Since I went over tension last week will go over gauge this week. These two things go hand-in-hand while knitting. Without good tension you cannot take accurate gauge, and without accurate gauge your garment will not fit. It is a ‘wrist bone is connected to the arm bone’ kind of thing.
In order to start this off right, I will tell you the story of my first attempt at a pattern. I had this gray yarn, from Michaels, that looked like tweed. I wanted to make a really cushy sweater; something really comfortable so I held the yarn double. I followed the pattern to a T and sewed everything up, and there was no way this was going to fit me. It might have even been a bit big for Paul, so I gave it as a gift to someone who LOVED it and actually fit into it.
I managed to discover gauge the hard way and have now because a gauge tyrant. I always swatch and very carefully do all the gauge math to make sure my garment turns out perfect; even then, it doesn’t always work. I’ve had a couple fabrics stretch after blocking or shrink; sometimes they even lose all constitution after blocking and you are left with a slippery and limp sweater, which is really more comfortable than it sounds. However, when it isn’t what you wanted, it can be disheartening.
Without further ado, here are some videos about gauge and gauge swatching.
A tip I learned at Vogue Knitting Live was to never put a boarder on your gauge swatch. I always used to slip the first stitch in the row of my gauge swatches, but I learned later that this would throw off my calculations. The slipped stitch changes the nature of your fabric ever so slightly and can make it seem like there is one too many or one too few stitches in your gauge. This is the same for a seed stitch boarder or ribbing.
Another tip I learned was to always cast on the amount of stitches for the recommended gauge. If the gauge is supposed to be 21 stitches for 4 inches, then cast on 21 stitches. It makes it much easier to see if your gauge is off when you just have to see if the square measures 4 inches. I used to cast on more than I needed, if the pattern wanted 21 stitches, I would cast on 30. Then I would measure how many stitches were in four inches and divide that by four. There were some other unnecessary, yet complicated, things in there, but I have seen the light and started doing this the easy way!