Get Gauge. No math.

How to get gauge without the math

I realize that knitting a gauge swatch may not be your favorite thing in the world. But sometimes you do need to get gauge before starting a project. What if I told you that you can get gauge without having to do math? No multiplying, no dividing, and no guessing. Would that make it better?

(I’ll just assume that your answer is a tentative “maybe” and keep going. I realize many of you knitters who play with numbers and rulers, and measuring tapes and charts think that you are bad at math. You are not… but I already did a post on that and I don’t think I changed any minds. So on with math-less gauge!)

Im most patterns you’ll find a statement like this:

18 sts of 24 rows = 4 inches

We’ll use that to make our swatch. Unless it says otherwise, assume that the gauge is for stockinette.

1) Pick a needle size that you think will get gauge (I’m using size 8’s) and cast on the number of stitches that should get you 4 inches wide. In this example its 18. So cast on 18…

2) Then cast on 4 more.

get gauge - casting on

3) Knit 4 rows. We’re making a garter stitch border here.

4) Now here is your “pattern” for the gauge swatch:

Row 1: knit

Row 2: k2, p until 2 stitches remain, k2

(I set stitch markers to help me keep track on Row 2. I firmly believe that stitch markers in even the simplest patterns will save sanity.)

get gauge - knitting a swatch

Repeat these two rows until you have worked the number of rows that should get you four inches tall. In our example its 24 rows.

get gauge - knitting a swatch

5) Knit 4 more rows and bind off. Yeah, you really should bind off. It makes for more accurate measuring. But you don’t have to cut… if that helps.

6) Let’s measure. You’ll want to measure both the width (number of stitches) and the height (number of rows) INSIDE that garter stitch border. If you got gauge, the stockinette section of your swatch will be 4 inches x 4 inches.

get gauge - measure the swatch

get gauge - measure the swatch

Mine is not. It’s bigger than 4 inches in both directions. So I have to try a smaller needle. If this swatch was less than a 4 x 4 inch square, I’d have to try a bigger needle.

For gauge swatch #2 I used size 5’s. I cast on the same number of stitches. That was 18 and then 4 more. I knit four rows of garter stitch, I worked my “pattern” for 24 rows, and then finished with four rows of garter stitch and a bind off. This time when I measured:

get gauge = measure the swatch

get gauge = measure the swatch

I got gauge! Size 5’s are what I would need (with this yarn) to get gauge on my project. And I didn’t have to reach for a calculator or scribble out a quick multiplication/long division problem on scratch paper. The next time you need to get gauge, try this method. It works every time.





Ahh. You’re still here. You’re wondering what it means if you get gauge on stitch count (width-wise) but not on row count (length-wise). That’s pretty common. Here are two possible causes:

  • Your knit gauge is different than your purl gauge. That is, when you make a knit stitch on the Right Side you are holding the yarn at one tension and when you purl on the Wrong Side you are holding at a different tension. If your stockinette looks bubbly, then you have this issue. You could try to train yourself to be more consistent or… you could use a different size needle when you work that Wrong Side. Shrug. Problem fixed!
  • The other cause is you didn’t really get gauge. If you have 4 inches wide but less than 4 inches tall, you are not a gauge yet. But you are close. Keep in mind that stitches can be stretched in either direction. So if you were to take your swatch (or sweater or glove or sock) and stretch it length-wise to get that 4 inches, it would loose some of its width. This is usually what’s going on with a project that doesn’t fit right even though the knitter “got gauge”. They didn’t. The gauge needs to be right for both stitch count and row count and don’t hate me for making this point. Its just the way yarn acts when its knitted.


Print Friendly

Related Content


"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

12 Comments on "Get Gauge. No math."

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

The pattern people lose me right off the bat when I read things like 24 rows!! 4 inches!!
No way I’m doing that. Why not 12 rows 2 inches?
Why is that not good enough?

Barbara Krooss
A swatch that’s real small may not reveal a small difference that you might easily overlook. If you’re one stitch off from exact gauge in a 2″ swatch, (and you pat it into place nicely, so it looks perfect) it’s still the same as being 2 stitches off in a 4″ swatch… Which would be 15 stitches off in a 25″ sweater front. That’s 30 stitches around the whole sweater, which could be significant. But even a big gauge swatch can lie! Your knitting can change size when washed…(some superwash sock yarns really “grow” in water. (Socks I made for… Read more »

I cheat.. I have one of these and I love it! I cast on 14 stitches then work 10 rows and check. If that doesn’t work I switch bigger (or smaller) knit another 10 and check again. So far it’s worked really well for me.


I think we all hate taking the time to swatch for gauge especially when we’re anxious to start a new project. I am a loose knitter so I always try 2 needle sizes smaller. Usually that works and I will check my knits as I work to make sure. But for yarns I’m new to I better swatch first.


Been doing it this way for years, just because I found it easier to measure the swatch than the other way but really its easier all round. Thank you.