How To Measure Gauge In Knitting

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In this post, you will learn how to measure gauge in your knitting.

Gauge is also referred to as tension in some knitting patterns.

Knitting a gauge swatch is helpful for you to see if your knitted item has the correct gauge and will work out the right size.

The gauge is the number of stitches you have per inch on the horizontal and the number of rows per inch on the vertical.

wooden knitting needles

Why You Should Create A Gauge Swatch

It’s a great way to begin a new project by making a gauge swatch, to check that you have the same gauge measurements as the pattern designer.

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Most knitting patterns will tell you the gauge so that you can check to see if yours is the same using the same size needles and weight of yarn.

Without checking your gauge before you start a project, may mean that your project will turn out too big or too small then you intended.

How to measure gauge in knitting

Every Knitter Knits Differently

Sometimes when knitting the finished item might look a bit different from the pattern photos.

This may be because you decided to use different needles, different yarn, or maybe your knitting tension is different, so your gauge doesn’t match up to the pattern.

Every knitter knits differently, some knit tight and some knit loose, so all of our projects have the possibility to turn out in various sizes.

Someone who knits very tightly will have a much tighter fabric than someone who knits loosely.

This means your knitting tension will be different.

This is why checking your gauge is important, especially for a garment like a sweater where sizing is more important than say a scarf.

pink knitting

How To Knit A Gauge Swatch

Getting into the habit of knitting a gauge swatch before you start a project will have some benefits, even though you will be excited to get started right away.

If the gauge of a pattern says for example; 10 x 10 cm /4 x 4 inches = 18 sts and 20 rows with size 5mm (US 8) needles and worsted weight yarn, that tells you what you need to make your sample swatch.

Ribbed white knitting

How To Get Started

With the right size needles recommended on the pattern and the yarn weight it suggests, you can begin to knit your gauge/tension square.

Make sure you knit in whatever stitch is specified on the patterns, for example, garter stitch, stockinette stitch, etc.

You should also knit a few extra rows so that your square width is a bit larger than 4×4 inches, so you can get an accurate measurement of your row gauge with your tape measure when lying flat.

example of what stockinette stitch looks like

Cast Off As It States In The Pattern

When you cast off, you should measure the swatch lying flat when it is no longer on the needles.

It is better to measure it flat so you can get an accurate gauge measurement.

If you plan on blocking your knitting when you are finished, then you should also block the knit swatches, so you can measure after that.

Time needed: 30 minutes.

How To Knit A Gauge Swatch

  1. Knit your square and measure in the middle across the sample

    Get your measuring tape, ruler, or special gauge measuring tool (yes these are really handy!) and lay your swatch out flat. Measure the center of the swatch and start counting. You need to measure the stitches across the knitting.measuring a gauge swatch in knitting

  2. Next measure the rows going up and down

    You also need to measure the rows going up and down. Measuring both the stitches going across and rows up and down is going to give you your gauge. measuring up and down a gauge swatch in knitting

  3. You can also use a gauge measuring tool

    Use a gauge measuring tool if you have one. I use my Knit Pro gauge Tool for this. You can also get a similar tool here. This may make it easier for you to count your stitches and rows. First, measure your stitches across…measuring gauge with a row counter

  4. Turn it to measure the rows up and down

    Then you can turn it to measure your rows up and down.knit pro gauge measuring tool on a knitting square

  5. Adjust if necessary

    If your gauge measurements match up with the pattern gauge instructions you are following that’s great! You can now start knitting. If not you will have to adjust. For example, if you knit 6 stitches per inch instead of 9 that means that your knitting is looser and you will need to knit another swatch using smaller needles. If you have the opposite problem and your knitting is too tight, then you will have to go up a needle size. You may even have to try a few different needle sizes. Keep knitting samples and changing your needle size until you match the gauge given on your pattern. If that still doesn’t work, you may need to change your yarn.

Knitting Gauge FAQs

How do I know my gauge?

You need to knit a gauge swatch also known as a tension square. This will allow you to see how many stitches you have going across and how many rows up and down in 4×4 inches. This is important to test out before you start knitting.

How do you measure gauge in knitting?

To make an accurate gauge swatch or tension square you need to knit a sample a bit larger than 4 x 4 inches. then you can get your measuring tape and see how many stitches you have per inch across the square and how many rows you have per inch measuring up and down.

How does needle size affect gauge?

In general, the heavier the yarn weight, the larger size needle you should use with it, this is because it will make big stitches, so you will need fewer of them. The thinner the yarn, the thinner the needle you should use with it, the smaller the stitches, so you need more of them.

How do you measure stitches per inch?

Measure 4 inches, count the stitches (half-stitches, too) and divide this number by 4 (it may be a fraction). This is stitches per inch. If you have more stitches per inch than your pattern calls for that means your stitches are too small. You will now have to try using a larger needle size.

How do you count rows in stocking stitch?

In order to count your rows in stocking stitch, you just need to count the “V’s” in the column with the right side facing you. As you can see, each V is equivalent to one row.

How do you measure garter gauge?

In your sample swatch, looking at the rows of garter stitch going up and down – each one of the ridges is 2 rows of knitting. Count the number of ridges and multiply that by 2. Do this counting up and down the sample from top to bottom. Remember – First, count the stitches across, next count the ridges going up and down, then multiply them by 2. This will give you your garter stitch gauge.

How do you do tension in knitting?

If the number of stitches and rows is less than quoted, knit another swatch, using smaller needles. If the number of stitches and rows is greater, use larger needles. You may need to knit samples a few times until stated tension is achieved. It is more important to obtain the right number of stitches than rows.

Knitting Lessons

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Louise: I would consider myself as an advanced beginner (mostly self-taught). I understand the basics and need for a swatch. When ordering yarn for a project/pattern, would I need to order extra for the swatching process?
    Thanks. Love your posts.

    1. Hello Ellen,
      There are two options here – you could swatch using the yarn from the exact amount you need – and reuse it by pulling it out later if needed – and use the excess for seaming etc.
      Or buy extra so that you can swatch and have more incase you need it.
      I like to buy extra (one ball or skein) because I always worry that I will have to play yarn chicken and I get anxious about that!
      It’s also good to have extra for seaming or incase something goes wrong etc.
      I hope that helps and thanks so much for visiting my site 🙂
      Louise

  2. When I do my gauge square, what do I do when the stitches across are correct but the rows are different. I am so confused on this subject

    1. Hello Sue,
      If you’re pretty close to reaching the right row gauge, try a different needle/hook material.
      You could also try a different yarn. The closer the yarn you’re using matches the yarn in the sample (in terms of fiber and ply), the closer gauge you’ll be able to achieve.
      It’s not always possible to match a designer’s exact gauge. For garments, aim to match the stitch gauge, and then take note in the difference between your row gauge and the pattern’s. You may be able to compensate by adding/removing a row or two as you work.
      I hope that helps!
      Louise

  3. Hello Louise
    Thank you for the swatch information very helpful as I have got in such a muddle on this before. I love looking at your patterns and advices.
    Tiggy

  4. thanks for the article! i’m a beginner and i googled what it meant which was no help but now i understand it!