For every knitting project you ever make, you need to do this critical step. Exact gauge is essential for proper size or fit. Before beginning your project, make the sample swatch given in the individual gauge instructions in the yarn, needle, and stitch pattern specified. Never over look this step it's the difference between a masterpiece and a disaster. Those important words follow after the needle size, or the size needed to achieve gauge.
What is a gauge swatch? A gauge swatch is when you take the yarn and needles mentioned in your knitting pattern and make a swatch of the stitches used in the pattern. For example the pattern says:
Gauge 9 stitches = 4 in. (10 cm) in Garter stitch (knit all stitches in every row). Cast on a bunch of stitches. Then knit the garter stitch swatch and bind off your stitches and lay the swatch on a flat surface or fit the swatch is curling or not laying flat you may have to block it.. Then lay a ruler down and count your stitches within 4 inches. What I do is take my stitch count from different places in the swatch. You may notice that your gauge changes slightly if you measure near the cast on and bind off stitches, this can change especially if you're knitting your stitches too tight or too loose. But don't worry you are just concerned with the stitches in the middle of your swatch.
Well I have a little trick you can use to find out how many stitches per 1 inch. Who can keep track of all those stitches for 4 inches? Here's the formula. Yes a little math is involved. Take your pattern gauge which is 9 stitches divide it by 4 inches your answer is 2. 25 stitches per 1 inch. Yes sometimes you get a weird number. In this case we have 2 and 1/4 stitches. Sometimes you measure your swatch and not get a whole stitch but part of one. You cannot knit a partial stitch. Sometimes designers will round up or down the number of stitches. But for beginners just stick to measuring with your ruler and keep trying until you get the gauge.
Things that can effect your gauge. The gauge of a knitted fabric depends on the pattern of stitches in the fabric, the kind of yarn used, the size of knitting needles, and your knitting tension..Certain knitting patterns affect gauge also. Ribbing and cable patterns tend to "pull in". Even the same stitch produced in two different ways may produce a different gauge; for example, a swatch of stockinette stitch may not have the same gauge as one knit in reverse stockinette stitch.
So now you have a little insight into the mystery of the gauge swatch. I hope this post has given you some helpful information. So if you get the right gauge before you start you'll be a lot happier!
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