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Does Your Gauge Change When You're Knitting?

May 06, 2021 4 min read 2 Comments

Over the past months, we've talked about gauge here on the blog. Hanna Lisa started us off with her fantastic post 'Getting Gauge', and last weeks post 'Swatching for Success' talked about how to get the most accurate gauge measurement from our swatch.

But what if you've read everything you need to know about gauge, knit a lovely big swatch that you've carefully blocked and measured, and still the fit is off for your new sweater? I know, super frustrating!

At this point, it's easy to accuse your swatch of lying or second-guess your calculations, and while it's always helpful to double-check these things, something else may be going on. Your gauge changed while you were knitting.

I know! After all that work, after taking the time to swatch, maybe multiple times, you still end up with an unpredictable gauge. Why is that? Before you even go there, no, it's not because you are a 'bad' knitter! This happens to so many people, myself included. Remember we are not machines and no matter how experienced you are, sometimes inconsistencies can occur, and there are a few reasons for this.

Just as Hanna Lisa talks about how your gauge can change by things such as needle size and changing between metal and wooden needles in her post on getting gauge, other things can affect it later while you are actually working on your project. Let's take a look!

Tense v Relaxed

Not being relaxed when we're knitting can be one of the biggest culprits of an uneven gauge, and it can be happening even if you don't realise it. Here are some of the things that I have to be aware of:

  1. I'm in a Rush

I touched on this in swatching for success, as I think a lot of us try to rush through our swatches so we can cast on. This can lead to a different gauge compared to when we are more relaxed working on our project. But the same can still happen long after swatching! If I'm working to a deadline I have to watch my gauge.

2. Current Mood

My gauge can really be affected depending on my mood. As knitting tends to relax me it's not surprising that I'll reach for it when I'm not feeling myself, but until I get into the flow and reach my happy place, my gauge can be thrown off a little, particularly if I'm knitting when I'm angry or frustrated. Those stitches really start to tighten up!

3. Hot and Cold

I love taking my WIP's outside, but if it's chillier than expected my gauge can be affected. I'll tense up and start knitting tighter.

4. What Are You Watching?!

I had to rip back an entire yoke once because I was watching my other half play a particular stressful video game while knitting. I learned zombies and textured yokes lead to a very tight fit! That's not to say you shouldn't watch whatever you feel like, just be aware that as the action gets more intense, so can your knitting!

Of course, it's not only being tense that can affect your gauge. Even moving to a different section of the pattern can affect your knitting.

Small circumferences

I recently knit a sweater, top-down with a colourwork yoke and stockinette all over. My gauge for the body stayed consistent throughout, even through transitioning from colourwork to stockinette. My sleeves were another story though. The only change I made here was to swap to magic loop, but my gauge was much tighter compared to the body and made the sleeves uncomfortable. I had to rip back and go up two needle sizes!

Knitting flat v round

We've touched on this before but it's worth mentioning here again. Your gauge can change significantly depending on if you are knitting flat compared to knitting the same stitch pattern in the round. This is most often because our purl stitches tend to be looser than our knit stitches.

An example of where this would be an issue is if you are knitting a seamless sweater bottom-up and you knit the body in the round until you reach the underarm. You now separate the front and back and knit them flat. If you have swatched only for your gauge when you knit flat, the chances are the section knit in the round will be tighter.

How to fix it

So the good news is that a changing gauge does not have to be a big deal, the key thing is to be aware it could be happening. The best way to do this is to keep your tape measure handy at all times and keep checking your gauge. That way you can deal with any gauge issues as they're happening instead of post blocking.


Top tip! This is where it's super helpful to know what gauge your swatch was before you blocked it as I mentioned in 'Swatching For Succes.' Gauge will often change after blocking, so it's super helpful to have that information during knitting so you know you're keeping to gauge.

If you do find that your gauge changes during your knitting, make a note of what you think has caused the change and over time you will know to keep an eye on your gauge in those circumstances. I can't tell you how much learning the small circumference lesson has helped me knit sweaters that feel good to wear!

Do you have your own list of things that affect your gauge? I'd love to hear them!

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