Pattern Help: Getting Gauge or Knitting a Different Size

Posted by on Aug 21, 2013 in Knitting | Comments


We all know (or have at least heard of) the importance of getting the right gauge when making a knitted pattern. But what happens when the gauge called for isn’t working with your yarn? Where does a knitter go from there?

This week, I’ll answer a reader’s question on what to do when your gauge is slightly off.

Q: I just purchased almost 2000 yards of yarn to make my first sweater. I swatched, and while the pattern calls for a gauge of 6 stitches per inch, I’m getting about 6.75 stitches per inch. The next size up in the pattern is 4″ difference, and while that normally would be too big, would it work with my different gauge? Can I just knit a different size?

A: While that little difference in gauge seems small, it could really make a big difference!

Here, we’ll do the math and see what will happen when we substitute your gauge for the one called for:

You want the size 38″ st 6 spi. At this size, let’s see how any stitches would be worked over the body:

38″ x 6 spi (gauge) = 228 stitches

You’re getting 6.75 spi. If you used that gauge in the size you need, you would end up with:

228 / 6.75 spi = 33.75″
You know this won’t fit so you assume making the larger size will work. (Remember, it’s 4″ bigger than the one you want.)

We start by checking the stitch count on the next size up:

42″ x 6 spi (correct gauge) = 252 stitches
And now, check to see what size it would end up if we used our present gauge:

252 / 6.75 spi (your gauge) = 37.25″

Not quite what you were looking for? Before you knit this size let me ask:

  • Have you taken ease of the garment into account?
  • Are you certain the 38″ is the right size?

A little bit of math reaffirms why gauge is so crucial in making well-fitting garments and also shows you that switching sizes isn’t necessarily the quick (or right) answer to your dilemma.

My suggestion is to try going up a needle size and swatching again to get the correct gauge. If your knitted fabric isn’t draping well for the piece at the correct gauge, then I’d say it’s time to face the fleece and find a different yarn. I know that is terribly disappointing, but you want to wear this sweater with pride, not hide it in your closet.

Also, make sure you know exactly what size you want to wear.

A great tip I’ve learned is to measure the bust on one of your best-fitting store-bought sweaters, and use that measurement to get a hand-knit item that will fit as you like.

A great class to check out would be Knit Lab: Fit Your Knits with Stefanie Japel, where you’ll learn to use your measurements to create garments that fit. And to really give your hand knits a custom fit, check out Amy Herzog’s course Knit to Flatter, or Joan McGowan-Michael’s class, Feminine Fit: Bust Shaping Techniques.

Interested in adding crochet to your needlework repertoire? Come back to the Craftsy Blog tomorrow for Crochet Thursday. We’ll be sharing a handy guide to crochet abbreviations.

Do you need help with a pattern or have a knitting question? Ask in the comments below and I will answer one in the next segment.

Comments

  1. Shannon says:

    Nice tutorial! I made the Knittrick app to do exactly these calculations really easily (runs on iPhone/iPad) :) bit.ly/W8lYP4

  2. Lesley says:

    If she’s getting 6.75 stitches per inch instead of 6, she should be going up a needle size not down to try to get her gauge.

    1. Karen Kelty says:

      You’re correct. Thanks for catching that, Lesley! We updated the post.

  3. wes_ben says:

    agree, it’s up a needle size not down.

    also, disagree that you should persue a new yarn choice. gauage can be affected by the type of cast on you use and it can also be affected in the amount of tension one employs. I can use the same size needle and adjust my tension (i.e. 1 pinkie wrap vs 2) and therefore adjust my gauge.

    still, it’s frustrating as hell. sometimes you have to make lots of swatches to get it right!

  4. Rosemary says:

    If she is getting almost one stich more than the gauge called, why would the sweater be smaller if she used this gauge?

  5. Thouy says:

    Going down one needle size would be correct, because she’s getting 0.75 stitches more on one inch than needed. So this are 3 stitches more on 4 inches. In order to get less stitches she would have to knit either with more tension, which makes the work frustrating, or with smaller needles. Maybe a full size smaller might be a bit too much, she should try it with a half size smaller needles. Going up one needle size would make the width bigger on the same number of stitches.

  6. ann henry says:

    Hi Ive seen a beautiful pattern for knitting baby clothes but its for 0-3 months old. Id like to knit it for 3-6 month old but dont know how to adjust the pattern. Can you help?

  7. Taylor says:

    I recently got a Lion Brand Pound of Love yarn. It says to use size 8 or 5mm knitting needles. I have done a project before using size 13, 9mm, so I’m wondering if I could use the needles I have with this “medium” yarn type? What will happen if I use bigger needles than it suggests?