Knit gauge is one of the most dreaded, talked about subjects in the knitting world. Especially if you’re a designer. And for good reason.
Knit gauge is basically the super cheat code that designers give to knitters so they can successfully knit their patterns and get the same finished object that the designer got.
But it’s also the number one thing that most of us knitters want to ignore.
It’s not because we don’t care about our knitting gauge. Not at all. We want to have lovely finished objects.
Here are some of the reasons I have for not knitting up a gauge swatch:
- “Wasting yarn”
Sometimes we feel yarn limitations keeping us from “wasting” any yarn on a gauge swatch when we think we may need every last bit of yarn we have for the project itself. It can feel stressful if we have one skein of yarn and the project calls for all the yarn. Should I knit a gauge swatch when I’m already worried I’ll be playing yarn chicken later?
- Not in the mood to knit a swatch
Sometimes we just don’t really feel like knitting up a swatch. We want to knit the item. Basically, I’m not in the mood to knit a swatch. I’m in the mood to knit a thing. And, in the moment, I do NOT care at all if it doesn’t work. Because I shove all thoughts of that right out of my pretty little head and instead think about how amazing my finished object will look.
- “I always get gauge!”
Other times we may just feel like we’ve been getting gauge on other projects and this one won’t be any different. We are magical right? I mean, my gauge matches so many times. It was a waste of time to even get the gauge on the other projects. Do I really want to waste my time on this one?
What reasons do you have? Leave me a comment below.
Knit Gauge Is Shroud in Secrecy and Mystery
Especially when you are a beginner knitter, you hear these murmurings “gauge” “gauge swatch” “gauge check”. And it’s like the knit family secrecy. Hushed ominous tones surround the entire subject making it a little intimidating for a beginner to say “What is Knit Gauge?”
And it’s even worse when you have a book that explained gauge in a beautifully written paragraph. But the entire concept of gauge and all that it encompasses is beyond the scope of the of that paragraph. And that makes the entire concept still beyond your grasp. It’s just on the outskirts of knit understanding.
Knitters everywhere are haphazardly casting on projects without a worry about gauge. Designers everywhere emphasize how important gauge is. So, what is the truth? Is it important? Do or die? Is it success or failure?
The answer is sometimes. Sometimes it is a matter of success and failure. Other times it truly is you being reassured that you will have success. And the truth is, you won’t know which it is unless you knit a gauge swatch or not. And succeed or fail.
How’s that for circular reasoning?
Knit Gauge Definition
Here’s what I have learned in my life. If we want to have a good conversation about any topic really, we need to make sure that we are all on the same page. That we all are meaning the same thing with the words we are using.
Because if you and I are having a conversation about knit gauge, and you define knit gauge as knit tension, and I define gauge as the amount of space that a stitch takes up. You and I are not going to understand each other at all. We will not know what we are missing and we may not even know that we aren’t in total agreement. This is what can happen when we assume things.
So, I thought it would be really helpful to define what gauge is to a knitter. It can feel like one of those things that we just know what it is but we can’t put it into words without numbers and examples. So let’s get some words that will help sort it out in our minds.
I define knit gauge as the amount of space that a stitch takes up. And that is both, horizontal as well as row height.
A quick google search will show you that most knitters define gauge as “the number of stitches and rows (or rounds) in a 4×4 inch or 10×10 cm square piece of fabric. And others may even combine gauge with tension and say they are the same thing.
I personally do not agree with tension and gauge being the same thing. Our knitting tension can affect gauge, but it is not one and the same thing.
So while I was thinking of gauge in terms of the singular stitch. Others were thinking of it in terms of how we use it in knitting. Or how we calculate gauge in knitting. To get a knitting gauge, it doesn’t necessarily matter about the individual stitch. What matters is the number of stitches or rows over an amount of space.
But I think that the definition I came up with empowers us as knitters. Because when we think about the individual stitch and how much space that’s taking up, well that gives us a lot more power to change our gauge as we need to.
So, I think if we combine the two definitions, we have a very good definition for what knit gauge is. Therefore, the definition we will be thinking of when we talk about knit gauge on this blog is: The amount of space that a stitch takes up, and the number of stitches and rows that are in a 4×4 inch or 10×10 cm square piece of fabric.
And I think that is an excellent definition for what knitting gauge is. In case you were wondering, what my opinion on the definition I made up was.
Knit Gauge Resources
If you have any book on knitting honestly, but especially a learn to knit book, go back to that resource and see what information they provide you on gauge.
It’s likely that your understanding of knit gauge will grow with your knitting abilities. So, with all things, just keep learning and give yourself a little bit of grace.
Gauge Ruler – These are really helpful, especially for you beginner knitters. They isolate the stitches within the window which can help you identify and count your stitches and rows.
Plus – they can be so cute! Look at this one I found on Etsy. It’s made by Laserbyj and you can find it at this link.
Not affiliated or sponsored, just a fan of cute stuff!
Ruler – I always prefer to use a hard ruler when available. While flexible tape measures are awesome, they are not so great at helping us keep our place when measuring gauge.
Learn to Knit Resource Kit – this is the kit that I designed for beginner knitters that will teach you how to knit. It includes a section on gauge that covers how to make a gauge swatch, how to measure a gauge swatch and a gauge matching worksheet.
New Knitter’s Survival Guide – If you know how to knit, but just want additional help with some new knitter issues, then this guide may be the right fit for you. It has a section on how to make a gauge swatch and how to measure a gauge swatch.
You can download a copy of this blog post in PDF that contains the most important information in an easy to read format. Click the link below.
Definitely be sure to check back to my blog, or join my email list. I will be continuing the series on gauge through my blog and provide additional resources as we work through this series. (Subscribe here)
Prefer video content? Subscribe to my YouTube channel. In my Knit Bits segments, I am doing an All About Gauge series. There is a lot of great information in those videos and I invite you to come over and check them out.
Leave me a comment below!