So often when we knit or crochet a gauge swatch, we focus on our stitch gauge, but we forget about the row gauge. Many patterns will specify both, but as makers we tend to only worry about the stitch gauge.
Sometimes, though, you really do need to worry about the number of rows per inch! When do you need to worry about row gauge?
- When you are working in a stitch pattern – if you are repeating the same number of rows such as in a cable pattern you will need to know if you need to add or subtract a repeat in order to have the required length for your finished piece.
- When you are decreasing or increasing every X rows – your decreases/increases could be too close together or too far apart. This can be a problem when sewing pieces together or if the angle of decrease/increase is drastically different from the written pattern.
- When you are knitting the garment in a different way such as side to side (instead of top to bottom) or if the garment goes in multiple directions
What can you do? If you are like me, once I find my stitch gauge, I have to work around my row gauge… it is never a match.
After you knit your swatch, measure it, wash it (as you would your finished item) and measure it again. Figure out how different your row gauge is from the pattern gauge. For example, let’s say your pattern calls for a row gauge of 20 rows over 4” in a 10 row repeat, and the body of your sweater should be 20” long after doing 10 repeats. If you have a row gauge of 22 rows over 4” and you work 10 repeats, your sweater will only be 18” – that’s 2” short! By doing the math ahead of time, you will know that you have an issue! Now you will have to decide what the best thing to do is. Can you work five rows of the 10 row repeat (which will make your sweater 20.5” long)? Or do you need to work a full 10-row repeat (which will make your sweater 21” long – which may or may not work for you)? Or is it o.k. for the sweater to be 18” long? Plus, if your sleeve is set in, you will need to think about the depth of your armhole and how it is affected by your row gauge.
None of these issues are insurmountable! It’s just that forewarned is better than trying to react after you’ve knitted a whole garment.
If you ever need help trying to figure out the best course of action if your row gauge is “off,” we’re always willing to help!