Today we will talk about Gauge. I am writing as a textile designer and as a knitter. In fact there is no clear seperation between these two anyway.

I am always very open minded when it comes to designing. This includes how I handle Gauge. For example it happened more than once that we could not fill in the right data on Ravelry when describing a SKEINO pattern. This happened because at times our designs expand the rules a little bit. You can certainly do that if you know your stuff.

What stuff? – Here are 3 things I recommend every knitter to know about Gauge:

  1. Basics

All knitting patterns should provide a Gauge that will give the number of stitches and rows for 4 x 4 inches (10 x 10 cm). Most of the time the needle size to create these number of stitches and row is also provided. Sometimes the designer will say: “…or obtain Gauge” or “… depends on your project”.

Anyway, you will need a gauge for your project.

The best way is to always knit a swatch. The first step is, to use the needle size the Gauge provides. Watch for the pattern the gauge is given for. It can be Stockinette Stitch, Garter Stitch or Pattern Stitch. This is very important for your swatch. Cast on for your swatch at least the number of stitches for 5 inches. If the needle size provided does not give you the result you should have, you need to change the needle size. Try a larger needle if you are a tight knitter, try a smaller needle, if you are a loose knitter. We all knit differently and it also makes a different if you are a “Thrower”, “Continental” or “Combination” Knitter. Spend as much time as you need for the PERFECT SWATCH. You will have the time back and no more “unraveling” and “figuring out” which is a waste of time.

  1. Another aspect is your personal taste.

The Gauge for a garment is very important for a perfect fit.

For some patterns the Gauge needs to be perfect for the design to come out right.

To follow the provided Gauge it is very important for you to not run out of yarn for a certain piece.

The Gauge is your decision for a cuddling scarf or shawl. Walk away from the provided Gauge, if your swatch does not please you. Change the Gauge to the better. You will be surprised what it does.

The Gauge is your decision for most lace knitting. Work as loose or tight as you like.

  1. Changing the yarn weight

If a pattern is written for a DK weight yarn and you want to use a Worsted Weight yarn, go for it.

It is very easy for a scarf or shawl. Chose the needle you think will be right for your yarn pick and start a swatch. Change the size of the needle as often as you like until the result is pleasing you. Now you have to do the math, which is very important. The provided Gauge tells you the number of stiches and the stitches you need to cast on. If you change the yarn to a heavier weight you need less stitches for 4 inches (10 cm).

Example: If you have a Scarf that is knitted lengthwise and the Gauge is 16 Sts per 4 inches, but the stitch number from your personal swatch is 12 Sts per 4 inches, you will need to do the math. If the scarf should have a desired length of 72 inches, you will need to cast on with your yarn 216 stitches. (12 sts per 4 inches = 3 sts per inch x 72 inches = 216). It is that easy, trust yourself and try it.

For some easy projects you don’t have to do the math at all, because it will just work. Like a triangular shawl knitted down from neck. Make a swatch to determine the needle size and start your work. When the yarn is knitted up, the shawl is done.

I want to give you the inspiration to develop the courage to become as independent as possible. By doing so you will always enjoy your craft as much as possible. Trust yourself and your instinct. Don’t be afraid to work outside of the pattern.

Maybe a glass of wine will do the job to let go and be yourself.

Do you agree with this list? What do you think are the most important things every knitter should know about Gauge?


…and as always:

Happy Knitting!






  1. Dear Bjorn,

    I was unsure of the correct way to handle the gauge in the Arabella kit. In that kit, we are provided with twelve different colors which are each rather small amounts of yarn ~ enough for the pattern but not much extra yarn in any one color.

    This meant whatever color I picked to use for the gauge would have to be pulled apart and rewound to use in the shawl. I was concerned about damaging the yarn if I had to try two or three times before I found the correct gauge.

    If I have fingering weight yarn in another brand, will it work to use that left over fingering weight yarn to practice for the gauge instead of the beautiful yarn provided for the Arabella shawl?

    Thank-you for your help & all the great information and encouragement you provide in your blogs!

    • Dear Terry,
      Yes, you are right, the Arabella Shawl has just enough yarn to knit the shawl and no extra yarn to do a Gauge swatch. The yarn will not being hurt to knit from one of the skeins a swatch and then unravel it for the final use. Even if the yarn is very soft and a single ply it will work just fine.
      To use another similar yarn for the swatch will do the job to a certain extent.
      Happy Knitting!

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