7 x 2 = 14

Let's talk about gauge....

or more precisely, why is it so hard for me to get it right?

When I knit my Juliet, my gauge on 10.5 needles was too many stitches to the inch, on 11's it was too few.  I went with the 11's because it was closer overall.  I kind of wish I would have used the 10.5's, mostly because the yarn I used is really elastic and I think I could have gotten away with it a bit smaller.  I still love it, but if I were to do it again, I'd do it differently.

I started a new project this weekend.  According to the yarn label, I should get 4.5 stitches to the inch on 8's.  I know I knit big so, 9 times out of 10, I need to go down at least one, if not two needle sizes.  So I knit my gauge swatch on 7's and get 5 stitches to the inch.  I try it again on 8's....still 5 stitches to the inch.  On 9's....5 stitches to the inch.  What the heck?  Can someone please explain this to me?  How is this at all possible?


I went with the 8's.  I think I probably knit bigger in the round.  That sounds possible, doesn't it?  I hope so.  I really do.  Fingers crossed that it was the right choice.



i can offer no gauge advice. I'm sure wiser knitters will. I, too, always need to go down a size. Now.....is that brooklyntweed's sweater pattern you're working on? oooo lala. I love it.

Carrie S.

Oh Lordy! Why does knitting seem so technical? I'm planning to try very soon, but stuff like this scares me silly.


First, a question. When you do a swatch, are you washing and blocking it? If not, you'll likely find that the garment you've made turns out differently from your swatch. Soaking and blocking will relax the fibers, and thus your gauge, significantly. So, for example, you may have found that the gauge you got knitting your Juliet with 10.5s was actually right on once you washed and blocked the sweater.

As for what the label on a hank or ball of yarn says, take it with a grain of salt. Some knitter working for that company may have gotten that gauge but since that knitter isn't you, you can't take it on faith that you'll get the same result. Also, your gauge most definitely will be different when you're knitting in the round as opposed to flat. Technically, to get an accurate count, any swatch you do should be knit in the same manner that the garment will be knit.

Lastly, I just have to add that I am the world's laziest swatcher. Truly. I win the prize. I don't fault you for just chucking the swatches and diving right in to the actual knitting. I'd add though that this habit has been the downfall of many my projects so avoiding this all too common trap will probably make you a better knitter than me.


I have no clue. Reading things like this makes my resolve to give up knitting even easier. :)
What are you making?


gauge. gauge. gauge.
can't help. sorry.
but love the colour of your yarn!


I have no idea! I'm just lucky I have my sister around who tells me what needles to use etc. Good luck!


I just want to second the motion on two of Sarah's points: knitt your swatch with the exact needles* you will be using for the garment and wash and block(what ever form this takes for you) the swatch just as you will the finished garment.

*If working with long circular needles, this is when Magic Loop comes in very handy.


You are better than me. I am to lazy to to any kind of swatch. I usually just start knitting and hope it turns out. Isn't that awful?


I have differing guage when I knit in the round also. I usually figure my guage as closely as I can to the pattern, or knit a size up/down to get the measurements right.


hmmmm. i really don't know how you could have had the exact same gauge with 3 different needles. that is very weird.
i like all of the advice sarah offered.
i actually never do a gauge, and can honestly say, it has pretty much always worked for me. and...i always follow the needle size on the label.
fingers crossed over here.
by the way, what yarn are you using? is it 100% wool?


Most people purl tighter than they knit. So when they (and me) knit in the round gauge on the same size needles is bigger.

Sarah Jackson

Oh, I hate that. I have to second the advice of swatching by the same method that you're knitting because your gauge will be different if you're knitting in the round. A sleeve makes for a really good swatch. :)


One other thought...

When you're counting the stitches on your swatch, how many inches are you doing it over? At minimum, you should be counting over 4". More is even better. If you count over too short a span, you won't be able to see fractions of stitches easily if at all.

Do you understand what I'm getting at? It may seem like you're getting 5 stitches to the inch on three different size needles but if you count over 5 or 6 inches and then divide the total by the number of inches, you'd find that you're actually knitting at a slightly different gauge. Say 4.75 or 4.5 stitches per inch.


I hate gauge. I have no advice really (though, I had never thought to wash and block my gauge swatch.....blocking keeps me up at night as it is) I think I might have to try that.....I am a bit nervous about the baby sweater I am making now. Oh well, it will just fit longer . Right??

Alexandra W.

Have you ever heard that you can't bend a piece of paper more than 7 times? You can only knit a yarn so tight, no matter how small the needle. If you knit on size 3, you would probably get the same gauge. That's my theory. It might be rubbish.

I second the wash and dry theory!

I am a loose knitter. Do you knit continental style? It's my theory that patterns should be written that loosy goosies should go down at least 2 needle sizes. At least.

