Check Your Gauge, the Knitting Mantra

Pretty much any knitting pattern that is not an amorphous blob is supposed to come out a certain size. To do that, you have to knit a certain number of stitches per inch or four centimeters. You frequently see this (with the capital letters):

TAKE TIME TO CHECK YOUR GAUGE!

That means, don’t knit an entire sweater, only to discover it’s a baby sweater, not one for you, or vice versa. Knitting a little square in the pattern used in the item and measuring your stitches will help you make something come out like you wanted it to.

But, do people do that? Well, professionals usually do. Regular people just say, “What the heck,” and use the size of needles called for in the pattern and some yarn they figure is close to the one called for in the pattern (which is, quite often, no longer available).

What do I do? I immediately go two sizes of needles smaller than what’s called for, knowing that I knit loosely, and I try to use a yarn of the same weight as the one called for in the pattern. That often works. And it’s fine for a shawl, afghan, or other item that doesn’t need to be an exact size.

My latest project uses a simple lace pattern called Montague, by Berroco, which calls for a Linen blend worsted weight yarn (the original yarn is no longer available!). I’m using a 100% wool worsted weight yarn with a thick-and-thin texture, Noro Kureopatora (New). It’s for a table runner in Lee’s office. I started off using the size needle in the smaller range for the yarn, a 6. I knitted an inch or so, and Lee asked, “Doesn’t that seem a bit big?”

It does sorta look like a snake

Argh. Well, I hadn’t gotten too far, and it did show how nicely the seed stitch border will look. I frogged it (ripped it out), and re-started on two sizes smaller needles, size 4, which I should have done in the first place.

It came out significantly less wide, and most important, will fit on the piece of furniture it’s destined to rest on.

It’s still not 22 inches, as the instructions call for, but that’s okay. I just needed it to be more narrow than the stereo cabinet it will decorate. Now I can happily knit away.

Lesson? I should have checked my gauge!

It looks like delicious ice cream flavors.

The above picture is the entire border. Next is the lace pattern, which will require a bit of concentration. I got the first row established on my lunch hour, though, so I can work on it this evening after work.

Speaking of work, it is very hard to concentrate on it, because there is a pair of phoebes outside flitting around, catching bugs, and chasing each other. They are such beautiful birds. And with two of them, they are just like their call, “Phoebe! Phoebe!”

The screen makes it hard to see, but there’s a second bird farther along the fence.

That’s from yesterday. Today it’s raining again. Great news!

Have a good Tuesday. Those of you who pray, let’s pray for an uneventful day tomorrow. That’s where what spare energy I have is going!

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

5 thoughts on “Check Your Gauge, the Knitting Mantra”

  1. While I tend to be a “wing it”, I do always knit a gauge swatch. I still haven’t figured out how to hit stitch and row gauge which leads to “winging it”. And duh, it took a while for me to learn that gauge is based on wetting and blocking, not as I’m knitting it. Just knitted up a gauge swatch to start my daughter’s top. Got the rows but not the stitches. Close enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah yeah … GAUGE … I had to discover that the reason my gauge always came out WAY too loose was that I was knitting more in the middle of the needle than closer to the tip. Now that I have fixed this, it has actually become a possibility (again) to knit a sweater or a top for me! YAY!
    I love the colours of the table runner and will patiently wait for progress pictures! 🙂
    (Also, thank you so much for the pictures of the phoebe and sunshine in general. Today, the sunshines for the first time in like, five days or so, and I REALLY needed it!)

    Liked by 1 person

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