it really isn’t a dirty word…….
if you want to knit a cardigan and have it fit like it’s written to, you have to do a little thing called a swatch.
It’s a fairly easy process. If your pattern says that 19 sts and 24 rows would measure 4″, then you want to create a swatch a little bigger than 4″.
My rule of thumb (based on the targeted gauge):
Cast on 1.5 times the stitches, in this case it would be 29 sts.
Work 3 rows in garter; then, keeping 4 sts at the beginning and end of every row in garter stitch (always knit), I work 1.5 times the number of rows, in this case 36, in stockinette (or the recommended stitch pattern from the designer), followed by 3 garter rows and a bind off. I don’t cut the yarn
I count out the required number of stitches and rows, marking it with pins. Then measure it. I write down the information and remove the pins. Do a quick soak/block in the way that I will launder the finished item. Let it dry completely. Then count out the required number of stitches and rows, marking it with pins.
Then, comes the moment of truth – does it measure 4″ ?????
too many stitches will result in a smaller finished project
too few stitches will result in a larger finished project
At this point, either adjust the pattern to match your gauge, or try again with different sized needles.