5 secrets of row gauge

5 Secrets of Row Gauge

Tuesday Tip copyI have written about gauge many times. I think about gauge, I teach gauge, I believe in gauge. I’ve filmed a video for a special cast on for gauge, written about how to measure when you can’t see your stitches, how to block your swatch, and how to swatch for in the round projects.

Today, it’s time to turn our attention to something that can make or break a sweater, and reveal…

5 Secrets of Row Gauge That Will Help You Improve Your Knitting

First, let me get one thing out of the way—row gauge does matter. So often I hear people say row gauge doesn’t matter since most patterns have you knit to a certain number of inches. Except for two important things …(1) anything with shaping is based on row gauge, and (2) even with straight knitting, measuring knitting in progress can have its issues.

More about that in a moment. Let’s discuss the 5 important secrets of gauge:

1. Needle Material Matters

If you have gotten your desired stitch gauge, but not row gauge, try keeping your needle size, but changing needle material. I did a segment on this on Knitting Daily a few years ago. I knit a lace swatch and changed my needle material for every repeat and the height changed with each needle material change!

2. Knitting Style Matters

One of the reasons I love having multiple knitting styles and methods at the ready (Continental, English, Portuguese, Eastern, Western, Combination, Knitting & Purling Backwards), is so I can create a fabric I like. You can get a very different row gauge by switching up your style or method.

3. Lock up Your Tape Measure

If you’ve taken ANY of my classes, you’ve heard me say, “Your tape measure touches your knitting twice, once when you measure your gauge swatch, once when you block your piece.”  When you read in a pattern, “Now work straight until your armhole measures 8 inches”, I want you to think “Now work straight for 8 inches worth of your finished row gauge.”

Not only can blocking change your gauge, but measuring your knitting all bunched up on your needle will give you a big fat lie. Better to cross out all those inch instructions with how many rows you need to work based on your blocked gauge swatch.

4. Row Gauge is WAY off? No problem!

Say, the pattern gauge is 7 rows per inch – 28 / 4″, but yours is 5.5 rows per inch –  22 / 4″. If you follow the pattern as written, nothing will look right. You can, however, rework your rate of increase or decreases. This is not that hard. For sleeves, you have the sleeve length on the schematic. There’s not always a measurement on the schematic for where the waist is, but you can find that

  1. Add up the number of rows used for the shaping (e.g. if you are to dec 1 st each side every 6th row 3 times and every 8th row twice, you have used 18 rows + 16 rows, so 34 rows.)
  2. Divide that by the pattern row gauge, to get the number of inches in your shaping zone (e.g. if the patterns row gauge is 7, divide 34 / 7 = 4.9″)
  3. Multiply shaping zone inches by your row gauge. (e.g. 4.9″ x 5.5 = 27 rows in your shaping zone)
  4. Start with one shaping row (one row used) and then divide 26 (remaining rows) by the number of remaining shaping rows you have and round down. Yes there are fancier ways to do it, I teach them in my design classes, but this will give you a fine result (e.g. 26 / 4 = 6.5, rep dec row every 6th row).

When altering a pattern, your shaping might end up being on an odd number row which will mean you have shaping on both the RS and WS. If that bugs you, you could always go round down to the nearest even number.

5. Row Gauge is a Little Off.

Sometimes your gauge is a bit off, and all the shaping in your sweater will be fine, but there’s one tiny place you might want to tweak – your sleeve cap. If your sleeve cap is too tall, it’s hard to seam in without it ending up the Seinfeld puffy sleeve. If it’s too short, it’s just plain hard to seam!

Say the pattern gauge was 8 rows, but you are getting 9 rows per 4″. You can squeeze in or cut our a few rows from your cap to have it fit perfectly.

  1. Count how many rows are in the cap after the initial bind-off  (e.g. I counted 38 rows in the cap. 38 rows / 8 rows per inch = 4.75 “)
  2. Multiply the desired cap height by YOUR gauge (e.g. 4.75” x 9 rows per inch = 42.75 So if I knit a cap that is 42 – 43 rows it will work. This means I need to add 4 – 5 rows (whichever is easiest)
  3.  Add or subtract the number of rows you need evenly.

For more information on adjusting patterns, and to learn the math to tweak your patterns, check out my classes: Customizing Sweater Patterns Pt. 1 & Pt 2.

Want to work a sweater with video help every step of the way? Check out one of my video sweater patterns. The pattern has video links built right in!


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  • Pingback: Yes, Row Gauge Matters – Knitting August 1, 2017   Reply →
  • Aly DeMarco June 6, 2020   Reply →

    Such an incredible class! So happy I took this – Professor Patty is my favorite teacher.

  • CassLClark November 5, 2021   Reply →

    SO incredibly happy I happened upon your site! I despise math (w/a capital “D”…I just didn’t want to be obnoxious and use it! 🙂 )…but you break it down so that it’s understandable. There’ve been a few top-down pullovers I’ve abandoned because of my incorrect row gauge, which is ALWAYS off…way off. I used to think, “What am I doing wrong?!” Now I know it’s fixable.

    I AM closer to gauge when knitting English style, but my wrists tire faster than when I knit Continental. Knitting English style produces beautiful even stitches, but my row gauge, as stated is so far off. My knitting Continental style sometimes produces uneven stitches (beautiful stitches for a couple of rows, then a row of loose stitches), however, oddly enough, despite this sometimes uneven knitting, my gauge for both stitches and rows are closer to what’s required for the pattern (Hmmm!).

    Eventually, I’ll have to buy needle sets made of other materials, but right now all I have are my metal tips. Here’s to making it work!

    Patty, thanks so very much for taking the time! You’re a blessing!

  • Nicole Clarke January 7, 2022   Reply →

    Thank you but I’m confused by the last instruction: 26/4 what does the 4 refer to? If it was the remaining shaping rows ie 34 -26 then wouldn’t it be 8. Thank you

  • Sydney November 22, 2022   Reply →

    I was having a row gauge issue and was so happy to find this page! I really appreciate the explanations of why something might be off rather than just a list of potential solutions with no context. I tried several of these strategies, sadly to no avail. In fact, I think I have discovered a missing row gauge technique that should be added to the list: double check your pattern to see if you’ve missed an instruction to knit every other row. When I skipped half my rows, my row gauge looked like it was way off!

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