Knitting Gauge; What is it, and why is it important?
So you've been knitting a little while now and you've got the basics down. You keep hearing people talking about "gauge" and don't really know what it means...
So, what is Knitting Gauge?
The dictionary says:
1. the thickness, size, or capacity of something, especially as a standard measure (noun)
2. estimate or determine the amount, level, or volume of (verb)
We make sure our knitted thing turns out the right size by measuring the gauge first.
The final measurements of anything you knit are dictated by gauge. If your pattern asks you to knit a Tension Square, a Tension Swatch, or a Gauge Swatch, these are all asking for the same thing.
Why is Gauge Important?
Getting the correct tension when knitting is an absolutely vital step in knitting; without the correct tension, there is a good chance that what you are knitting will end up far too big, or far too small.
Many people skip this step because they feel that it's not very important, or it's a waste of time or they're just too impatient to get knitting... But that's not something you'd do, right?
I get it. It seems like an annoying hurdle. It's getting in the way of your precious knitting time. But, if you want something to fit you HAVE to do it. (I'm putting my foot down.)
Everyone knits slightly differently, and the gauge on each project is determined purely by the pattern designers knitting technique! If the designer knits loosely and you're a tight knitter, you will produce different sized pieces even if you were using the exact same yarn and needles!
How to get the Correct Knitting Gauge
So, I hope I've just about managed to convince you that gauge is super important to the final outcome of your awesome sweater; now how do you do it?
You knit a tension square. I will be showing you exactly how to do this in next week's blog post, but here are the basic instructions.
1. Cast on 30-40 stitches with the needle size recommended in the pattern.
2. Knit a few rows in garter stitch, then knit stocking stitch with a garter stitch border. You want it to be AT LEAST square. This is because your knitting tends to loosen up the longer you knit for, so you will get a more accurate result this way.
3. Count how many stitches are in 4" of knitting the divide it by 4. Now, I'm sure you're thinking "couldn't I just count how many stitches are in 1 inch?". The answer is, yes you could. However, by working out the number over a larger area and dividing it, you will be working out the average, which will even out any odd sized stitches you might have. Again, this is just for accuracy, which is more important than you might think*
4. The number you worked out is your stitches per inch. If you have too many stitches per inch, you need to go up a needle size (if it's very close, try half a needle size), and if you have too few stitches, go down a needle size.
5. Continue the process of knitting and counting your stitches until the stitches per inch are spot on to the gauge the pattern asks for. This is the needle size you need to use.
*Now, you might think I'm being over-the-top about the accuracy thing but I'm gonna give you a little basic maths example (I'm not capable of anything other) of how important it is:
Say you're knitting a sweater, and it has 200 stitches around the body.
The gauge asks for 5 stitches per inch.
200 (total stitches) ÷ 5 (stitches per inch) = 40 (inches around the body)
Your tension square measures 5½ stitches per inch, and you think to yourself, "it's only half a stitch out, it's close enough, right?"
You cast on your 200 stitches.
Seeing as 200 (total stitches) ÷ 5.5 (stitches per inch) = 36.3636 (inches around the body)... your jumper now measures just over 36 inches around, instead of 40.
That is approximately two ladies clothes sizes in the UK! Now do you believe that accuracy is important?!
Let me know in the comments if you are a devout swatcher, or if you sometimes walk on the wild side, and keep your eyes peeled for next week's post when I will show you step-by-step how to work out your gauge. Yay!
If you’re a COMPLETE newbie, and would love to learn to knit but have no idea where to start, click below to sign up for me FREE knitting course, From Newbie to Know-It-All, which teaches you everything you need to know to get started knitting!