The Importance of a Gauge Swatch

Choosing Venezia Cascade Worsted

When I first found out about knitting blogs, I would scout them night after night to find those knitting blogs who would show me in detail the proces of their knitting project. I would absorb every little detail they were talking about and I was mesmerized by every single step they took.

In this entry I would like to do the very same thing. Step by step and in detail I will show and tell about my design, based on Cassie Rovitti’s Tubey.

Start of the Shrug

This design basically consists of 2 tubes: the Shrug and the Body. In this section I am going to show and tell how I determine how much to cast on for my shrug.

My gauge swatch tells me that I have a gauge of 6 stitches to 1 inch in stockinette stitch. So, how will I know how much to cast on?

First, I measure my biceps: 12 inch. I know I have 6 st to 1 inch, so 6×12=72 stitches. However, I want some negative ease in my shrug because I want it to be very close fitted so instead of casting on 72 stitches, I will cast on 60 and keep my fingers crossed it will come out okay. You see, much that I do is trial and error and hoping for the best!


I cast on 60 stitches on dpns for the start of shrug and work in the round:

Start of the shrug on dpns

After 4 inches, I will stop working in the round but instead work back and forth because I want to start with the opening of my shrug:
Working back and forth


Unfortunately, I cannot get rid of the dpns yet and change to striaght or circulair needles. I have to wait untill my work lays flat enough. Only then can I get rid of the dpns:
Cannot change to circulair needles yet Time to change to circ Changed to circ


Now comes the question: for how long do I have to work in straight stockinette? When do I join in the round again to finish my shrug?

I measure my cross back width from armpit to armpit: 19 inch. I keep in mind though, that I want to be able to move my arms around and I do not want the shrug to pinch me in the armpits. So I add 1.5 inches to my 19 inches for ease.

Now I know that from the point I started working back and forth, to the point I am going to join in the round again, I have to work 20.5 inches in straight stockinette:
Measure crossback width Measure crossback width 2

After 20.5 inches measured from where I started to work back and forth, I change back to my dpns, and work for 4 inches in the round again:
Change to dpns again Now finish the shrug

After working for 4 inches, I bind off and mark both side openings of my shrug:
finished shrug

Start of the Body

Now I have to determine how much stitches to cast on for the body. Let’s go back to my swatch and look at the top section:
determining gauge for body 2

For my swatch, I casted on 40 stitches. I see that it yields 5 inches. However, I want my top section to stretch. So I slightly stretch my swatch and look how much inches it then yields:
determining gauge for body

Notice that while slightly stretched, my swatch of 40 stitches yields 6 inches. With this information, I can calculate the number of stitches per inch: 40 divided by 6 = 6.6

I determine my gauge to be 6.5 stitches to 1 inch in knit one, purl one pattern with full twist.

I measure the circumference right above my chest: 34 inches.

34 inches x 6.5 stithces = 221 stitches. However I will cast on 5 stitches less. Don’t ask my why… I just want to cast on 216 stitches because 216 just sounds right… (giggle).


Now I have to pick up stitches and cast on stitches for the opening in the front. I have 216 stitches to divide for front and back so 108 stitches for each side.

The back side is easy, I just pick up 108 stitches. Before I do anything, I divide the back section in bite size sections. That way it is easier for me to divide those 108 stitches more evenly:

Bite size sections

For the front side, I have to create an opening of about 10 inches. So in the end I will cast on 60 stitches for the neck opening and on each side of the front of the shrug I pick up the remaining 24 + 24 stitches ( 60 + 24 +24 =108)

Now all 216 stitches are accounted for, they are neatly picked up and/or casted on:
All stitches are picked up

Now I am ready to start the body with my knit one, purl one (with full twist) rib!

This entry may be a bit too techical, but hopefully this will give you good insight why a gauge swatch is so important. Also by doing this I want to show and tell you EVERYTHING, so that there are no mysteries in how to create your very own garment.

Once again, I am just a rookie knitter. Instead of being intimidated and instead of saying to myself that I am NEVER able to make my own design, I say to myself: Nancy, you figure it out. You can do this. Now do it.

Maybe it will work, maybe I will totally screw it up. Either way, only one way to find out. And that is by just doing it. With each mistake that I make, I learn. With each succes that I make, I gain more confidence.

Thanks for reading and untill the next entry!

Previous entries on this sweater design:

Conceptualization of a New Design


3 Responses to The Importance of a Gauge Swatch

  1. Punkin says:

    I like reading about the process, and I appreciate that you took the time to write it down. I am adventurous with my knitting, and although it does not always work out I find I enjoy the process and learn a lot.

  2. purlpower says:

    just saying ‘thanks’ for posting such a detailed description of your design and knitting process, really interesting and helpful

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