Gauge?

These are the instructions that I received for a pattern and I am not familiar with this technique:
Cast on 20 or so stitches on US 6 needles. Knit 3-4” in stockinette stitch. Without stretching, lay flat and measure across to find out how many stitches you have per inch of work. Also, how many rows. Measure in a few places. If you are not getting gauge, change your needle size. Also, after determining that you have the correct gauge, begin work on the back. But be sure to measure from time to time to be sure your initial measurement of gauge is accurate. It is very difficult to judge gauge, even on a 4”x4” swatch. If you work the back first, then you can always compensate for errors in size on the fronts.
On the pattern itself it reads: Gauge: 4 1/2 st/in; 6 1/2 rows/in, on #6 needles.

Could someone please make this easier to understand?

Thank You.

Cast on 20 or so stitches on US 6 needles. Knit 3-4” in stockinette stitch. Without stretching, lay flat and measure across to find out how many stitches you have per inch of work. Also, how many rows. Measure in a few places. If you are not getting gauge, change your needle size. Also, after determining that you have the correct gauge, begin work on the back. But be sure to measure from time to time to be sure your initial measurement of gauge is accurate. It is very difficult to judge gauge, even on a 4”x4” swatch. If you work the back first, then you can always compensate for errors in size on the fronts.

Having the correct gauge makes sure that your stitch count matches theirs so the piece isn’t too big or too small.

Hopefully this link will help. It has more in it than I can type up. :smiley:
http://www.earthguild.com/products/knitcroc/marypat/gauge.htm

This is asking you to knit a gauge swatch. That way, what you are knitting will come out the right size. Most patterns will tell you to cast on a set number of stitches and see if they measure out to be the right size. For instance, if your pattern wants you to achieve 6 stitches per inch, it usually asks you to cast on 24 stitches. If, after knitting 3-4 " worth you end up with a swatch that measures 4 inches across, you are in pretty good shape. It tells you not to stretch it because the article you are knitting will not be stretched out. In addition to measuring across you also want to measure here and there on the swatch to see if you have the right number of stitches per inch. They also want you to do it while you are knitting because gauge is a very fickle thing. (Take a look at the most recent Yarn harlot-very funny and very true) If you are getting too many stitches per inch then you have to go up one or two needle sizes, too few then down a size or two. One final thing. If, as is the case most of the time, they ask you to do the swatch in stockinette, the thing will curl up like there is no tomorrow. So add a four or so stitches of garter stitch on the edges and top and bottom so it won’t curl. Don’t include these stitches in your measurements. They are just there so you can measure the thing.

It’s always a good idea to make a swatch larger than 4" though; the edge sts aren’t the same size as the ones in the middle and tend to curl under. I’d suggest you CO at least 24 sts so you can measure in the middle. A half stitch is really hard to determine, so you should be trying for 9 sts over 2" or 18 sts over 4"

I personally suggest knitting a 6" by 6" square and then measuring the 4" within that. Then you’ll really get a good sense of your gauge. The more experienced you get, the more steady and even the size of your sts will be and you will likely never need to recheck your gauge as you’re knitting a project. Here’s why it’s crucial to check the gauge: if you are supposed to get 4 sts per inch and you’re really getting 5, it doesn’t sound like a big difference. But if you are making a sweater which is supposed to be 40 inches around and when finished, the pattern would tell you to have 80 sts across the front and 80 sts across the back, totalling 160 sts around. The 160 sts divided by 4 sts per inch, would give you 40 inches total. Perfect. But if you were getting 5 sts per inch, divide the 160 by 5, and you’d get a total finished measurement around of 32 inches. Not so perfect. Unless you’re built like Dolly Parton and want it show it off.
So getting the right amount of sts per inch is very important, and that test swatch is how you determine if you’re on target with the pattern. If you aren’t, then try using different size needles until you do. (If you’re getting too many sts to the inch, use smaller needles, and if you’re getting too many, use larger ones.)