished? Do you like the drape of the fabric when you obtain the correct stitches per inch? How accurate is a swatch? What amount can you be off in your stitches/rows-per-inch that can be fixed by blocking afterwards?

If I’m helping a new knitter, I recommend that they understand the importance of gauge. They also need to know how to measure it. But like many things in knitting, I don’t think you should be a slave to a technique. Yes, it should be an important tool. But just like any tool, if the tool gets more in the way of your knitting than supports it, then it’s being misused.

Use Your Judgment

When you are a confident enough knitter to make adjustments to a pattern, I recommend throwing out the idea of a test swatch.  Or more accurately, use the actual garment as your swatch. I’ve even been known to change my tensioning to get the result I want. If I want a tighter fabric, I’ll knit more firmly. Or more loosely if I want a looser, drapier fabric. Again, I don’t recommend this method for newer knitters who are just learning tensioning.

If stitches/rows-per-inch is important to the finished garment, I will measure my gauge. But I just start knitting the garment and measure/count stitches and rows when I’ve knit enough to measure it. If it’s a sweater, I’ll start with a sleeve. When I’m making a cowl or some other garment where the finished measurement needs to be approximately close to the design, I’ll again just start knitting it. If is too far off, I’ll rip it out and start again. Ripping out hundreds of stitches can seem daunting to a less experienced knitter. But for long-time knitters it’s part of the process. No?

But just remember the reasons why gauge is important. It’s NOT just sizing. It’s also the drape of your fabric. Or the loftiness of the yarn with the needle you’re using and how open and lacy the fabric ends up being.

Latest Gauge Issue

I recently started a baby blanket for my niece. The same blanket pattern was knit for her first baby three years ago.

Here’s my short video assessment of the first attempt.

And here’s what I ended up with when I “re-swatched” on a larger needle.

Current Knitting

Yes, I did waste an hour or two of knitting time by not doing a swatch.  But honestly, it was helpful re-acquainting myself with the pattern (which sucks by the way…there are TONS of mistakes in it).

Hearts Baby Blanket - 07-19-21 01

Hearts Baby Blanket - 07-19-21 02

I’m quite pleased with how this is turning out.

Any thoughts on the color (now that I’ve got the gauge correct)?

9 comments on “Getting Gauge

  1. I’m laughing as I read this, remembering the giant sweater that you kept knitting to the bitter end, then frogged. We’ve all had issues with this. Personally, I knit for the fabric I want on needles suitable, then do the math for the dimensions. This works better for me than trying to force myself to knit to someone else’s idea, particularly since I rarely knit with the yarn recommended by the patterns.

    1. I meant to include a link to that story…I also didn’t measure the gauge on the sleeve for that project. But I bet even people that do gauge swatches have similar stories.

  2. The blanket is going to be wonderful! I echo, “Love the color!”
    I usually do a gauge swatch for all my projects use them.. (I always want to type gauge with “ua,” maybe because of Spanish.)
    The project I have never done a swatch for would be socks. I’ve only used one pattern. The one a friend typed out for me which she calls “Father’s Day Socks.” There isn’t any gauge information in the pattern.
    Best wishes for the week!

    1. Same here with the spelling of gauge…I must have done it five times the wrong way whilst writing this blog.

      I’m also definitely not anti-gauge swatching. Like all knitting tools…if it works for you, I’m all for it.

  3. It is a difficult word to spell, that’s why I was taught as a child in England to call it ‘tension’.

  4. My Brother in law was in the Coast Guard (I only know that’s right becaue spell check didn’t underline it) his entire career and I still struggle with that one as well. WHy are gauge and guard not the same? arrgh! Tension seems to imply something slightly different here in my mind–more like drape or how firmly it is knit (or how I feel when trying to spell gauge!)or I would adopt that in a second. Not that I worry about guage (darn it!) gauge much… LOL The Color is awesome. But didn’t you get several colors? I am hoping for a rainbow!

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