What is gauge and why is it so important

When I first started crocheting and knitting I had no idea about gauge.

And when you are first learning and making simple patterns that don't require an exact fit then I don't think you should worry too much about it so stitch away..

Gauge can have a massive impact on the finished size of your project and how much yarn you use.

If you regularly ignore the gauge section of a pattern this could be why you’re running out of yarn or your finished garments don’t quite fit.

Let's demystify gauge and get you understanding what it's all about so that you can confidently #stitchyourselfsomecoolshit

So, what is gauge?

Gauge is a measure of how big your stitches are.

It’s generally measured over 10 cm (or 4 inches) and measures two things

  • Stitches - Width
  • Rows - Height

On the pattern it’ll look something like this:

Gauge: 22 sts (stitches) x 30 rows to 10cm / 4 inches in stockinette stitch on 4.00mm needles

Or in crochet, it might look something like this

Gauge: 16 sts (stitches) x 19 rows to 10cm / 4 inches in single crochet on 4.50mm hook

Why does it matter?

If you are making something that doesn’t need to fit like 

Then you don’t necessarily need to match the gauge.

These projects are perfect if you are new to slowcraft & are perfect to team with my FREE beginner courses.

But when you want to make something that needs to fit like:

Then it’s important that you know what gauge you need and can match it.

Because if you don’t you could run into a few problems like:

  1. Your garment/accessory won’t fit.
  2. You’ll run out of yarn or have leftover yarn.
  3. The project might not look like how it’s pictured.

We don’t all stitch the same way.

Some of us tend to work tighter stitches while others have a very loose technique. 

You can’t guarantee that your technique matches that of the designer, so getting gauge helps you match the designer’s pattern without having to make any changes to your style.

How do you get the right gauge

You have a couple of options here.

  1. Measure previous projects

Check the gauge on these projects with the gauge on the pattern. 

This is a good way of seeing if your knitting or crochet is loose, tight or spot on.

1. Just get started and measure later

This one is good if you’ve had a bit of practice under your wing and your previous projects have had the correct gauge. Just be prepared to rip it out and know that you’ll learn more from your mistakes than you ever will from always getting it right.

2. Create a gauge swatch

This option is the safest and it can pay to keep your swatches or keep notes of your swatches in your slowcraft journal for similar projects in future.

How to knit a gauge swatch

Using needles recommended on the pattern, cast on or chain twice the number of stitches that the gauge calls for. 

For this example, cast on 44 sts. 

Gauge: 22 sts (stitches) x 30 rows to 10cm / 4 inches in stockinette stitch on 4.00mm needles

Then keep working as per the pattern until it’s a square sample.

For a knitted stocking stitch swatch, I like to work in garter stitch for 6 rows at the top and the bottom and always knit the first and last 3 stitches on every row so that I get a garter stitch edge, stopping any curl from stocking stitch.

I have a really handy pattern for a knitted swatch, pop you're email in the box below and I'll email it to you. 



How to measure your gauge

Place your knitting gauge on swatch then count the number of stitches that fit in the cut out section. 

Count the number of stitches in the horizontal cut out section.

This cut out section measures 5 cm, so take the number of stitches, or rows, and multiply it by 2 to get your gauge across 10 cm. 

In this sample I have 9 sts, I’m also working with 4.00mm needles.

9 x 2 = 18 sts in 10cm. This is my stitch gauge. 

Next, count the rows. 

Count the number of rows in the vertical cut out section. 

In this sample I have 15.5 rows.

15 rows x 2 = 31 rows in 10 cm. This is my row gauge.

My gauge is 18 sts x 31 rows in 10 cm on 4.00 mm needles

I’m trying to achieve a gauge of 22 sts x 30 rows in 10cm on 4.00mm needles.

You can see that my gauge is out. 

If you knit to gauge the first time, woohoo!

Go ahead and get started with your project.

If, like me, your gauge is off, read on for a few ways to get gauge.

What to do when your gauge swatch is not right?

Gauge is too tight

If you have more stitches per 10 cm, your gauge is too tight and your project will be too small. You’ll also have a lot of leftover yarn!

To fix this, try using a larger knitting needle or crochet hook. 

This will make each stitch larger and therefore spread it out over 10 cm.

Gauge is too loose (or big)

If you have fewer stitches per 10cm, like I do, then your project will be too large. You might even run out of yarn! 

My gauge is generally normal but my stitches are too big because I’m using a lovely plump yarn that has alpaca in it instead of straight merino. 

To fix this, try using a smaller knitting needle or crochet hook. This will give you more stitches per inch.

What if changing your needle or hook size doesn’t work?

You may need to change what yarn you’re working with.

You can also change the type of needle or hook you're working with. 

Metal needles and hooks can be more accurate in measurement than wood.

Remember that the journey to getting your gauge right should be a slow one.

Enjoy it.

xx Birdie

Ps - I have an amazing video resource in our group where I talk over all these points. You can view that here.

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1 comment

This is a great article Birdie – I’ve always been pretty vague about my gauge, now I know exactly how to measure and correct if necessary…thank you!
I’ve also wondered about washing and blocking the finished product…if you haven’t done one already (I’ll check your blog) would you consider doing a piece in that topic?


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