gauge matters – most of the time

Gauge matters – most of the time……


Let’s look at this example:

A pattern calls for a gauge of 19 st x 24 rows using a worsted weight yarn and 5mm needles. You check the sizes on the pattern and decide which one will fit you.

You don’t bother to swatch to see how close you come to the recommended gauge
You grab your favourite yarn, and the needles you normally use to knit with it and cast on…. I mean, it’s just knitting and this should work, right?

Cast on 229 sts; work the pattern as directed, following the instructions for waist shaping when the piece measures 5 inches from the cast on, and working until it finally measures a very long 16.5 inches from cast on……
You divide for the armholes, work each piece to the required 8.75 inches, finally master the technique of a 3 needle bind off on the shoulders, and get ready to pick up for the sleeves……

hmmmmm, the pattern says to pick up 68 sts around the armhole. That is going to make the armhole pucker because there are just so many rows…. oh, well, the pattern has lots of projects and it’s been tested and everything, so it will work out in the end – maybe it just needs that “blocking” thing.
So you proceed and get about halfway through the first sleeve and find that you are running out of yarn…….. You desperately search for the same dye lot, finally find some and carry on…..your second sleeve is finished and now it comes time to admire your handiwork……

hey, it’s way smaller than it’s supposed to be; and even with blocking, the sleeves and armholes just don’t look good…..

You post/blog about the crappy designer and the “paid for” pattern. You tell everyone about how the pattern doesn’t make a nice cardigan, used way more yarn than what was called for, and that you will never buy another thing from this designer.

BUT let’s see what went wrong……
The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn; you chose to use your favourite DK yarn instead. The needle size, which is less important, but still a factor, called for is a 5mm, you usually use a 3.75 with your chosen yarn.

Someone at your knit group says – let’s measure your gauge. It ends up being 24 sts and 30 rows = 4″.

So let’s figure out the math:
Pattern: 19 sts/24 rows
Yours: 24 sts/30 rows

cast on 229 sts:
Pattern: 229 divided by 19 sts times 4″ = 48″
yours: 229 divided by 24 sts times 4″ = 38″

pattern: 8.75″ divided by 4″ times 24 rows = 52.5 rows (rounded to 53)
yours: 8.75 divided by 4″ times 30 rows = 65.6 rows (rounded to 66)

Sleeves: pick up 68 sts
pattern: 68 sts divided by 19 sts times 4″ = 14.3″ sleeve circumference
yours: 68 sts divided by 24 sts times 4″ = 11.3″ sleeve circumference

So, although you knit to the linear measurements (inches in length), your chosen yarn and needles made something much smaller in circumference.

So, before you start something that needs to fit, you want to make sure you are coming fairly close to the gauge the designer recommended. And if you can’t meet the designer’s recommended gauge, learn how to adjust the pattern

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One Response to gauge matters – most of the time

  1. carolynmcb says:

    I used to hate making gauge swatches. I wanted to hurry up and cast on and get on that project! But a ‘sizing mishap’ with a hat pointed out the error of my haste.
    My mother was going to approach a sweater she’s making for me with almost the same example you’ve used above. When she showed me the back she had already cast on, I had to find a kind and gentle way to point out it likely would be too tight for me to enjoy. I couldn’t convince her to knit for gauge, but thankfully, I convinced her to at least frog and re-cast for a larger size. I love her for thinking I’m smaller than I really am, but we’re talking about a much modified pattern with expensive wool that I already drool over. At least now there’s a better chance the cardigan might fit! Yes, gauge really is more important than many of us think.
    Great post, keep it up!


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