How to knit sweaters that fit without changing your gauge

Tutorial: How to Knit Sweaters That Fit Without Changing Your Gauge

How to knit sweaters that fit without changing your gauge

I am a really tight knitter, so when swatching for a new project, my stitches are always smaller than the pattern’s gauge.  This used to frustrate me to no end, because I could never get my gauge to match the one in the pattern.  I would change yarns, I would change needles, but it still never seemed to do the trick.

So, I ended up doing what a lot of people do… IGNORING GAUGE.

Gasp, right?

This was all well and good on a scarf, or maybe even a hat, but on sweaters, it was a nightmare because the sizing would be all wrong.

Eventually, though,  I figured out that it was just all a matter of doing a little math, and instead of altering my own gauge, I just alter the size that I choose to knit.  

Fair warning, I’m a total nerd and love math, but even if math wasn’t your best subject in school, it’s still pretty easy to do. Just a little bit of division.  Ready?


1.  Swatch and measure your gauge
No, you’re not getting out of swatching!
Make sure you measure your gauge over the same size swatch as the pattern’s gauge, like a 4 inch swatch, for instance.

Example:  on the sweater I am currently knitting, my gauge was 24 stitches and 36 rows over a four inch swatch.


2.  Divide the pattern’s gauge by your gauge
Now for the math.  Follow this formula:

pattern gauge stitches / your gauge stitches = percentage smaller or larger your knitting is (vs. the pattern)

Example:  On my sweater, the pattern gauge is 20 stitches and 30 rows over a 4 inches.  So, I calculate:

20 stitches / 24 stitches = .83

You can run this calculation for rows too. Hopefully, it comes out to be a number similar to the one you got for stitches.  If not, it’s okay.  Rows dictate length, which is often measured in inches rather than in numbers of rows for any significant areas of length.  For instance, you’re much more likely to see “knit until the piece measures 15 inches” rather than “knit 112 rows,” and inches are inches no matter what your gauge is.


3. Multiply the results of this formula by the finished measurements of the sweater.  
I go with the bust measurement for this calculation since it’s the widest part of the sweater, usually.  For me, the ideal size has a bust measurement of 36 inches.

That .83 means that if I knit that sweater size at my gauge, my sweater will be 83% smaller than I want it to be.

Example:  .83 x 36 inches = 29.9 inches
Nope!  Too small!

In my example, the sweater turns out smaller, but your gauge might be larger than the pattern’s gauge, in which case your finished sweater would be too big.

Either way, not ideal.


4.  Choose a different size and multiply again.
If your sweater is going to come out too big or too small, then you need to choose a different size accordingly.  Go up or down a size or two (depending on your gauge) and multiply again.

Example:  I am choosing two sizes up which has a bust measurement of 42.5 inches.

.83 x 42.5 inches = 35.3 inches

Thats pretty close to the 36 inches I was originally looking for, so I’ll take it.


5.  Knit your sweater, following the pattern for your new size
Now you can knit away without changing your yarn or needles because you’ve calculated how much larger or smaller your sweater needs to be in order to fit properly.


Phew!  That was a lot of math!
Go get yourself something nice for your next project with your perfectly worked out sizing!  May I’ll recommend...





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