To a beginner knitting may seem like little more than just clicking your needles together with your favorite choice of knitting yarns.
However, it is much more complex than it first appears!
For instance, you can use the same pattern and the same sizing for two hats, but use a different gauge and one will look smaller with more concise stitching while the other will look the opposite!
This is simply the power of the gauge!
What is A Gauge?
This is an essential part of knitting and not something you can simply ignore! The gauge will describe the intended size of a garment and tightness of it.
For instance, knitting 14 rows of 10 stockinette stitches should give you a material 4 inches wide and tall. The gauge is 4 inches.
If you match this your stitches are perfect. However, it has been discovered that relaxed knitters tend to have a relaxed larger size and tense knitters generally have a smaller size result!
There are a few elements to gauge:
- Needle Size
This is very straightforward. The smaller the diameter of the needle the smaller your resulting stitch will be. This is a good way to compensate for a relaxed style and still hit the right gauge.
- Yarn Weight
The weight of your yarn can make a surprising difference to your finished gauge.
Firstly, a thick yarn will naturally lend itself to larger stitches. This can help to compensate for tense knitting styles where the stitches are a little on the small size.
A heavy yarn will also stretch more. To really assess the size of your gauge you should wash your miniature garment and then measure it. Heavy yarns will help to increase the size of your finished product.
- Knitting tension
This is your personal knitting style and there is very little you can do to change it! You also don’t need to change it. Simply play with the above two variables until you can comfortably knit a specific stitch to the size the guide recommends.
Why You Want To Match a Gauge in Knitting
If you are knitting a jumper for someone then you want it to fit them nicely. You will need to select a pattern and a gauge that reflects the size you need the finished product to be.
Unfortunately, if you knit loosely then the jumper will be too large. Conversely, it will be too small if your stitches are tense.
This means that to produce the right size pullover you need to know your knitting style and what you need to do to create the gauge that they have suggested.
This may mean adding more stitches than the pattern suggests, taking a few away, or even using a heavier yarn.
It can help to make a larger test pattern than the 4-inch square above. In fact, doubling it will give you a much more accurate indication of your stitching style and the gauge you need to match.
Only by matching the gauge before you start producing your garment will you make the item you actually want.