What is a gauge swatch?

It is a small piece of fabric that you knit before you start working on your actual project. The gauge swatch is used to measure how many stitches and rows you need to achieve a certain measurement that is given in the pattern. Most commonly you will count how many stitches and rows you need to get a piece that measures 10x10cm / 4x4".

Some large pictures of single swatches lying on the floor.
Here are some swatches I did over the last years.

Do I have to knit a gauge swatch?

Even though you might not like it, the short answer to this question is: YES!

The gauge is the foundation of every pattern. If you want your finished object to have the measurements that are given in a pattern, you need to work the pattern with the given gauge.

There is no other way - besides pure luck - to get a garment to really fit you. You need to make a gauge swatch before you start. Nevertheless in some cases swatching is more important than in others. Here are some examples to give you an idea:

As a rule of thumb you could say: The more fitted the garment is supposed to be, i.e. the less ease it has, the more important it is that you get exact gauge. But that does not mean you can skip swatching when you want to knit an oversized sweater. For complex garments like sweaters a swatch is essential. Trust me on that - I learned it the hard way. 😉

Some large pictures of single swatches lying on the floor.
And some more swatches. I really don't know how many I have done since I learned how important swatching is.

What to keep in mind when knitting a gauge swatch?

There are some things to think of when you knit your swatch:

What to do with the finished swatch?

When your swatch is blocked and dry you can start counting the stitches and rows. In order to do that you can use a normal ruler, a tape measure or a gauge measure like shown on the picture below.

No matter what tool you use, the process is always the same:

A image showing how to count the stitches of a gauge swatch.
This swatch has 19 stitches and 30 rows per 10x10cm / 4x4".

What can I do when my gauge is off?

Every now and then you will not get gauge on the first try. But don't worry, that does not necessarily mean that you can not knit the project you wanted to.

Here are some things you can do:

Just remember that knitting a project with a different gauge is always a risk and might go totally wrong. When in doubt, contact the designer and ask for help.

I hope you found this helpful! Warm regards and happy knitting!