Why can't I ever get the right gauge?

I’ve been knitting for a few years now, mostly did scarfs and purses… things I didn’t worry too much about gauge… Now that I am more in to socks and hats etc… things that actually have to fit someone, I am finding that I have a serious problem with NEVER getting the right gauge.
If the pattern says 5 st.= 1 inch… I use the same needles the pattern says and the same weight yarn and my gauge is off. I change to the next size up or down and it’s still off…
also, in the rare chance i do get the proper gauge I knit the socks and they still are the wrong size.

my questions are

  1. Is it possible that I knit so differently than every knitter in the world and may never find the right gauge to knit a pair of socks that would fit a human foot?

  2. Is it possible that cheap yarn gives you a different gauge than good wool yarn that I cannot afford, that most patterns I want to knit call for?

  3. is there any help for me?

I don’t know, but you can come sit next to me because I’m having the same frustrations.
(I think I am going to have to make my own 0000000000 needles if there’s going to be any hope at all!)

Well, It’s nice to know I am not alone in this… I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one that knit socks that would only fit BigFoot… and sadly I dont know any Big Foots :frowning:

or should I have said Big Feet??

I was going to go to the yarn store today and show the owner in hopes she could enlighten me, but now I feel too sick to move. so there goes another week, I think - but if I end up managing to go anyway, I’ll post you.

If you get a pattern which has different directions for different sizes you can use those if your gauge isn’t perfect. For example, I just made a pair of mittens using the directions for child size because I knew from the way my gauge was off that if I made it in ladies size they would be gargantuan. And they fit perfectly!

I have only four sizes of needles, so I need to fudge the gauge quite often. The results aren’t always exactly spot on, but they work (most of the time); don’t take this advice if you are a perfectionist!

Good luck, and feel better!

I’ve always used a different needle than a pattern calls for; mostly because I don’t like knitting sweaters on size 8s. So I’ve knit in a different size, or just figured out my own CO sts. So try out the different size option if it’s available.


Suffice it to say, the orig pattern reflects the ndls, yarn and knitting style of the designer. Change any one, or more, of those factors and it’s unlikely you’ll get the same results. You can have same ndl sz and yarn, but if you knit looser, you’ll get a larger garment. Change the yarn selection, and despite what the wrapper says is gauge, it may or may not be what you get doing a swatch. Or you may be able to achieve the right no of sts, but the row ct is off. (Always strive for st ct…rows can be added, subtracted.)

Bear in mind that your knitting tension may vary from day to day, time of day, your knitting experience, mood, etc. Takes practice to learn results and there’s no getting around swatching. If you find objects turn out too large, reduce your ndl sz. Certain fibers knit diff than others. An inexpensive acrylic may, or may not, give you the gauge of a more costly wool. Swatch it and see. (Also, take into consideration what the washed/dried swatch does. It may grow, or shrink.)

BTW, I’m working on a sweater that calls for sz 9, chunky weight yarn. I’m working with a light worsted and sz 5 (yet the yarn calls for sz 8). I’ll adjust accordingly to get a proper fit.



so I ventured out after all, and was advised to try wrapping the yarn more times around more fingers to get a smaller stitch, or switching hands.
or pay for adult supervision if it comes to that.

hello all,

came here this morning for exactly this problem. I am knitting my second wearable garment and doing rib - k1 p1 in 100% cotton. for a tension square the pattern told me to do 30 rows of knit should equal 10 inchs on size 4 needles (uk) which is what I got :cheering:

But now I am doing k1 p1 I am not convinced I have my tension tight enough I really want so much to get this right and am confident that the tension will be good on the rest of the garment as it will be k1 row p1 row.

I have never held my yarn correctly so done so last night for another swatch in the above rib and it turned pretty much the same I think see pic The problem with this yarn is that it doesn’t have any spring in it - you stretch it and it doesn’t spring back which surely isn’t what you want on a rib section :grrr: I have to use this yarn as my niece has eczema and can only wear cotton.

I hate this yarn as it is so slippery my stitches keep falling off the needles and I am so tense the whole time trying to keep them on.

Question 1: I was wondering if a plastic or wooden needle would help keep the stitches on the needle a little better.

Question 2: If I reduced the size of the needle for the rib how will I manage to get the larger ones through the stitch for the main pattern.

Question 3: Has anybody added elastic to the inside of ribbing to ensure it keeps it shape if so how is it done.

Many thanks you guys - hope you are all having a better sunday than me :verysad:

If you use a smaller needle for the ribbing when you switch to the larger needle, you don’t transfer the stitches, just start knitting on the bigger one. Your stitches are a bit uneven, but washing or blocking will help that a lot. You might try using a different type of needle; that could keep the stitches from coming off so easily.


thanks for taking the time to reply. my stitches are beautiful on a knit only or purl only row it’s just the switching between the two seems to be upsetting my tension. I will have a look for some plastic needles with a bit of texture on them, otherwise I think I will be giving up before I have hardly started. In the mean time I have a slightly smaller set of needles which I will have a try with.

Thanks for all your advice - it’s really appreciated I will post pics of any results I have in order to help others.

