Knitting Math for Adapting Gauge

Knitting Math for Adapting Gauge
Perusing your favorite knitting magazine, you spot the perfect pattern for that incredible yarn you stashed a few months ago. There’s just one problem: the pattern gauge does not fit your gauge. Does this mean that the pattern won’t work? Maybe or maybe not. Depending on your math skills, you may be able to use the pattern as written, or perhaps make a few key changes. Here’s how.

Your first step is to compare your yarn weight to that used in the pattern. It’s far easier to adjust the pattern if the yarn weight is relatively close to what you want to use. In other words, it’s far easier to adjust a pattern written for worsted weight to DK yarn than it is to adjust from bulky to fingering. Extreme changes in yarn weight will change the look of a sweater to the point where it doesn’t make sense to use this yarn with this pattern.

If the yarn weights are close, look at the range of sizes offered. Many choices means that you may be able to use the directions for a different size to get the sweater you want. You will do this by finding the stitches the pattern uses for a key measurement and converting it to what you would get with your gauge. Let’s walk through how this might work.

Perhaps I want to use DK weight yarn for a pattern that’s written for sport weight. The two are relatively close, so I can assume that the changes will not adversely affect the look of the finished sweater. I read the pattern and see that, for a size 44, I cast on 286 stitches. I check to find that the sweater gauge as printed is twenty-six stitches to four inches. If I divide twenty-six by four, I get a gauge of six and a half inches. Two hundred and eighty-six divided by six and a half does indeed give me forty-four inches, so I know I am doing the math correctly.

From here, I am going to check the results of my gauge swatch with the yarn I want to use. I get twenty stitches to four inches, or five stitches to the inch. Two hundred and eighty-six divided by five will give me a sweater that measures a little over fifty-seven inches. That’s too big for me; I want a sweater that’s around the forty-two-inch range. I look at the other cast-on numbers listed and see that the smallest size has me casting on 214 stitches. In the original pattern, I would end up with a sweater that measures thirty-three inches, but with my gauge I will finish a forty-three-inch sweater. That’s the set of directions I will use!

Keep in mind that there are many variables to consider when changing yarns, and that gauge is only one element. Does the published pattern use and intricate knit and purl pattern? This may get lost if you use puffier yarn. Conversely, does the pattern use a small yarn at a relaxed gauge to create a gauzy effect? The sweater will look stiffer with a yarn knitted at recommended gauge. However, if the look of the yarn is similar and the gauges are close in terms of yarn weight, this is the simplest way to adapt a pattern for a bigger or smaller yarn. Use a calculator, double-check your math, and be sure to start with your own gauge swatch. But you knew that already, right?

Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map

Content copyright © 2022 by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. for details.