Gauge adjustment question...

The advice I’ve read around the web when your blocked gauge swatch doesn’t match the pattern gauge is to adjust your needle size until it does. This bothered me slightly as switching needle size also changes the loop size meaning changes the overall look of the finished product. I understand that going from a 6mm loop to a 7mm isn’t going to result in some disastrous look but I was thinking: couldn’t you also keep the needle size the same and do the math to adjust the number of stitches?

As an example: say the pattern gauge wants 4 stitches/inch and has you cast on 40 stitches meaning it wants 10" cast. Let’s say your unblocked dry gauge ends up 3 stitches/inch (knitting loose) and, after blocking, you get 3.5 stitches/inch (still kind of loose). Doing the conversion, couldn’t you just cast on 34 stitches which, doing the math, would result in the same 10" in your final blocked item?

The conversion formula for how many dry stitches you would need to knit in order for you blocked result to equal the pattern gauge is very simple:
((number of stitches listed in the pattern) divided by (stitches/inch (or cm if you prefer) in the pattern gauge)) times ((st/inch in the pattern gauge) divided by (st/inch in the blocked gauge) times (st/inch in the dry gauge))

I put everything into Excel so adjusting the number of stitches in the pattern to the number of stitches I’d actually have to knit in order to meet gauge would be automatic.

Has anyone ever tried this? It seems like it would be an equally valid way of attaining gauge while still maintaining the pattern designer’s vision in terms of loop tightness and final look but maybe I’m missing something. Also, it would mean you’d only have to swatch and block once and just have Excel adjust the stitch count throughout the pattern rather than swatch/block multiple times on multiple needles in order to make gauge.


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The whole reason for getting gauge is to make your fitted garment come out like the designer’s. So you are changing needle sizes until you find the size that will match your knitting tension to the designers.

If yours doesn’t match, your garment will come out either larger or smaller than originally intended.


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Right, I understand the purpose of gauge. My question, though, was whether adjusting stitch count was an equally valid way to meet gauge as changing needle size.

You can certainly adjust stitch count to give you the size that you want but it becomes more difficult to do with more complicated stitch patterns and lace projects.
As knitcindy mentioned, changing needle size takes your knitting tension versus the designer’s tension into account. If you really want to maintain the loop size of the pattern, the best way to do that is to change needle size.

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Thanks (and thanks for the welcome :slight_smile:)! I was asking really because, for my hands at least, I have a needle “sweet spot” range and with needles outside that range - even by 1mm - I can start to get hand cramps (I think it’s a grip issue). Basically I was working on swatching for a sweater pattern and realized the needle requested by the pattern was in my sweet spot but the needle I’d need to use to adjust to gauge wasn’t and I was trying to figure out if using the comfortable needle and adjusting stitches - and keeping a tape measure nearby throughout - was an acceptable alternative to swapping needles and being uncomfortable.

ETA: Also I’m going to have to adjust stitches regardless by there’s some shrinkage after blocking, meaning even my tension were a 100% match for the designer’s I’d still have to change the stitch count due to the nature of the wool I bought. If I decided to go the needle-change route, wouldn’t I still have to do the math to add stitches in order to account for later shrinkage?

Thanks for this - I come from a world of sewing where you can pre-shrink everything before dealing with the pattern so it’s new for me to have to account for both pattern AND shrinkage at the same time.

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  I am very intrigued by your idea/solution for getting around using needles that are can cause cramping or be uncomfortable. Our ancestors probably had to do something similar before there was so much variety in the needles available.   With a more intricate pattern it might get tricky with increases and decreases but if your math skills are good, I think your solution is a fantastic one.   I have always enjoyed the challenge of math but most people today are put off by even the mention of it.
I don't knit, but have crocheted for more than fifty years and use a lot of math to create my own patterns. Math can be very useful and even fun.
  I was very lucky to have had my Uncle Bill teach me the basics before I started school. I still remember the special "scribbler" that he bought just to teach me arithmetic. It was just a book of paper but had a bright yellow cover that was textured and sounded like a nylon jacket if you ran your fingers over it. I had no idea at the time what a special gift he was giving me and how valuable it really was. I wish I had had the chance to properly thank him for the time he spent teaching me, but we moved out of the area, he got married and life went on. By the time I was old enough to realize just what he had given me it was too late. Life is short. 
I hope you are able to always complete your projects on your most comfortable needles. Good luck and happy knitting.


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In a sweater knitting book from the library, she writes about positive and negative ease, for creating perfect personal fit of the sweater, I think the math your suggesting is similar. Say I need this garment to be 3 inches bigger in the bust than the pattern,and an inch is so many stitches, and so forth.
Your plan seems doable.

