Ask Judith How To

Do you have a burning question about a particular knitting or beading technique? Ask Judith and check back soon. You may find your answer on this very page with step-by-step instructions and photos.


Sue Parella of Portland, Maine writes:

I noticed in the book Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders that in a lot of the patterns it gives gauge for stockinette stitch and for pattern stitch and that they are not the same number of stitches per inch. I have a pattern that I want to do that is a fisherman cable pattern and it says to do the swatch in pattern. A friend tells me I should do it in stockinette stitch but this doesn't make sense to me. If I do the swatch in stockinette the sweater will come out too small. Right?

Judith Says:

Specifying gauge is a bit of a conundrum in the knitting world, and the opinions among designers and publishers of patterns are varied. For the pattern in question the designer has give the gauge in pattern only, therefore you must do a gauge swatch following the cable pattern. If you can get the correct gauge in your pattern swatch, you're good to go. Some designers give a gauge in stockinette stitch only and assume that if you get the correct gauge in stockinette stitch, you'll get the correct gauge in pattern. This is almost always true, and if you're off, you shouldn't be off by enough to make a difference.

The problem with the first approach is that if you've got the pattern for the sweater of your dreams in hand and trot into your local yarn shop to buy the yarn only to discover that they don't have the exact yarn called for, with only a pattern stitch gauge it may be challenging to find a substitute yarn. In my book Never Knit Your Man a Sweater, I solved this problem by giving both the gauge of the project in pattern stitch and the stockinette stitch gauge given on the yarn band.

The bottom line is that if you're given a gauge in pattern, you need to do your swatch in pattern. Just be sure that when you get the gauge you get a fabric that feels and looks right--neither too tight and dense nor too loose and thin.

Knit on!