Search The Purl Bee
Sign up for our newsletter!

Idea Center
Follow The Purl Bee
Main | Tension: A Not-Too-Tight Tutorial »

Swatching for Gauge

Measuring a gauge swatch is really no big deal, and it can yield essential information for your knitting designs.  Here is a simple explanation for making and measuring a gauge swatch.

First of all, it helps to know what GAUGE (pronounced gay-juh) means.  In knitting and crochet, gauge refers to the approximate number of stitches per inch (or 4 inches) horizontally, and how many rows per inch (or 4 inches) vertically, in a fabric. 

Step 1


Begin by reading the label on your yarn.  The needle size and gauge listed on the label are generally intended for a medium-density fabric, not too loose and not too dense (which we call woolly cardboard).  This sample swatch is made of Manos del Uruguay Handspun Semi-Solids, which is typically knit on US size 7 - 9 needles for a gauge of about 4 stitches per inch.

To get an accurate measurement you'll need about 4 square inches in which to measure; for this swatch I cast on 25 stitches with US size 9 needles. The garter stitch border helps keep the swatch from curling around the edges.  Depending on what stitch pattern you are experimenting with, you may not need a border at all.

Step 2


Lay the swatch flat.  You may gently hand block the swatch by stretching it horizontally, vertically, and diagonally a few times before you measure it, but you don't want to distort it too much.  

I like to start in the center of the swatch and measure how many stitches are in one inch.  Then I measure in one or two other spots.  I'm always surprised by how the tension can change over a few rows!

Step 3


Beginning in the center of the swatch, line up your measuring tape with the left edge of a stitch.  It helps to think of each individual stitch as a V.  You might want to use a pencil or the tip of your needle to trace the V shapes as you count.

Counting from left to right, I got 4 stitches between the 2 and 3 marker on the tape. 

Step 4

Count the number of rows per inch by turning your measuring tape 90o.  Line up the tape along the left edge of a vertical column of stitches.  I counted 5.5 rows between the 2 and 3 markers -- almost 6 rows.  Measuring again in a different spot, I counted only 5 rows.  A third sample counted 5 rows again, so my gauge for this swatch is 4 stitches and 5 rows per inch.

Wondering how to change your gauge?  Maybe our Not Too Tight Tutorial can help! 

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    If you like football, you most likely have a favored team from the National Football League or two and have a list of players who like to have noticed.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.