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Thanks. I’m new-ish to this and was struggling with how people translate pattern gauge to blocked gauge VIA dry gauge, because, if the dry gauge is different from the blocked gauge, you’re still going to have to adjust the number of stitches when actually knitting even if your blocked gauge and pattern gauge are perfectly in sync. I mean if your pattern gauge is 10 st/inch and your blocked gauge matches that perfectly but your dry gauge is 11 st/inch, you’re going to have to do the math to add more stitches when actually knitting so that the size will be perfect after blocking.

Even more confusing is when all three are slightly out of sync, like the pattern says 10 sts/inch, blocked gets you 10.25 (meaning close enough that changing needles won’t really help) and dry is 11. Then you’re adjusting blocked gauge to pattern gauge and dry gauge to blocked gauge. It’s a lot of algebra! :slight_smile:

I wasn’t sure how other people dealt with the math or if they just did their best and got as close as possible and made fitting adjustments at the end somehow, which I can see doing when knitting flat but am less sure how you’d do that when knitting, say, a sweater in the round where there are no seams you can adjust.

Your real concern is not so much dry gauge (gauge pre-block) as blocked gauge. Once that’s close, or close enough to the pattern gauge, you’re set to go.
The pre-block gauge compared to blocked gauge is really only of interest as you measure your sts on the needles. What you’re aiming for is a garment or item that fits as intended after blocking.

I have only knit baby sweaters with a very blocky fit, so I admit that this is theory for me also as an extremely lazy knitter I almost never gauge or block :flushed:.
The book is part of “ you can knit that” series but I cannot remember the author’s name or the exact title. But I have seen it at a Chapters store.


That’s exactly it. With something like an adult sweater, where even seemingly minor differences between the dry gauge and the blocked gauge can make for a garment that’s ill-fitting when completed, it seems critical to know how dry gauge converts to blocked gauge converts to pattern gauge since, of course, we knit and count stitches dry.

As an example of something I’m working on (an adult sweater so size definitely matters): pattern gauge is 1.5 stitches/cm; my blocked gauge is 1.625 stitches/cm; my dry gauge is 1.65 stitches/cm. In order to get my blocked gauge to match pattern gauge, I’d need a needle size that doesn’t exist as far as I know (like a 7.25mm needle). Therefore, I have to make pattern adjustments because there’s no way to match it with a needle. While the difference between the dry gauge and blocked gauge is seemingly minor, I did the math and here’s what it looks like:
The pattern wants 180 stitches cast on meaning 120cm.
To get that 120cm after blocking, I actually have to cast on 195 stitches because, if I cast on only 180, I will wind up with only 111cm after blocking - that’s 3.5" loss around the waist.
If I ignore the difference between blocked gauge and dry gauge and go ahead and just cast on 195 stitches, I will end up with a blocked garment that’s 116cm, about a 1.5" loss around the waist.
If I go ahead and follow the math between dry gauge and pattern gauge, I would cast on 202 stitches which, after blocking, would result in the 120cm asked for by the pattern and which is the proper size.

I realize this is probably way more detail than anyone wanted :smile: but I’m asking because I’ve scoured the web and, while I’ve seen lots about gauging and blocking, I haven’t seen anything addressing the fact that we knit and count stitches dry but that, in addition to blocked and pattern gauges not matching, dry and blocked gauges might not match either and that those differences will affect the number of stitches we work with throughout the whole pattern.


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In your example “To get that 120cm after blocking, I actually have to cast on 195 stitches…” so why would the cast on of 195 stitches end up with a blocked garment that’s 116cm, about a 1.5" loss around the waist? I don’t understand.

In fact for most patterns, you only have to work out the increases and decreases for shaping if you have altered the pattern stitch number. Usually setting up a proportion works well for converting the pattern shaping to the new shaping post blocking.

The pattern gauge is 15 stitch/10cm. My blocked gauge came to 16.25 stitches/10cm and my dry gauge came to 16.5 stitches/10 cm.
Pattern gauge: 180 stitches cast divided by 1.5 = 120cm, i.e. the target number.
Blocked gauge: 180 stitches cast divided by 1.625 = 111cm; 195 stitches divided by 1.625 = 120cm

Normally in this situation, I’d just go up a needle size. But I tried going up to the next available needle and it reversed the problem - it gave me something like 13.75 stitches/10cm blocked. Because the needle size that would be perfect for me doesn’t exist, the only thing I could think of was to do the math and change the number of stitches so the final blocked result matches the pattern length.

And then when I saw my dry gauge was slightly different from my blocked gauge, well I went a little crazy with the math.

After which I got curious about what other people did when they were making a garment where size mattered, where pattern, dry, and blocked gauge were all different, and where they couldn’t simply swap out to a different needle size to make up for the difference.