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3 Things You Might Not Know About Adjusting Your Gauge

Knitting gauge is so important to your knitting, and boy is it a complicated beast sometimes — especially when you’re dealing with knitting gauge adjustment.

Gray Knit Gauge Swatch Hanging on Clothes Line

Here’s the thing most knitters don’t think about: gauge adjustment isn’t just about changing your needle size.

Oh, I know. It pains me to even type those words. But next time you swatch and swatch over and over again, only to turn up with numbers that still don’t meet your gauge requirements, take a few of these gauge adjustment tips into consideration and see what happens. It might just save you from a knitting temper tantrum.

Craftsy Gauge Guide

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The basics of gauge

Gauge is the number that determines how big or small your knitted project will turn out, so learning how to make adjustments to your gauge is necessary if you want to avoid ripping out your project and starting all over again.

If you’re a beginner knitter, first check out our post on how to measure your gauge in knitting and see if the basic solution of changing your needle size solves the problem. If it does, awesome! If not, read on, frustrated knitter.

Tension counts

I’d be lying if I told you that simply changing your needle size will solve all your gauge problems. It won’t! Gauge doesn’t just depend on needle size.

It also depends on how you, as an individual, knit. Your knitting is as unique as your fingerprint. How tightly are you holding the yarn in your hand as you knit? Are you a Continental knitter or an English knitter? All these things can factor into your gauge.

And here’s another uncertainty: your knitting can change depending on the day. When I’m stressed, I clutch my yarn so tightly it looks like it might break off. But when I’m knitting at the end of a relaxing day, things flow much more loosely.

Switch up the needle — but not the size

Get ready, because this bit of info is going to blow your mind: Not all knitting needles are the same, even if they’re the same size.

That is, a size 10 bamboo needle isn’t the same as a size 10 aluminum needle. That same size can be different depending on the material and the brand.

So if you have changed the knitting needle size a bazillion times to try and get the right gauge, why not try switching the needle brand or material instead? If a size 5 bamboo needle isn’t cutting it, try a size 5 aluminum needle.

The other factor here is that you probably knit differently with different types of needles. Some materials are more slippery than others, so your knitting might be a bit tighter to keep those stitches on there. Swapping the material is not just about the size of the needle, but also changing how you knit with it.

Add rows to your knitting

Sometimes the row gauge is even more troublesome than the stitch gauge. Everything is perfect with your stitch gauge, but you measure the rows and — uh oh.

If you’re feeling brave, you can add or remove rows from the pattern to make up for the gauge. I wouldn’t do this with anything that has a lot of shaping, like a sweater, but you can bet I’d try it with something simple, like a rectangular tech case or clutch.

Craftsy Gauge Guide

FREE Guide! Get Gauge Every Time

Get our full guide to gauge, plus an exclusive gauge worksheet, for FREE!Get the FREE Guide

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and was updated in January 2018.



Thanks for the post! I do all my knitting on circular needles, even for flat pieces. Do you think this aspect would affect the tension?


I often consciously tighten my tension to hit the gauge. I also add rows when necessary in many different situations. I do also design on the needles, so I’m pretty comfortable with adjusting.

Patricia Walsh

I have a lace yarn calling for 8,.5 sts to the inch. I have a pattern calling for the same…on #3 needles.
This is totally impossible for me to achieve. I moved down to the tiniest needle (0) and still could not get that guage. Lowest I could go was about 6 sts to the inch. And no way was I going to knit an entire cardigan with long sleeves on what amounted to a sewing needle! I do knit tighter when I throw the yarn … maybe I just have to give up on continental knitting? Or just give up on lace knitting!

Gayle Ballinger

Never give up on lace knitting!
I would not do a sweater on a Zero, either, but you can still enjoy lace (which is my favorite thing to knit, almost everything is Lacey in some respect) try a shawlette or cowl with the yarn held double and larger needles. Lace is fun, not boring, can be beaded and gets amazing reactions from people who you can proudly and casually day, “Ih, yes, I made it myself” oh, and knitting lace is NOT hard!!!

Carol Liege

I have a question. If I make a gauge swatch on straight needles, will the gauge stay the same on my double points?

Anne Lagache

Straight needles to double pointed needles are practically the same. You could always check the swatch on each; your tension might change. Mine changes on double point needles.
Thanks for the tip about the different types of needles — I suspected that.
Thank you for the article!!

Anita Williams

I usually have to size up to get my gauge right. I am working on a scarf and have gone from 2 sizes up down to the size called for in the pattern (US 2). I still have more inches than I should have, yet my row gauge is correct. This normally wouldn’t matter on a scarf but the pattern is a square motif and my squares are turning into rectangles – longer width-wise than heighth-wise. How do I fix that issue (can’t add rows because of the interlocking squares).

Sandy English

I am making a poncho from a kit. I went up from US 9 to US 11. The length matches with the number of cables in the photo. However, mine is narrower. I can stretch to the correct width, but then the length is about 2 inches short. Should I size up again? Since it is a poncho, the width is important. It should be a square when finished.


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