Knitting growth - volume 1: gauge
By Jessica Baldwin, KnitChats Coach and Lefty Knitter
I thought I’d try out something new today: Knitting Growth.
There are so many facets to knitting that means knitting growth isn’t any one thing, but I know for sure no one has ever gotten their knitting dead-on the first time as a beginner. Even experienced knitters have to rip out or rip back on projects. There is so much to understand in knitting, but the first most important thing to learn after basic knitting techniques is gauge.
Gauge is the answer to so many questions: “Which needle size should I use?” “I substituted my yarn. Will my mittens be the right size?” Gauge will make or break a finished object. Hat too big, socks too small and so on. This is why it is so important to knit a gauge swatch.
What is gauge, exactly? Gauge is two things. In technical knitting, gauge is a number of stitches counted in one row over 4 inches (10cm) and number of rows per 4 inches (10cm). In a tactile sense, gauge is what defines a fabric’s density.
Which needle size is the correct size for the pattern? Is it really the size the pattern suggests? Well, yes...and...no. The very foundation of a pattern is its gauge; as long as you get the correct gauge (assuming fiber content of the yarn is the same as the designer used), your project will end up the same size as the designer’s. Needle size and yarn are both fluid. The designer may get 18 stitches and 22 rows per 4 inches with worsted weight yarn and US8/5mm needles, but you get 16 stitches and 21 rows per 4 inches with the same exact yarn and needles. This leads us to another question....
Do I go up or down a needle size? When you achieve fewer stitches per 4 inches than gauge it means your knitted loops are bigger and more open than the designer’s. Going down a needle size may help with that, but I have seen knitters need to go down two or even three sizes at times. Yes, this may seem like a waste of time, all this swatching, but I have personally knitted entire sweaters and ripped them out. It’s painful. Swatch for your own good or frog in the end. On the flipside, if you have more stitches per 4 inches than gauge, increase your needle size.
More to come on this topic. Have you learned the hard way about gauge?! Please tell us about it!
KnitChats is a virtual community of knitters and teachers. Learn and engage in your passion for knitting.