Summer Sweater Knit Along - Got Gauge? (and what the heck it is)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

today is the day folks! time for the summer sweater knit along!! yippee! i haven't been this excited to start a knitting project in years! i hope mine turns out :) one way i'm going to do my best is to make sure to gauge & swatch my little heart out. 

22 stitches x 28 rows = 4" (10cm)

what's a gauge & how do i get it you ask? well.....gauge is that nifty line of writing on a knitting pattern that tells you how many stitches and rows should equal an inch so that when you choose your yarn and needle size you get the correct look of that pretty pattern you chose.  it also calculates for you how many stitches you should have per inch.  i mean seriously, you know those funny pics of sweaters with arms 4 times too long?  gauge issue.  the neck hole could fit 10 men?  gauge issue.   giant hats?  gauge issue. gauge is annoying, it takes time to make that you would rather spend working on your fab new project but trust me...if i can teach you one thing about knitting it is to always, always, always do a gauge swatch, especially if it's clothing you are making.

how do you figure out what your gauge is?  first, check your pattern.  it will be listed near the start along with the yarn choices etc.  you should also pay careful attention to the yarn choice & suggested needle size to achieve the gauge listed as well as what kind of fiber it is as this will also aid you in getting correct gauge.  next step, choose your yarn.  if you need help with this step check out our post from last week on choosing yarn.  when choosing your yarn that nifty ball will have a label on it with the recommended gauge.  sometimes the stars align and the gauge matches perfectly to your pattern - that's a good thing but it's not an exact science.  you could be a loose or tight knitter and have to adjust.  so what you do is go on home, get out the needles size suggested for your yarn and do up a swatch.  do as many as it takes to get gauge.

how do you find out if you've got gauge?  i recommend knitting at least a 6-8" square.  boring right?  i know, but it will be more fun when you get going on your pattern.  the reason to make a bigger square than the gauge calls for is you need to have room to measure in the center of your square for gauge - not the edges. make sure to cast on extra stitches than the gauge calls for.  so for instance if the gauge says 22sts (abbreviation for stitches) cast on 28.  same goes with the amount of rows.  if the gauge states 28 rows do 34.  when knitting your rows always knit the first and last 3 stitches and knit the first 3 rows and the last 3 rows.  this will give you a pretty border that makes it easier to measure your gauge. make sure you do as i say not as i was too lazy to make a border on mine because i feel comfy measuring it without the border but it is easier to make the swatch with one if you are just starting out knitting. *tip - if you've used the yarn before but this time you're using a different colorway do a gauge again.  different dyes can affect how your gauge will turn out.

how do you whip up your swatch? there are a lot of different ways to make a gauge swatch but the most common is to use stockinette stitch.  stockinette stitch is knitting one row and then purling the next.  be aware though that some patterns call for how to make your gauge swatch.  they will ask for you to test your gauge using the pattern instead of the garter stitch.  check some of the links i've listed below for many other ways of knitting your gauge swatch.

how do i measure the darn thing?  now that you are done your swatch it's time to measure that puppy.  you can either use a nifty little crafting ruler or you can use a gauge ruler (not sure if this is the right  some of these may or may not have a window along the ruler with a red plastic attachment that you can slide along the ruler to mark the start of where you want to start counting your gauge.  it's very handy!  but before you put the ruler down and measure you should take care to get your swatch ready.  make sure it's not stretched.  you need the swatch to accurately reflect the pattern.  i like to pin mine down to my ironing board so it doesn't move and then measure.  depending on what kind of yarn you are using and how die hard you are you can block your swatch too (more on this later in the kal).

now i am by no means an expert.  don't judge..haha.  this is just my layman's terms way of explaining gauge.  just pretend you were sitting down next to me at knit night sipping coffee, laughing and listening to the band and you said "hey shannon, how and what the heck is a gauge and why do you do it?"  i would prolly tell you what i wrote above and then preached to you about how much i hate doing it (with some swear words thrown in) but how important it is to do it especially if you have a tendency to be a loose or tight knitter. my tension changes based on needles too.  if i'm on circular or dpn's my knitting tension is way different than if i was on straights.  or you can be lucky like my pal amy.  she never gauges but it always turns out perfect.  i think she has some weird knitting gift...haha.  i, on the other hand, am not so lucky.  the knitting gods did not bestow that gift upon me dang it.

so in order to help me make this whole gauge thing a whole heckuva lot more easier to understand here's some very helpful and informative posts all on our favorite friend (not..haha) gauge!

*great post on gauge and how to measure it on fuzzy galore.
* has a funny and oh, so helpful article on gauge.
*knitpicks also has a handy post all about gauge.
*yarn&fiber has a post on yarn weight and also one on needle conversions.
*i learned a lot from this post on twist collective.
*yarnforward has a knitting tensions/gauge that's great.

i also recommend doing a google search for anything else you just don't get.  there are also super nice forums and communities you chat in and ask tons of questions on  you can also ask away in our summer sweater knit along ravelry group thread.  also if you are a visual learner like me check out youtube for lots and i mean lots of videos on all sorts of knitting stuff and making gauge and swatches.  tons on there.  one of my fave knitting sites to go to for help has also always been  check them out too.

