How to Measure a Gauge Swatch

When I first started knitting, I did not pay much attention to the gauge. I started off with knitting scarves and throws that gauge was not required since the finished measurements are not critical to accurate fit. It was a joy to just get down to business and start off the project.

If you are knitting garments however, such as sweaters, jumpers, hats or socks, taking some time to knit up and correctly measure a gauge swatch is an important investment worth of your time and resources to ensure precise measurements. It would be very disappointing to skip checking the gauge only to find that the knitted piece you have worked on does not fit.

What is a gauge swatch?

A gauge or tension swatch is a knitted square with a specific number of stitches and rows per inch. Patterns usually go by at least a 4″ by 4″ square where the indicated same number of stitches and rows should be achieved.

Finding it on a pattern

When you start working on a pattern, the instructions will have gauge or tension measurements on the top notes. It is highly recommended to achieve the correct gauge before starting the actual item. Below are a couple examples on where to find it on the pattern.

First example: gauge asks for a 12 sts and 16 rows in a 4″ square in stockinette stitch using US 11 (8 mm) needles. | Second example: tension asks for 22 sts and 28 rows also in a 4″ square in stockinette stitch using the indicated larger needles.

How to adjust for gauge?

  • If you end up having fewer stitches per inch on your gauge than that of the pattern, try using smaller needles to match the same number of stitches on the pattern.
  • If you end up having more stitches per inch on your gauge than that of the pattern, try using larger needles to match the same number of stitches on the pattern.

If your swatch matches the gauge on the pattern, congratulations! You have matched the correct gauge and this will give you the same measurements required by the pattern.

Below is an example of a recent gauge swatch that I have worked on for a hat.

Gauge: Using US 8 (5.0 mm) needles, 4″ square = 17 sts and 27 rows in stockinette stitch

Knitting for gauge is a very vital and worthwhile step before starting a project. I myself dread it maybe because there is no immediate satisfaction that I get from it and it delays me from jumping into the project. But… as much as it is true in life, delaying pleasure sometimes pays off in the end. Taking time to make a gauge swatch is exactly that.

I hope that you have learned a thing or two about measuring a gauge swatch, its importance and why it is worth it to make one before starting on your project. Send me a message if you have any questions.

Happy swatching!

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