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In the Loop

Tutorial: Row Gauge & More

Last month, I left you to work on swatching for your stitch gauge. Now, I'm going to give you some quick pointers on dealing with that pesky row gauge.

Click here for larger image.

Option A: If you have too few rows, work your wrong-side rows with a smaller needle. If you have too many rows, work your wrong-side rows with a larger needle. Weird, I know, but it works!

Option B: Do a little math in the pattern to adjust numbers for your own row gauge. If the pattern says, "Work until the piece measures X," then you can either:

  • a. Find out how many rows that means to work: "Length Indicated" multiplied by "Your Finished Row Gauge" = "Number of Rows to Work." So, if they say to knit for 10 inches and your finished row gauge is 5 rows per inch, then you will work 50 rows.

  • b. If you aren't up to counting all those rows and would rather just pull out the tape measure, you just need to calculate the difference between the working length and the finished length. Divide the "Number of Finished Rows" by the "Working Row Gauge" to get the "Working Length." If the finished row gauge calls for 50 rows, you divide that by your working row gauge of 4.5 rows per inch, and you'll discover that your "working" piece should measure 11.1 inches in length.

Now, I have a friend who just refused to swatch. There wasn't any need since she matched gauge most of the time, and what didn't work out was just gifted away. She had valid reasons: a) "I don't want to spend all that time knitting a giant swatch when it will lie to me anyway," and b) "I just want to knit my new project!" One day, she decided to invest a lot of money in a very special jacket that would take her quite a while to finish (it ended up taking a year). I ran into her when she was halfway through, and we discussed gauge because she was upset that her jacket was looking MUCH too small.

"OK, I'll do a gauge swatch, but I don't want to spend forever doing that! How do I work one anyway? There are so many different ways," she lamented.

There are quite a few different ways: knitting 6 x 6-inch swatches, knitting 8 x 8-inch swatches, using pins to mark 4 inches and then counting the stitches between, changing to different-color yarn in the 4-inch section, not swatching at all but having perfect knitting skills, working the ends in garter stitch and counting the stockinette stitches between, using special rulers with a little window cut out for counting more stitches.

You have a LOT of choices when it comes to gauge! I've tried them all and, quite honestly, none of these worked that well for me. And if you are anything like my friend, you don't want to spend a lot of extra time, extra stitches or extra yarn before you begin your project!

The method I teach came from the great Maggie Righetti. I prefer it because you are working with exactly what the pattern gives you: 4-inch gauge. No extra math and no extra worrying. My friend went home, swatched and found out that her in-progress piece was going to be about 5 inches too small in the bust! YIKES! She was terribly angry, but she ripped that jacket, re-started, and now wears an amazing piece that fits her beautifully (seriously beautiful!).

Is any method foolproof? No way. There will always be a little give and take -- you might stretch the swatch too much during blocking, your dog might have eaten half the swatch, you miscounted your stitches when casting on, etc., etc. The point is, my dear friends, that knitting is meant for exploration, and swatching is the perfect time to do that. So, experiment with the different methods of swatching and let me know which works for you! Happy knitting!

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