Gauge swatch for in-the-round projects...any tricks?

Since we typically knit and purl at different tensions, for most of us it presents a challenge when we go to make a gauge swatch for a circular project. Our flat swatches turn out a different gauge than our circular knitting!

I’ve been thinking that you might be able to determine your average gauge difference for flat and circular knitting, and work with it to “cheat.” Has anyone tried this? Or any other cheats? I hate having to do a huge circular swatch to get gauge!


Amy, the only thing i can think of would be to use two circs or ML to make just enough of a circular knitting swatch to get gauge. At least you wouldn’t have to do 100 stitches for four inches or something! :smiley:

Also, this is just a theory, but I wonder if a swatch done in tubular knitting would give you an accurate assessment of gauge for circular knitting?

Ok, here we go…Take a deep breath…
This only applies to knitting color work in the round, ie. fair isle, mosaic, etc.: To make an accurate qauge swatch for these, do what the pros do:
Knit the first row as charted on the circs, pull out long lengths of the yarns from the balls, slide your knitting back to the beginning of the needle ( like you do when you make an i-cord), and knit row 2 as charted. Thats all you do. Knit a row, pull out lengths of yarn, slide, knit another row. When you finish the number of rows you need, cast off, cut those drooping lengths of yarn right up the middle, block and measure. It looks like a little square with fringe on the sides. Actually, all this fuss shouldn’t be necessary unless you are working a finely fitted garment. I use circ needles for everything except socks and mittens and gauge hasn’t altered a smidge between flat or in the round. I have my fingers trained I guess. Plus, I’m getting too old to worry about it. I was perfection itself at one time but it left with my figure somewhere around age 55. I have a vague memory of once having a figure; I think I used to be a real stunner!

Teri! I love you! You’ve solved the problem!!!

Of course! You just knit a row, and start at the beginning again, and knit the next row! (That would work for single-color knitting too, I’d say! Right? Not sure what you meant about needing two colors…?)

YAY!!! I’m forever liberated from circular swatches!!! Wooohooo! (Where’s that hand-clapping Emoticon when I need it? Gotta try to find that one…LOL.)

You’re absolutely right about the particular fit of garments. You’re on a forum, I’d say, with plenty of vain young’uns, (certainly I qualify! LOL!), who like our ultra-fitted garments! (And are consequently ultra-particular about our gauge!) LOL.


Considering doing a sweater on circulars and need gauge, so I went back to this message. I think I get it but what does it mean to pull out long Lengths?

christine :?:

Hi Christine,

I always pulled a length of yarn about 1 1/2 times the width of the swatch. So, if I was making a swatch approx. 6" square, at the end of each row, I would pull out a length of yarn(s)from the ball about 9 or 10 inches long as I slid the work back to the beginning of the needle for the next row. You will end up with drooping loops of yarn in back. This is what you cut when it’s time to block and take you measurements for gauge.
Lordy, I hope that made sense.


Yeah, you’re just carrying the yarn from the end of the row, back to the beginning, and that creates a loop in the back…

I’m so excited to try this!

Okay just found this thead… as I’m doing some swatches for circs…

So the drooping loops, I get, you cut when you block?

I’m guessing the extra long is so that when you block you don’t pull out the yarn right?

I just wanna be sure I know before I start :slight_smile:


I like to leave them long enough that I don’t NEED to cut the yarn (on the off chance that I run out of yarn in the project, I like to keep my swatches intact so I can use the yarn). So, you just leave the strands carried in the back of the work, and lay the piece flat on top of those strands when measuring gauge. Cutting the yarn is a fine option too, though!

Thanks I appreciate the help… I understand now… :slight_smile:

I’m unsure if I will use wool or acrylic yet… but this is something I need to keep on hand…

Someone just emailed me with a great suggestion: You can avoid all the loops at the back by using them up by knitting with them every alternate row! Assuming you leave a long enough loop, I don’t see why this wouldn’t work. I wonder if it might effect your gauge a bit, you’d want to be aware of tension and hold the yarn the same way. You’ll still have excess, but it will be only the leftover, hanging off the left edge.

Wow just read about the I-cord style… I get it but I am about to start a project and got to make a gauge… First of all, not sure how many stitches to cast on… if the pattern calls for 30 stitches and 30 rows to make 10 cm which I think is 4"… the results will tell me if I can use this yarn I have purchased… so confusing… New at this gauge thing… plus I am still learning…I think the yarn I have is DK and I think it will work … It is a Florence Shrug by Rowan. Sure could use some help…

Lorraine in
Sonoma CA

If your gauge is supposed to be 30 sts over 4 inches… CO 40 sts or just measure the center 2 or 3 inches of a 30 stitch swatch.


Thanks Suqeez. I already CO 30 sts and working the rib pattern whichis the first two rows in pattern and should give me the amount of stitches… but once my square is done …how do I measure it… Honest, I feel so dumb at all this… but guess that is how we learn… So far in my knitting project I have done fairly well but this one will be a challenge

Sonoma CA

My point was that you need to make your swatch larger than 4" or else figure your gauge using only the 2 or 3" in the middle. The edge stitches tend not to be the same size as the ones in the middle, so only having a sample of the number of stitches, might not work out to the right measurement. You would measure the stitches with a small ruler or tape to figure out how many per inch. Then you’ll know if your shrug is going to be the right size when you follow the pattern, or if you’ll have to adjust.


I’m confused. :?? How would this technique be any different than making a flat swatch? Obviously, I knit at a different gauge in the round than I do flat, but I do all my flatwork on circs…isn’t this just making a flatwork sample but with an extra circle of yarn at the back? Oh, wait-- :oops: I guess not, since you’re starting at the beginning of the work instead of working across the back. Has anyone tested this–do you really get the same gauge you would if you worked the swatch in the round?

Some people do have a different gauge when they work in the round as opposed to working flat. It’s the purl sts, or lack of them, that may be at a different tension.


Right–I get that, and it happens to me. I just wondered whether this way of knitting the swatch really duplicates a circ. swatch–if it does, it makes my day!

Amy, have you tried any of the “small diameter” procedures at the following site?:
I have tried casting on 20 stitches, knit back and forth with a moss stitch, or other non-curling stitch, then join in a circle with two circulars or the Magic Loop and then knit round and round for about 8 or 10 rows. It goes pretty fast, and you can get a pretty good idea of your gauge for that yarn and that size needle. P.S. You will need a pretty long needle 29" or longer for the Magic Loop. Try it!