What Is Knitting Gauge?

So, what is a knitting gauge and what are the factors that affect it.?

Knitting gauge is important to learn about as a knitter. It is all about effectively measuring the stitches per inch and fixing your tension problems. Having a knitting gauge also helps you to choose the right materials for your project.

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What Is Knitting Gauge?

“The term “gauge” is used in knitting to describe the fineness size of knitting machines. It is used in both hand knitting and machine knitting. The phrase in both instances refers to the number of stitches per inch rather than the size of the finished article of clothing. Wikipedia”
Gauge measures the number of stitches per inch in one direction, and the number of rows per inch in the other.
For example, a typical knitting pattern will include gauge instructions that look like this:

10/sts / 16 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch

The typical number of knitting stitches per inch usually increases with the difficulty level of the pattern or the skill level of the knitter. The average knitter will usually knit approximately 6 stitches per inch, while a more accomplished knitter may knit 10 or more.

Many beginner knitters think that following a designer’s yarn and needle recommendations will be enough to obtain the right gauge. However, even the pattern designer will sit somewhere between tight and loose knitting, and your technique might be completely different.

Learning what is knitting gauge is an important but rather boring step in each knitter’s journey. Achieving constant tension with your knitting is one of the most common challenges that beginners face, and even expert knitters still sometimes battle to get their gauge perfect.

It is no fun to finish a project that has taken you ages and feel disappointed by how the final garment looks and fits.

Because each knitter is different, they will all face different problems with their knitting gauge. Some knit too tightly and others too loosely. But even worse is when you can’t keep your tension even.

Luckily you can learn to fix these issues to prevent disappointment. Always check your tension before you start a project. You can do this by knitting up a 10 x 10 cm swatch and check that it fits with the tension given in the pattern.

  • The knitting gauge refers to the number of stitches per inch of knitted fabric and the knitting tension describes how tightly you knit. Your knitting gauge will affect the density, size, and the way your garment drapes.
  • You can fix your knitting tension by changing your needle size, using a different type of yarn or even changing the way that you hold your yarn.

Here is a great little swatch ruler and needle gauge you can purchase online.

  • Measure your gauge swatch with the 4-inch (10cm) ruler.
  • Needle and hook sizes are listed in metric, US, and Japanese standard sizes which allow easy conversion for any pattern.
  • Use notches to determine the size of your crochet hook.
  • Use the holes to determine the size of your knitting needle.

If you want the exact same finished results as the pattern that you are following, you need to meet the pattern’s specified gauge as closely as possible. This is especially true if you are knitting clothing, or it won’t fit properly.

What Happens If Your Knitting Gauge Is Off?

Even if it is slightly off, your entire project could be either too large or too small.

If you have too many stitches per inch, your project will be too large.

If you have too few rows, or stitches, your project will be too small.

If your knitting is uneven and inconsistent, this could also affect the overall look of the finished project.

If your knitting gauge is not correct, you may use more or less yarn than the pattern specifies, and this would be a disaster if you run out of yarn and can’t match it again.

What Factors Affect Your Knitting Gauge?

The knitting gauge is mostly affected by the way your yarn, knitting needles, and knitting tension mix. It is a balancing act between these three things that you need to keep in mind.

Knitting Needles

Larger knitting needles produce larger stitches and thus fewer stitches per inch. Similarly, thinner needles create small stitches and therefore more stitches per inch.

Sometimes just changing the needles a size up or down will correct the knitting gauge.

Your Yarn And The Way You Hold It

Most beginners tend to hold their yarn too tightly, which makes it difficult to slide the stitches up and down the needle or get the needle into the next stitch.

If you hold your yarn with no tension, or too loosely, you will end up with holes in your garment. Try to wrap the yarn around your fingers as little as possible and make sure you move your stitches to the thicker part of the needle once they are knitted.

This is something that just takes practice and experience to improve upon and once you have this right it will be like second nature.

Once your garment is done, remember to block your knitting. This will improve the look of your knitting project by hiding your stitching mistakes and transforming your work into something that looks and fits how it should.

Here is how to wet block your knitting project:

  • Submerge your knitting in a basin of warm water and wool wash or another gentle detergent.
  • Let it soak for about thirty minutes.
  • Carefully remove supporting the weight with your hands and squeeze out the excess water.
  • Roll in a towel and press to remove more of the water.
  • Lay your knitting down on a flat, pinnable, and water-resistant surface.
  • Adjust the garment so that it matches your desired size and shape.
  • Use pings to help the garment retain its shape while it dries.

So there you have it, you should now understand what is knitting gauge. Please comment below if you have any questions.

5 thoughts on “What Is Knitting Gauge?”

  1. Hi there! I stumbled upon this article about knitting gauge, and as someone who knows nothing about knitting, I found it really informative. I had no idea that the size of knitting needles and yarn can impact the final size and appearance of a knitted item. It’s fascinating how such small details can make such a big difference in the end result.

    I also appreciate how your article breaks down the concept of gauge in a way that is easy to understand, even for a beginner. It’s clear that the you are very knowledgeable about knitting and is passionate about sharing your expertise with others. Have a great day! 

    • Thanks for stopping by Eric and glad you found this interesting. Yes knitting is one of my favorite things to do at night to wind down for the evening.

  2. That was a very informative article that I’m sure a lot of knitters could benefit from. You really explained it clearly and made it easy to understand even for someone like me that has never knitted before. I did do a bit of crocheting when I was younger, my mom would knit though, and she had all kinds of yarn and needles and such and would knit for hours, often while watching television at the same time. That’s why I stopped in, it gave me some fond memories.


  3. As an experienced knitter, I can attest to the importance of understanding and achieving the correct knitting gauge. It can be frustrating to spend hours on a project, only to have it turn out too small or too large due to an incorrect gauge. I appreciate your tips on how to adjust your knitting tension by changing your needle size or the way you hold your yarn. However, I would also add that it’s important to choose a yarn that matches the pattern’s recommended weight and fiber content, as this can also affect the gauge. This article is a helpful resource for both beginner and experienced knitters who want to improve their knitting skills and achieve better results. Thank you

    • You are totally correct Akumendoh. The yarn can once again change the size of the garment. Sometimes you need to use yarn other than what the pattern specifies, as that brand or make is not available in your area, so it is a good idea to make certain that it is the same thickness or it throws the gauge out totally.


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