Gauge piece

Making a gauge piece is important for a number of reasons.
     First, you get to try out the yarn—what it’s like to knit with, what needles will make your knitting easier.
     Second, you can practice the stitch patterns and see what they look like in your yarn.
     Third and most important, you will determine if you are knitting the gauge required by the pattern.
    If your gauge doesn’t match the pattern gauge, then your finished garment will NOT be the size given in the pattern

 Your gauge piece should be big enough to get a good measurement of the number of rows and stitches per inch. The minimum size for a gauge piece is 4” by 4”. I prefer to make a gauge piece that is at least 6” wide and 4” high.

Start by using the needle size recommended on the yarn label unless you know that you are a loose or tight knitter. For example, I know that I need to go down one needle size to get the gauge given on the label.

If your pattern starts out with an edging such as ribbing or garter stitch, start your gauge piece with this edging. If the pattern recommends a different needle size, then use that size. Make the edging the same length as the pattern.

If your pattern has a gauge for a pattern stitch, be sure to do this stitch in your gauge piece.

Making your gauge piece

Figure out your basic number of sts—

Patterns usually give you the gauge for the number of stitches and rows in 4”.  If you are making a gauge piece that is 4” by 4”, then use the number of stitches given in the pattern gauge.

If you are making a larger piece, then divide the number of stitches by 4—this is the number of stitches for 1”, and then multiply this number by the width of your gauge piece.  For example, if my pattern gauge says there should be 18 stitches in 4”, then I divide 18 by 4, which is 4 ½ stitches per inch.  If I want my gauge piece to be 6” wide then I multiply 6 by 4 ½ which equals 27; this is my basic number of stitches.

If you are knitting a stitch pattern, you should start with a basic count that is a multiple of the stitch count required for the pattern.  This should be given in the pattern instructions.

Add extra stitches and rows—

This step is optional but it makes measuring and counting your stitches a lot easier.  Add 4 more stitches to your basic number of stitches.  These stitches will be added at the beginning and end of the row, 2 on each side.  They will be worked in garter stitch—you will knit the first and last 2 stitches of EVERY row.  This allows you to measure right up to the edge of your stockinette or pattern stitches.

You can also add garter rows before and after the stockinette or pattern section of your gauge piece.  This will allow you to get an accurate row count.

Cast on your stitches—basic stitch count plus 4.

Knit 3 rows or work the edging given in your pattern.

Start stockinette or pattern stitch, knitting first and last two stitches.

Work number of rows given in pattern gauge (4”)

Knit 3 rows and bind off loosely.  If you bind off with a regular tension, your knitting will pull in and this will affect your measurements.

Determining your gauge

Before measuring—

If you think your yarn will shrink, wash the swatch the way you will wash the finished garment.

You may also block the gauge piece to insure getting an accurate measurement

Measuring your gauge piece—

Lay the gauge piece on a flat surface and measure between the garter stitches on either side of the stockinette or stitch pattern.  Lay your ruler so it lines up with the edge of the first stitch and note exactly where the last stitch ends.  If your measurement is within one eighth inch of the desired stitch and row gauge, then your gauge piece is done.  You should use the same needles to knit the pattern.

Doing another gauge piece—

If your measurements are not the same as what you planned, then you will have to make another gauge piece.  If your measurement is LESS than you wanted, you will need to try a bigger needle size.  If your measurement is MORE than you wanted, you will need to try a smaller needle size.

Other considerations—

Do you like the drape of the fabric?  Is it too loose or too stiff?

Does the yarn look the way you thought it would?

Do you like the stitch pattern?