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What is Gauge & How Important Is It?

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Gauge is a measure of the number of stitches in one inch of fabric. Your fabric is a combination of the fiber you choose and the suggested gauge. Gauge is essential in knitting to create the correct size & drape of your project.

Cream coloured yarn on a shelf.

Once you have selected a pattern to knit, look for the designer’s given gauge. This is usually found at the start of the pattern, along with the yarn and needle requirements. The designer gives you the gauge of the pattern as shown so that you can achieve the fit and drape that they intended the knitted fabric to have. However, the gauge is also included so that you can experiment with other yarns and styles while still creating the same basic finished item. We recommend using a Gauge Ruler designed for knit swatches to easily and quickly get an accurate measurement of your swatch.

Legacy Lane Yarn and Gift Shop has these beautiful wooden gauge squares with needle-size measurements all in one to help you with your swatching.

Wooden tool used to measure gauge.

Now that you’ve chosen a pattern, it’s time to select your yarn. Look at the label on any yarn for a starting point. Usually, the label will indicate a gauge (i.e. 5 sts/inch) and a recommended needle size (i.e. 5.5MM)

Once you understand the gauge listed on a pattern and on various brands of yarn, you have the power to explore options to your heart’s content. This freedom is incredibly liberating. If the yarn the designer used is not your preferred fiber, you can confidently choose a different yarn. Various fibers knit up differently, but as long as you stay within the recommended gauge, you are headed down the right path.

Close up of grey knitted fiber.

Whether your yarn has a listed gauge on it, or your pattern says size 8MM needles are needed for the project, always do a test before you begin knitting. This test is called a gauge swatch and is vitally important to the success of your garment. It is much easier spending a bit of time knitting a decently sized swatch than wasting many hours knitting a sweater that ends up being the wrong size! It is important to knit your gauge swatch using the same stitch pattern for your chosen project, for example if the pattern is cabled your swatch should include a cable stitch as this will alter the size/gauge.

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