i hope you guys are ready for some knitting fun!!!!  bring on the sunshine and bring on some knitting!  make sure to follow along in our ravelry group to stay up to date on the kal and also here on the blog.  you can click on this link to bring up only KAL posts so it's easier to read.  i'm also super excited to announce our sponsors for the summer sweater knit along!!!!!! that's talented gals are gonna get some loot and gifties from some of my fave knitting designers and shops!!!   i'll be announcing all the prizes later on during the KAL.  i'm sooo bummed i can't win :P

a giant thank you to all of our summer sweater knit along sponsors for joining in on the fun and helping to support knitting in the hot months. you guys rock and i appreciate all the support!  here they are.....drum roll please......

summer sweater knit along sponsors!!!

the lovely elisa is offering all luvinthemommyhood readers 20% off in her gorgeous shop!! use code LTMH2011 at the checkout of her etsy shop.

 wowsa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! how's that for goodies ladies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  happy knitting!!!  make sure to add any pics you'd like of your KAL to our ravelry group and also to our flickr group. i may just show off your goodies on the blog!

do you have any tips or resources you'd like to share on gauge and knitting swatches?  i'd love to hear about them and add them to this post!  have you started your gauge yet?  


  1. This makes me so excited to learn to knit! I start classes next month and i'm super excited although a little overwhelmed!

  2. @Taylor {Sew Much Love} Yippee! So excited you are learning how! You'll love it! don't forget about crochet either...equally as fun and sometimes faster/easier to learn! Have fun!

  3. Here are a couple more tips for gauge/tension swatching:

    * knit swatch as the pattern will be, if the pattern is in the round knit the swatch in the round

    * knit all patterns in the project on your swatch. This is your first chance to see how the yarn looks in the pattern. You might discover you don't like how it looks in the yarn you picked

    * Use purl bumps on the right side of the swatch to denote what needle size you used (really important when switching needles frequently)

    If you really abhor knitting swatches start on a sleeve first. Just cast on and follow the pattern then after 6-8 measure and see if you've got your gauge. If not it isn't a lot of work to frog it and start with another needle size.

  4. I so wish I could be a part of this!
    There better be a next time.
    PS. you are sooo smart :) I love the way you teach gauge

  5. Buffy - As per usual, I bow down to you my dear! Thanks for the extra tips! You rock!!!

    Sarah O -I hope there will be, we'll see how this one goes :) Thanks for the compliment too!

  6. Yay! I'm so excited the KAL start date is finally here. What awesome sponsors you have recruited! I started on my gauge swatch and I'm loving the yarn and pattern I chose. So far, so good.

  7. Looking forward to my yarn arriving so i can get started the knitbot coupon code still isn't working though or is it just me?

  8. Okay that's a bit off - I'm not a knitter at all, but I think I have a tool in my sewing box meant for this sort of thing.

  9. The BabbyMama - hahaha, just looked closer at that gauge ruler and it was for a postal service!! Oops...just saw the pic and thought "that's what I'm looking for!" guess I should enlarge things and read the fine print. Off topic though they do make gauge rulers for sewing and knitting and they are very similar.

    Anonymous - I finally got a hold of Hannah Fettig/Knitbot and the code should be working now. Please let me know if it's not and thank you for letting me know it was still down. Appreciate it hun :)

  10. Nothing like the last minute but I finally found yarn I like ... I'm ready to go!

  11. You should also wash and dry your swatch too before you measure it as wool can grow while washing and that will effect the final dimensions of your finished sweater. To measure your swatch you just need a ruler, any ruler. No fancy materials needed.
    Another thing to do is use a sleeve as a swatch, but it depends on whether your pattern is knit with separate sleeves, of course that won't work with a seamless knit if it is knit top down.

  12. ok, so it turns out I had no clue how to measure the I am re-starting. Glad to see that this early on I am already learning something.
    This is so ridiculously exciting!!

  13. Great explanation on gauge! I've been knitting for a long time but have stuck with items to knit where gauge wasn't important. I've avoided trying out garments simply because I couldn't seem to wrap my head around figuring out gauge, but now it's a bit more clear. Trying out a sweater doesn't seem so scary now :)

  14. I am a new knitter and just found your site. I am so new that I just go the basics of knitting and pearling down. I have been to the yarn store and can see the difference between the hand dyed and the acrylic yarns. I have ordered skein from Quince and Company in Portland Maine just to get started. I have a size 13 bamboo long needles. Anyway what my question is, I am learning to knit one row, pearl the next, and so on. Well, my question is I don't know if I am knitting too tight but my swatch is not laying flat but is curling up? why is that and what am I doing wrong? I really want to get this. Also what is the best way to get started and what do you recommend. I have spoken with Alicia Plummer before and I love her stuff but I am sooooo not there and the lingo and stuff is not in my vocabulary yet. I am a hands on learner and am finding this difficult because I don't have anyone to sit with to knit. Anyway- love your blog. thanks again. Laura

    1. Hi laura! So excited you are learning to knit!

      When you are doing your gauge swatch add on 2 or more stitches to each side of your square and knit them in garter (knit every row) they will create a border that won't curl. Stockinette stitch curls on it's edges. See if that helps :)

      so you would knit your swatch with garter edges and the rest of the swatch will be in stockinette. When you cast on knit 2-3 rows in garter and the same when you get to the end. That way it will lay nice and flat when you block/measure.


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