Gauge / Blocking Question

I’m starting to make a lace shawl (Soli Deo Gloria Beaded Lace Shawl, by ‘By the Lily Pond’, on Ravelry).

I’ve made a swatch using the pattern given and blocked it overnight. The gauge specified is “18 st x 20 rows in 10 cm x 10 cm (4 by 4 inch) square after blocking”. My swatch is 4 inches wide by only 3 inches long. Should I be stretching it more into the right dimensions when blocking it? (I’ve never tried blocking before). How should I handle it when my gauge is right in one direction, but not the other?

I’m not overly concerned about the gauge on this particular item, because I’m not worried about the overall size, but I want to learn for other projects.


My rule of thumb for gauge swatches is to add at least 25-30% to the number of stitches and rows they tell you to knit and knit in pattern unless told otherwise. This gives you a center area to measure without the edges getting in the way.

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That’s what I usually do, but in this case there’s an exact pattern to make a swatch. It meets the gauge in one direction, but not the other. :confused:

How stretchy is your yarn? You may need to go up a needle size and then stretch it in the direction that it’s short. When I stretch the fabric width-wise to decrease the number of stitches per inch, it will at the same time “shrink” length-wise to increase the number of rows per inch. This also works in reverse: stretching length-wise decreases rows per inch AND increases stitches per inch.

Hope this helps.


Stitch gauge is usually more important than row gauge. That’s because most patterns have you knit until you reach a given number of inches.

Stunning shawl! If you’ve got stitch gauge, you could try blocking the finished shawl to the given dimensions and see if that amount of stretch seems reasonable.
Some lace patterns (perhaps not this one) can be adjusted by adding a repeat if the length is off. I’ve mainly had to fiddle with length for raglan sleeves. There you may need to adjust the rate of decreases so that the sleeve openings and sleeves are neither to long nor to short.


I’m using Patons Glam Stripes, which is mostly Acrylic, so I don’t think it has much stretch in the yarn itself, but the pattern is very lacy with lots of holes, so maybe this will allow me to stretch it more when blocking. I like the idea of going up a needle size - that’s what I’m going to try, and hope it works. It’s probably not the ideal yarn to use, but I really wanted something with sparkle in it!

On a gauge swatch, usually I get out my handheld steamer. I use a towel, over my ironing board and will steam from the backside. Normally I will use fine metal knitting needles (straight not circulars), and pin on my ironing board.

I don’t block my shawl this way in the end, I wet block. But wet blocking takes much longer to do and to set up for.

One thing patterns don’t do and I wished they would, is to tell what method the designer used to knit. If they knit it Continental and you are an English / American / Thrower / Flicker (these all have generally tighter tension), then you can know if they lose or tight. Alas, very few tell you.

I am knitting the Great American Aran Afghan now. There are several blocks which depend upon the knitting getting shorter when you stretch it horizontally. It also loses width if stretched longer. If it is wool, it is the most forgiving. With acrylic or cotton, your results vary indeed.

If you use steam, it also flattens the stitches so if you are doing dimensional stitches, you don’t want to block from the front. As many yarn types are a mixture of acrylic and wool plus other fibers, some of these do not like steaming and it can somewhat melt the yarn. This is why I wet block my final. But the steam is good for a gauge swatch.