Knit well!


ohhh I agree with Sarah....
But also knit the gauge according to the pattern and not the wool tag....
I too am a lzy gauge knitter.... I get too excited and just want to dive right in....hehe
good luck
luv Abby

Mama Urchin

I echo Sarah's advice. You will get a different gauge in the round because you are only knitting stitches (not purling) in stockinette. You should swatch in the round if you're planning to knit the project in the round.

Also, when you are talking about size 10.5, and 11 needles know that the difference in size is significant. The US knitting needle numbering system implies that a needle sized 10.5 would be right between sizes 10 and 11. Unfortunately a size 10 = 6.0mm; a size 10.5 = 6.5 mm; and a size 11 = 8.0 mm. You can buy needles for in between but they don't have a corresponding US size.

I am also a bad swatcher because really, I want my limited knitting time to be productive. I generally start the project and then assess gauge a few inches in. A sleeve is the perfect way to do this so there is less to rip and re-knit if your gauge is off.


I feel your pain. I'm a loose knitter too. I would be tempted to go down to the size needles that got the gauge, even if it was a few sizes smaller than specified. I think your decision to go with the 8s is fine. If on the off chance it is slightly big, you could probably block it into shape.

I did some quick math...if the gauge was 'really' 5 per inch, and you did 36" circumfrence, you'd have 180 stitches. 4.5 per inch, you'd have 162 stitches. The difference being 18 stitches / 4.5 or 5 per inch will be about 3 inches difference in total circumfrence. That doesn't sound too bad. I bet you're closer than you think, like as Sarah commented above.

Either way, good luck!


P.S. I am way too lazy to wash a swatch, that is admirable! I'm lucky if I knit 2 inches of my swatch ;)


ok........thought about this a lot today.........make sure you cast on enough stitches to swatch.....that may be why they are all the same. gauge usually go over 4 inches.....did you do four??? divide the number of stitches by 4. i have been perplexed as to why they are all the same.


Gauge is a mystery, really. And I do think that gauge can vary in the round. Actually, I know it can. When I read the title of your post, I thought maybe it was because you knit Continental, but I'm not sure -- gauge is just wack!

And I'd love to meet up at the Knit Nook soon. My calendar is more or less wide open :) I think Thursday nights are just hard because it's so crowded and Leo doesn't know what to do with all those people. And I'd been meaning to ask you some advice on lining this knit bag I made last year -- I love the bag but hate how I lined it.

Good luck with your gauge!


I'm with some of the others.. loose knitter! When I do gauge swatches I have to do the whole wash and dry thing too, exactly like I would expect to wash and dry the finished piece. I also knit MUCH tighter in the round than back and forth, so I gauge swatch in the round if I'm really worried about it. For me, I purl ridiculously loosely but my knits are more consistent. And washing can change everything!


i swear, i have that problem every time i swatch. size 8,9,7, all have the same gauge. i cant figure it out. good luck!


I so understand, I am having the same problem with my crochet and apart from just the guage problem, I realised the yarn size matters too (I'm sure you knew already). The advices above is really educational. All the best!


I didn't read all your comments so I may be repeating but my best advice is to knit a few inches of your sweater and then make sure that the measurement of your sweater matches what you think you are knitting. If not, nows the time to change needle. Better to stop after a few inches than to have a sweater that isn't right. A gauge swatch is just an indication the actual sweater is what you care about. I work at a knitting store and this is my entire job - to help people figure out how to get what they want. If you still are having problems I'm sure your lys would be happy to help you.


Wow! You got a lot of advice! I can't add anything but to wish you luck with the project. I know the frustration of finishing something and having it not fit. (crossing my fingers for you)


Here's my two cents - I do make gauge swatches, but I rarely wash and block them. I know I should, but I don't. Since you are knitting in the round you do have to take that into consideration and make a swatch that is also worked in the round. I found this link intriguing:


It's sort of like faux-in the round knitting meets stranded fair isle from hell. So let's imagine you've done that and now you are going to actually measure your gauge. I am a BIG fan of the gauge measuring contraptions, like the Susan Bates Knit Chek - just lay that piece of metal on and presto. I find it much more accurate reading the stitches through a window like that rather than from a tape measure. You also get a read over 2 inches, so you know you are looking for 9 sts, which is infinitely more easy to suss out than figuring out what is a half stitch. I also use a knitting needle or pencil to count out the stitches, tracing over both legs to equal one, because all those stitches start to blur together after a while. It is all very finicky. Hope this helps.


I knit loose almost to a fault, as well. Poo on that. Jen (Mama Urchin) made an interesting comment about the difference between size 10, 10.5, and 11 needles. I didn't know that. I have my own knitting woe right now as I just received some beautiful handspun, hand dyed yarn that I bought on etsy, and I just love it, but it's NOT the weight it specified. It was supposedly bulky, to be knit on size 10 needles, and looks more like DK (or maybe worsted, though that might be a bit of a stretch) weight. So, should I double or triple the strand? What to do?!!

The comments to this entry are closed.