Swatching for Loose Gauge Projects

Loose gauge projects create a wonderful fabric, but swatching for them isn’t exactly straight forward. Loose gauge fabrics have a tendency to wiggle around and stretch more easily than denser knits, and that means that the gauge you get when you measure your swatch that has only been laid out flat isn’t necessarily going to be the gauge you end up with once your sweater hangs from your shoulders from a few hours. It’s really easy to end up with a loose gauge sweater that’s much longer than planned with ridiculously deep armholes if you don’t know to plan ahead. So what can you do to avoid this? Hang up your swatch! Some people swear by adding weight too, but just letting it hang can be enough for some projects, like Vianne.


I knit two swatches, one on 5mm needles and one on 4.5mm needles. The 5 mm needle swatch had a gauge of 18 sts by 26 rows over 4 inches after I blocked it. I stuck it up on my bulletin board for a few days, and when I took it down, my new gauge was 19 sts by 24 rows. See how the yarn wiggled around a bit? My stitches got narrower and longer. My second swatch on the smaller needles also changed a pinch. It went from 20 sts by 27 rows to 19.5 sts by 26 rows. As you can see, with my yarn substitution, I can’t match the pattern gauge with my favorite bamboo needles. It’s not a huge surprise because loose gauges are hard to match, but I have a few more things to try before I throw in the towel and have to do the math for a gauge mod. Using different needle materials and/or shapes often changes my gauge, so I’m going to play with that a bit.





8 responses to “Swatching for Loose Gauge Projects”

  1. Cheryl Stern

    Good to know. I will hang mine too.

  2. This is my first non accessory project. When you knit your swatches how many stitches and rows are you starting out with? I didn’t think to hang my swatch. I did a 19 by 9 to get an idea since I’m using a 50g weight DK 3 that gets “5.5 stitches per inch on size 6 needles”.

    1. I use the required sts per inch in the pattern and multiply it by five, and then I just knit until it looks roughly square. Unless my gauge is super off, that will give me roughly a 5 in x 5 in swatch so I can measure a 4 in x 4 in square. The edge stitches tend to get a little distorted, so it’s best to knit a swatch that’s bigger than the area you plan on measuring.

      1. Ok, awesome. I think I measured it right and ended up with a gauge of 17 by 25 knitting a little looser than usual. I may try another swatch knitting a little tighter like I’m more prone to do and measure again. I didn’t add the additional stitched either so had to measure a 3.5 by 3.5″ section.

  3. Millie

    Hi, Andy,

    Was this a requested blog post?


    1. Not that I remember, no. I haven’t had many requests for specific posts for the KAL.

  4. Thank you for the tip! I love loose knits and I always struggle with keeping the gauge consistent!

  5. LeAnn

    Good advice. Just hung up swatch #1, done on US 8s. Will swatch again using US 7s and see what I get. 🙂

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