How to measure gauge knitting is just as important as knitting a gauge swatch. If we take the time to knit a gauge swatch, we had better take the time to measure it accurately. One and done is not a good rule in this instance. More like, double, triple check. And verify again just one more time to be sure.
In this blog post, I am going to assume that you already agree and know our knit gauge definition. If you are not familiar with what gauge is in the knitting world, I invite you to first read my blog post “What is Knit Gauge?”. Click here to read the post.
Since we are measuring our gauge swatch, of course I also assume you have made one. But if you haven’t, or you don’t know how to make one. You can check out my blog post “4 Easy Steps to Make a gauge swatch knitting”. Click here to read the post.
And with that all out of the way, we’re ready for the topic at hand: how to measure gauge knitting swatch?
You knit a swatch, now what?
If you finished knitting your swatch and you think you are ready to measure, I want to first double-triple check that you have, in fact, blocked your swatch. Blocking your swatch helps you measure. Blocking your swatch will give you the most accurate measurement. Please, block your swatch.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, you can check out the blog post for how to make a gauge swatch and the section on “blocking” for more information. Click here for blocking methods.
But you did block it already? You rockstar! Ok, then what’s next is measuring. A little bit of preparation can go a long way to ensure the measuring process goes smoothly.
First, let’s select a place to measure the swatch.
- A hard surface where your swatch can lay flat
- Good lighting. You want to be able to see your stitches, and be prepared to adjust the lighting if you get a glare.
Second, gather the materials.
- The gauge swatch
- Measurement Tool
It can be a knit gauge checker tool, a regular ruler, or a tape measure. If you have a choice, I recommend a hard ruler. A tape measure sometimes has trouble laying flat. And a gauge check tool is helpful for beginners in isolating the stitches, but typically only measures a small 2 inch space. There are some you can get that will measure 4 inches.
- Scrap paper/notebook
- Calculator or a love for doing math in your head
Lois’ newbie knitter confessions
OK, it’s time for another classic “Lois newbie knitter confession” …
When I was new to gauge swatches and measuring gauge, I was heck-a confused about what it meant for stitches vs. rows. Isn’t it all counting stitches? I mean some are horizontal, and the others are vertical, but it’s all counting stitches.
So, for any of you newbie knitters out there who may be feeling confused let me explain the difference.
In knitting, when we are discussing gauge, stitches are referring to the number of stitches along a horizontal plane. Rows, are made up of stitches, yes, but we are more concerned about the number of stitches that are along the vertical plane. And so to differentiate between these two measurements we call the horizontal number of stitches “stitch gauge” and the number of vertical stitches “row gauge”. Got it?
Great! Then let’s start measuring those stitches!
Step 1: Measure Gauge Knitting Stitches
Lay your knit item flat on a surface, and place a gauge swatch measuring tool, ruler, or tape measure on top of your knit item. Line up the edge of your tool with the beginning of a stitch.
Count the stitches along the ruler for 4 inches or 10 cm, whichever system you use.
If you’re lucky – the number of stitches will be exactly right on with your ruler! Awesome-sauce! But it may be that they aren’t on target. It may be that you get a half stitch, or quarter stitch – that’s ok! As a rule of thumb, I include half stitches in my calculations. I don’t generally do this with quarter stitches, though if you want to, I think it’s ok. Knowledge is power!
If you didn’t get a whole number and had a fraction, it’s ok. I encourage you to do this measurement in several places of your swatch. Measure closer to the cast-on edge, several spots in the middle, and then closer to the bind off edge. For each measurement you take, record the number of stitches on some scrap paper or in a notebook.
*Important* Do not measure along the cast-on or bind-off edge as these stitches will generally always be different than your knit gauge. Instead measure a few rows from the cast-on or bind-off edge.
Taking your measurement from various areas give you much deeper insight into whether or not you are making gauge. Maybe you find that you are perfectly uniform throughout your knitting. But if you don’t, it’s ok! I think it’s pretty common to be off a little here and there. The important thing is that we are learning what our overall gauge is and not isolating it to one perfectly knit section.
So, now add up all the stitches that you had counted (including those half stitches), and divide by the number of measurements that you took. This will be your average stitch gauge in the swatch.
Step 2: Measure Gauge Knitting Rows
Now we are ready to count our row height. So we just need to turn that ruler perpendicular and count along the stitch vertical line.
You can line yours up along any side of the stitch, I personally like to do mine in the center of the “v”. I choose to do the center of the “v” because it allows me to see the true bottom of the stitch. But it really makes no difference. As long as you can count them and everything is lined up.
Now, just count the stitches along the vertical line of the ruler and this is the number of rows for your gauge swatch. I like to count the center of the “v”s, but you can also count just the leg of the stitch.
If you didn’t get a whole number and had a fraction, it’s ok. I encourage you to do this measurement in several places of your swatch. Measure closer to the edges and in several spots in the middle. For each measurement you take, record the number of rows on some scrap paper or in a notebook.
*Important* Do not measure along the edges as these stitches will generally always be different than the center of your knit gauge. Instead measure a stitches from the edges.
So, now add up all the rows that you had counted (including those half rows), and divide by the number of measurements that you took. This will be your average row gauge in the swatch.
Congrats! You have just measured your knit gauge!
Using your averages this is your knit gauge for stitches and rows. Hopefully you matched gauge! Wouldn’t that be AMAZE?!?
But, maybe you didn’t match. Ugh! It’s ok! It really is ok. I think that not matching gauge is a real issue for a lot of us, and actually the entire reason we make a gauge swatch to begin with. Because we may not match gauge, and our finished knit item will not turn out the way we plan.
So, if you didn’t match gauge, shake it off. And I’ll be back soon with some tips for what you can do if you made a gauge swatch and didn’t match gauge.
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