Reknit the swatch as necessary to get the exact gauge you need

  • If you have more stitches per inch than the pattern calls for, go up one needle size.
  • If you have fewer stitches per inch than the pattern calls for, go down one needle size.

Tinker with your needle size until you come as close as you can to the stitch gauge required by the pattern. Stitch gauge determines how wide a sweater is, so if you're off on stitch gauge, your sweater will be off widthwise. After you cast on and start knitting the actual sweater, you can't do much to make your sweater wider or narrower.

Row gauge will affect your sleeve shaping and raglan shaping, and the placement of a cable or other distinctive vertical pattern may be interrupted in an awkward place if your row gauge is off. But there are ways to work around a not-so-perfect row gauge with a little diagramming and planning (head to the later section, "Graphing sleeves [it's worth it]").

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