The smaller needles can help. Some yarns prefer them, some don’t need them, and in this case I think you should try it. Stitches in ribbing can be a bit larger than in stockinette which is why smaller ones are usually recommended.


so how do I know if I am holding my yarn “right”? I thought there was no wrong way to hold it, just different ways…

could it be that I have been knitting wrong all these years?

After I posted this question, I just went for it and knit my mom some socks, I used sports weight yarn and US # 3 needles even though the pattern called for #4 or #5 needles. when I got done with the first one I tried it on and the ribbing didn’t really snug to my leg :frowning: but the rest of the sock seemed good, I went ahead with the second one but unfortunatly even though I used the same yarn and needles was a bit tight, except the cuff which had the same problem as sock #1 :frowning:

It’s probably the yarn… right? yeah thats it… its the yarn.

The `right’ way to hold yarn is the way that’s comfortable for you and produces an even tension. It doesn’t have to be a tight tension, or a loose tension, just even. That comes with practice too. Ribbing is different because you’re switching between knits and purls and that will cause looseness. Why don’t you practice on a large rib, like 4x4, then go down to 3x3, 2x2 and finally 1x1 all on the same piece. By the time you get to the 1x1 your tension may have evened out some.


Okay! I have the same problems, my swatch is always right, but my knitting the actual garment is too large!

Why do patterns want you to knit you swatch in stockinette (knit one row then purl next row) when the pattern is in garter stitch (knit every row)??? :??

The last 2 projects I have done (a baby blanket and a scarf with hood built in) were just too large! The directions said to make my swatch in stockinette - I checked! My garter stitch must be much larger than my stockinette!


Garter stitch works up wide. If a pattern is done solely in garter, you’d want to swatch in garter. If the body of a garment is done in stockinette, then the pattern would probably have you swatch in st st as that’s where the ‘fit’ comes into play (the garter perhaps only used for edging). If used tog in a pattern, you may have instances where you have to do incs/decs to transition between the two as they create much diff widths.


I wonder if you can use a smaller size needle just for the ribbing on the top and then switch to the regular sized needles for the rest of the sock. :thinking: That way the sock itself will be the right size and the ribbing will be a little tighter. I’m not positive if this will work, I’m a knitter of the self-taught variety, but maybe somebody more experienced here will know.


Actually, Rebecca, a lot of sock patterns that I’ve seen do call for smaller needles for the ribbing, then switch to larger for the rest of the sock. And it’s usually how I do my socks anyway. One thing to also keep in mind is to experiment with different types of ribbing, for example, k1p1 ribbing doesn’t have as much stretch in it as k2p2. In some patterns, its nice to play around and work your own stitches in there, this isn’t supposed to be nerve-wracking or frustrating, but more relaxing than anything.

Hey guys!!!

I have some tips for getting the right gauge, and measuring your gauge correctly.

  1. Make a BIG gauge swatch that has the pattern you’re knitting in surrounded by some other kind of border. For stockinette swatches, I always cast on at LEAST 26 stitches… I do garter stitch for 3 rows, and then keep the first and last 3 stitches in garter stitch. Make your swatch more than 4 inches tall.

  2. To accurately measure your gauge, follow the above procedure, and then measure the 20 stitches you have in st st to the closest eighth of an inch. Then, divide 20 (number of stitches) by your measurement. For instance, if the 20 stitches between my garter borders measures 3 and a half inches, I know my gauge is 5.72 stitches per inch… I would round up to 5 and 3/4s of a stitch.

  3. Keep a calculator in your knitting bag, and either write down or memorize the following decimals:
    1/8th = .125
    3/8ths = .375
    5/8ths = .625
    7/8th = .875
    That way, when your swatch measures 6 and 3/8ths of an inch, you know to divide 20 by 6.375

  4. Wash and block your swatch always. It also helps to “hang” your swatch to see if it droops as it dries.

  5. Row gauge isn’t as important as stitch gauge. Usually patterns say to knit for X inches, so if your row gauge is off a bit, don’t worry about it.

  6. If you’re working a cable or lace pattern, do at least 2 repeats of the pattern for an accurate gauge swatch

  7. If you can’t get gauge, try using different needle MATERIALS as well as diffferent needle sizes. Your gauge on a size 6 bamboo is going to be different than a size 6 metal or plastic.

  8. Make sure that when you get gauge, you LIKE the fabric it produces. If you get gauge but it’s a really tight stiff fabric, or really open and drapey and it’s NOT what you want for the item you’re knitting, either find a new yarn or a new pattern.

9.If you just CAN’T get gauge but you LOVE the yarn and the pattern, do the math to make the pattern fit your needs. You love the fabric you get with a gauge of 5 stitches per inch, but the pattern calls for 4 stitches per inch, figure out the difference in measurements and adjust accordingly.

  1. Keep a record of your swatches; I write the needle type, size, and gauge ON the swatch in permanent marker. Ideally you’ll leave them alltogether in one place, or if you’re me, you leave them scattered around the house. This is ESPECIALLY useful if you fall in love with a yarn and knit with it often… then you don’t have to do a gauge swatch everytime, you can just pick up your needles and go.

Hope this helps!