Understanding Gauge

A good knitting pattern specifies the gauge that is required to attain the desired size or fit of the garment. For example, it may read something like, "Gauge: 20 stitches and 30 rows to 4 inches over stockinette stitch on size 7 (4.5mm) needles." In order for you to create the sweater or hat so that it comes out in the same measurements that the pattern specifies and so that it fits properly, you must be sure that you are knitting to that same gauge. Although your yarn label should indicate what size needle to use with the yarn and what the desired gauge is, you should use that recommendation only as a guide, as tension varies from knitter to knitter.

These three swatches were all made using 20 stitches and 30 rows, but with different yarns and different needle sizes. You can see how varied the sizes of the final results are. That is why it is so important to use the same gauge that the pattern calls for—with the yarn that you have chosen for the project. Even a slight discrepancy can have a tremendous effect. A 1-stitch-per-inch difference in gauge, over a large number of stitches, can result in a final size that is several inches smaller or larger than desired.

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