Gauge Matters! Use a great tool to achieve gauge success.
Once you have knitted or crocheted a gauge swatch, how do you check your gauge? With a tool of course!
Gauge is the number of stitches that fit into a certain number of inches and rows. A designer will state the number of stitches that they had when they measured their fabric. For example, if a designer states that they got 20 sts and 28 rounds / 4" what that means is that in a four inch segment, there are 20 stitches across and 28 rounds tall.
When I begin a gauge swatch, I will cast on more stitches than the designer stated in the pattern so I have a larger piece of fabric to place my measurement tools on. There are different ways of making a gauge swatch; we will tackle that in a different post. Placing my piece on a table (not on my leg!) I place one of the gauge tools shown below on top of the fabric and using another tool of some kind, I begin. For some reason, I have to have a tool in my hand to point to each stitch. A pencil, a tapestry needle, another knitting needle does the trick. My eyes have to recognize either "mountains" or "valleys" and be able to see across the entire span of four inches. I touch each stitch as I count the number of stitches in the span of four inches across the fabric: this is the stitch gauge. Then I count the number of rows in a four inch tall span: this is the row (or round) gauge. I end up with a notation that looks something like 18.5 stitches and 26 rows.
That notation is close to, but not the same as the designer's stated gauge of 20 stitches and 28 rounds / 4". In order to get my fabric close to the designer's fabric, I have to knit another swatch using a smaller needle. I need more stitches in a 4 inch section and in order to have more stitches in that swatch, my stitches have to be smaller. I have to make a change to my knitting to get the same number of stitches. If I don't make a change, my thing will be larger than the designer's. I will have fewer stitches in a four inch section of my item. My stitches are larger than the stated gauge.
-If I need more stitches in my piece, my stitches need to be smaller and I should try a smaller needle.
-If I need fewer stitches in my piece, my stitches need to be larger and I should try a larger needle.
Sometimes a designer states the gauge in a four inch section and sometimes, they state it in a one inch section. Take note of how many inches they state!
Akerworks swatch tool: I love this tool because the cut outs make it easier for my eyes to recognize and count the stitches and the rows of stitches. The window is four inches by four inches. I also love the little grabby feet on the bottom; it doesn't slip around on my swatch. Pros: The four inch window makes it so easy to count the stitches and the rows. Cons: $19, has one function only, is transparent.
Cocoknits ruler: This tool magnets to my Maker's Board and is always handy (except when it's lost). I position the ruler under a line of stitches and position the ruler so that the zero lines up with the start of a stitch. Then I count across until I reach the 4 inch line. I have to reorient the ruler up and down alongside a column of stitches to count the row gauge. Pros: Has many functions, needle gauge, measures things, magnets to the Makers Board. Cons: have to line it up at zero.
Addi gauge tool: This has a two inch cut out on the top of the plastic piece. I place the cut out at the beginning of a stitch and then count acoss the two inches. Then I must multiply this number by two (because most patterns will list the gauge over a four inch span.) Pros: it's a needle gauge too. Cons: You have to multiply by two which can be a less accurate measurement.
Any cloth tape measurer (no photo): This works the same way the Cocoknits ruler works. Pros: you probably have several tucked away in most knitting bags, inexpensive. Cons: they can be wiggly if they are made of fabric. You really have to make sure it is positioned correctly and not bunched up. They can slide around quite easily.
Stix-branded acrylic gauge. This one is similar to the Akerworks tool, with an easy-to-use window in which to count stitches. Pros: It's adorable and multi-purpose with the needle-gauge feature. Cons: It can be a little slippery on your fabric and the transparent nature can make the measuring tick-marks a little hard to see on some colors of yarn.
I am a huge believer in having the right tools for the job. Do you have the right tool to check your gauge?
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