1st Sweater

I am trying to embark on my first ever sweater. I have never done a swatch, but I understand if the garment is going to git when I'm done, I've got to start work in the correct gauge. How the heck does one figure this out? The pattern says, using size 7 needles, 18 stitches and 29 rows = 4" st st. I get that. I've done 4" st st with size 7 needles. The 18 stitches = 4" across, but the 29 rows ends up being more like 5". I've tried 5s, 8s, and 9s. I'm never getting a 4x4 square. Suggestions?


PS I know I'm the resident smart-alleck, but can someone suggest a solution other than, "try a different hobby."


daveballarat's picture


I know your frustration. I am on to my third sweater, the first on I did was 20 years ago. I forgot how to knit after that and only recently started again.
Last year I did a sweater, a raglan without doing a gauge and I was fortunate that it went okay. Very lucky.
This year, as in my current project is an aran. It is going well. I did many swatches. Like you, non of mine matched what it should have been. My friend RickeScott here in Turkey suggested I just go with the closest. That means for me, I knit a size small and as my swatches were always too large, it might work out. It seems to be working I wanted a tight fitting aran, I just hope that it won't turn out to be too tight. So I am still worried but ... can do nothing about it. I just have to wait and see the end product.
Best of luck.

Istanbul, Turkey...but currently in Melbourne Australia visiting family.


grandfatherknits's picture

Peter -
As Stephanie Pearl-McPhee sez (I think quoting EZ) - You are the boss of your knitting. I've only done a couple sweaters but don't worry too much about rows/inch. You will be making the length of your sweater by inches, not by rows. EXCEPT - you will need to look at sleeve increases as you may need to do them more frequently (though the same total number) than called for.

Bonne chance!

BuduR's picture

I do just what David explains to do when I do swatches, I can NEVER get the gauge to be just right.

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rmbm612's picture

Most authors of knitting know-how books recommend taking the knitted swatch off the needles and blocking it the same way you would wash and block the finished sweater. This might give you the recommended rows/inch gauge. Do I personally do this? No, I never have done this. The stitches per inch is more important than the rows per inch. Not everyone has body measurements the same as the pattern directions. Arms may need to be extended or shortened, some people are short waisted, etc. Take a sweater you own and love the way it fits and use that as your guide, and don't worry if there is a difference in yarn weight. Measure your favorite sweater for width across the chest, knit your swatch and measure your stitches per inch and multiple the number of inches of the sweater's circumference by the stitches per inch and start knitting. If this sweater you want to make has a pattern repeat you may have to abbreviate the repeat by a row or two, but in the end its the sweater length that's important. I've knitted dozens of sweater with and without patterns and have rarely finished a sweater that didn't satisfy my expectations. Patterns are just guides, you control the outcome. Remember too that lots of pattern designers aren't knitters. And remember too that fulling and blocking a sweater will even out stitches and allows you to ease the sweater into a shape that will fit. Ease the sweater within reason mind you. Good luck. Knitting is forgiving!

New York Built's picture

In my humble opinion, after many false starts and one fitting disaster, I recommend the following...do a sleeve first. You get to see if you like the pattern, if the gauge is correct, and on the sleeve, it doesn't much matter if it's off to start. You get to see if you like the yarn, the color and you get an early "success" to push you on your way.

Haven't done a gauge square in years, and since I knit combined knitting in the round, my gauge is accurate on the circs, and not distorted by "flat knitting". If you knit flat, then my point is moot.

"Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

Jerry Moore's picture

Peter, you hit an advice jackpot here. Each responder's comment should go into the "Gauge" chapter of your book. I've encountered the same knitting gauge experiences. There is so little agreement between a published pattern's 4" x 4" swatch and what happens at the ends of my well-intended arms that I've almost stopped wondering: why do they always go on and on about knitting a swatch first? And in all-caps bold italics, yet!

My conspiracy theorist sister-in-law (her brother is my spouse) says it's merely tired, lawyer-driven liability-disclaimer-speak. Publishers fear you'll sue for all their yarn if the sleeve's too long -- something like that. Me? I think it's habit. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a knitter wrote a how-to piece that said Do. A. Swatch. Like. This. . . .. Authors have been doing it ever since.

Swatch info gives me only a rough estimate. My work reliably is 13.81% bigger than swatches say it ought to be.

Knitting reshapes itself as it matures (like me, unfortunately.) That is, knitting gauge changes as the piece grows. Therefore, the only pertinent gauge check recommendation would seem to be this. Knit a sweater-size, sweater-shaped swatch to determine your sts/in. and R/in. Then knit the sweater. Now, would anybody who wants to sell knitteranalia publish a recommendation like that?

Regards, Jerry