Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Row Gauge - Ignore it at Your Peril

The typical advice when working a swatch is to focus on stitch gauge and almost ignore row gauge. Beware of this as changing needles sizes can sometimes affect row gauge more than stitch gauge. So perhaps an additional swatch or two is in order if your row gauge is way off. 

If you are working simple shapes it's true you can just knit to the correct measurement as given in your pattern and you can ignore the row gauge. However there are many places that this simply does not work. I've often heard Knitters comment that they were working on something like the Swallowtail Shawl (pictured above), and had to knit extra repeats of one of the 3 pattern stitches to get the correct length. The shape of top down triangles also changes if the row gauge is off varying from a equilateral to an isosceles to a right angled triangle. Another place that row gauge is very important is in the popular top down raglans. The shape of the armhole and bust area is heavily affected by the stitch to row gauge. If you don't get that right there is no way that you will be knitting what the designer originally intended. It could be better or it could be worse depending on your individual body shape. The correct fit of set in sleeves and their proportion to the armhole will also be affected by a row gauge that changes the sleeve cap shape. Even if you have worked to the correct cap depth, the curve of the cap is determined by the cast offs and decreases so a row gauge discrepancy will change its overall shape. 

The final place that row gauge is important is for the horizontal front bands of a cardigan. The stitch pickups are calculated on the length and row count of the front of the garment and since not every size is test knit this is typically done mathematically. Therefore if your row gauge doesn't match neither will the pickups. 

Let me know - are you re-swatching when you get stitch gauge but not row gauge?


  1. Great point. I can't wait to come back and read your other comments.

    Have you found a method to fix row gauge? needle sizes up or down can change stitch gauge, but everything is altered by mood. I can tell in an unblocked piece which chair I was sitting in and if I was having a heated discussion at the time (I'm exaggerating but only a bit ;-)

    Do different methods of knitting effect row gauge?

    Can't blocking fix most things? (I am not a shawl knitter, just a geometric admirer.)

    One last slightly snarky question - why aren't those hypothetical knitters pausing every so often to try on their top down raglans for fit - isn't that the whole point of top down raglans?

    I enjoyed your post as always, I love it when one hits my blog reader.

    -Christine in Massachusetts

  2. I was just searching for information about row gauge and methods to effect them, when I found your interesting blog. I'll continu my search on how to effect my row gauge in a similair matter as my stitch gauge and revisit your blog for other comments and post. Love, Serena