Gauge Getting the Size Right

Every knitted fabric is made up of stitches and rows. Gauge is the number of stitches and rows it takes to make 1 square inch of knitted fabric. Figure 3-3 shows the stitches and rows that make up 1 square inch of a stockinette swatch (a sample made specifically to test gauge). Stockinette and most other knitted fabrics have more vertical rows than stitches per inch. Understanding how to measure and work with gauge is what allows you to go from a knitted swatch or sample to a finished project that measures what you want it to.

Figure 3-3:

One square inch of stockinette measured.

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Figure 3-3:

One square inch of stockinette measured.

If you've spent some time around knitters, you may already know that mention of the word gauge often elicits a groan. Gauge has a bad reputation among many knitters for three reasons. First, it represents an unpleasant "should." Second, it's a tedious task that has to be accomplished before the fun part of the project — the knitting — can begin. Finally, it involves math. However, getting comfortable with gauge gives you a leg up in knitting. Without knowing your gauge, you couldn't i Knit away on your project comfortable in the knowledge that when you've worked the thousands of stitches required to complete it, it will fit.

i Substitute another yarn for the one given in the pattern.

i Use the size needle that makes the best fabric for your chosen yarn, even if it means you don't match the pattern's gauge.

i Design your own projects and sweaters.

The first step in any knitting project is to determine the gauge of the knitted fabric you're making. Gauge (sometimes called tension) is listed at the beginning of a pattern before the instructions begin. It's given as a number of stitches and rows over 4 square inches or 10 square centimeters, and it tells what needle and what stitch pattern were used to determine the gauge. Check your pattern to see how many stitches and rows should make up 4 inches of knitted fabric. You need to measure your gauge against that given in the directions.

Gauge isn't always important, such as when you're making a scarf, an afghan, a bag, or anything else for which a precise size isn't essential. But when size does matter, the right or wrong gauge can make or break the finished piece.

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