Sunday, October 30, 2011

Knitting Basics: To Gauge Or Not To Gauge

Gauge is a word that you will see in most knitting projects to describe the desired tension or stitches per inch. This is crucial in certain patterns that require exact sizing, such as clothing, but less important in patterns that are more flexible in sizing, such as scarves, blankets, dishcloths, etc. Each knitter has a different tension when knitting. This means that if you have several people working with the same needle and yarn, you will have several different sizes of finished project due to tension. Some knit more tightly, and some knit more loosely. This is why it is crucial to check your gauge on projects that are meant to fit a particular person or object. If your knitting is tighter than the pattern writer's knitting, your garment may be too small, or vise versa.

So how do you measure gauge? Patterns that are gauge-dependent will provide a “gauge” for you to follow. Here is an example: 24 stitches and 39 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch using #3 needles. Let's take a closer look at what this means. This gauge example says that if you cast on 24 stitches and knit for 39 rows using size 3 needles in stockinette stitch (Knit Row 1, Purl Row 2, repeat), you should get a 4 inch swatch. A swatch is the small piece of fabric, in this instance 4 inches, that you knit to determine if you have the correct tension. If your swatch is larger than 4 inches, your gauge/tension is looser than the designer's, and you need to use a smaller needle to obtain the correct gauge. If your swatch is smaller than 4 inches, your gauge/tension is tighter than the designer's, and you need to use a larger needle to obtain the correct gauge.

So before you start a project that is designed to fit, take the time to check your gauge with a swatch. It is worth the extra time to ensure the garment will fit properly!

Gauge Swatch

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