Here your row gauge questions will be answered! Row gauge can rear its head whenever you are working a pattern in anything beyond a two-row stitch pattern. Sometimes it is nearly irrelevant, other times, it is a huge potential issue.
You may not have given a lot of thought to row gauge questions, but here are a few that came to my mind.
- What should you do when your row gauge is different and you need to work to a certain row in the pattern?
- How do you adjust if your calculations give an odd number of rows but you need an even number?
- What if your pattern says to work the pattern rows X times and your row gauge doesn’t work for that?
- What about shaping when your row gauge is different?
You’ve done your swatch and blocked it. You have obtained stitch gauge. But your row gauge is off. What do you do? It is quite likely that if you change needle size you will change your stitch gauge. You may be able to change your row gauge slightly by changing the needle type you are using, but that may not be a viable option. Read on!
Row Gauge Question 1
The row gauge question now becomes how to do you deal with having a different row gauge? If the pattern says work to X” you may be fine. Often the designer has had you work a certain number of pattern repeats, with the intention that you will be at a particular row when you get to that “work to” point. This may be implicit or explicit in the pattern. By implicit I mean that the designer had an intention, which is shown in the sample, but they may not have specifically told you what that intention was. By explicit I mean that the designer say “work the pattern rows X times”. I would phrase it “Work Rows 1 through 6 a total of X times.”
You can figure out what the intention was by multiplying the pattern row gauge by the inches to work. If row gauge was 5.5 rows/inch, and the inches to work was 12, the rows to work at that gauge are 66. If the pattern has a six row repeat, then you know that that the pattern has you to work 11 repeats.
If your row gauge is 5.75 rows/inch and you work 11 repeats for 66 rows, you will have 11.5″, not 12″. You then have to decide if you work an additional three rows to get to 12″ or do you stick to 66? Do you work to 72 to get another full repeat? If it is a pattern that has a particular break/connection, it may be important to work to a complete pattern. If the pattern just says work to 12″, you completely have to make the call. What if your row gauge was 6 stitches to the inch? The result of 72 rows is nicely divided by six. Each design needs to be scrutinized for intention if it isn’t given. If you can tell what size the sample is, you can also use that to tell you whether your project will have the same look as the original. If it didn’t matter, my instruction would say to end with an Even or WS row.
Row Gauge Question 2
This row gauge question is pretty easy. We often need even numbers or odd numbers of rows to end our knitting on the correct side for the next instruction. Rarely does it make a huge amount of difference if one extra or one less row is worked. However, give thought to whether you should go short or go long. Do make a note so you end properly on an adjoining piece.
Row Gauge Question 3
As discussed in Row Gauge Question 1, you may need to work the pattern a specific number of times and will need to adjust to match your gauge. Sometimes you need to think about symmetry or repetition. Is there a reason for working that pattern a certain number of times? Will the pattern on the garment present differently if a different number of repeats are worked? Take a look at the sample shown. Count the repetitions if possible. Is it an even number of repeats? An odd? If you can’t tell, then this is not something you need to worry about! If it is clear that there were eight cable repeats, and that the last row worked is the row after a cable cross, perhaps those are the clues. Do you need an even number of cable repeats? Unlikely. Do you need to end at the end of the pattern so that is is the row above the last cable cross? That could be important. I would phrase the instruction to “Work Rows 1 through 6 until the piece measures X” or desired length from Y, ending with Row 6.”
Row Gauge Question 4
This may be the row gauge question with the most potential for difficulty for the unsuspecting knitter. It may show a bit in the body shaping, but once you get to armholes and necks, it becomes much more apparent. Even in a shawl your shape might not be as pleasing if your row gauge is different and you have not taken that into account. This is why patterns should have schematics. But numbers can help us out.
Side Seam Shaping Row Gauge Question
The pattern row gauge is 5.5 rows/inch. Your row gauge is 6 rows/inch. The shaping for the waist has 4 decreases, spaced at every fourth row (every other right side row). You will decrease (work a decrease row, work three rows) a total of four times. That is a total of 16 rows of shaping or 3″ of shaping at 5.5 rows/inch. At your row gauge you will have 2.625″ of shaping. That doesn’t seem like a big deal. Ask yourself if you can make up the length without difficulty in the decrease sequence? You could decide to work five rows between the first two decreases, then work three rows between the next decreases. That will close that difference.
Don’t automatically assume that what worked for the decreases will work for the increases. If the identical shaping is given, then do make the same adjustment. If the distance is different, then do a separate calculation here.
Armhole and Neckline Shaping Row Gauge Question
Sticking with the same pattern row gauge for this row gauge question, let’s look at an armhole. There is a bind off row, followed by 20 rows of decrease shaping, for a total of 22 rows. At the 5.5 rows/inch row gauge, this is 4″ of shaping. At the 6 rows/inch row gauge, this is 3.625″ of shaping. Again, respacing some of the decreases to achieve 4″ of shaping might be the simple solution. Add the extra rows at the end of the shaping, not at the beginning, to maintain the curve needed.
This same thing needs to be considered at the neckline. Often the designer/pattern writer has calculated a depth and rate of of shaping to achieve a particular shape. Compression or expansion of the row gauge can impact shape. Think of a yoke sweater where the armhole and neckline are being addressed at the same time. The shaping here could get weird very quickly if row gauge adjustments aren’t made.
You can use my Sleeve Length Calculator to figure out the underarm increases! You can use it anywhere this type of increasing is needed. The calculator can be used in reverse for decreasing! Where sleeves get tricky is in the sleeve cap. Sleeve cap height (the distance from the underarm bind off to the top of sleeve bind off) is usually precisely calculated to fit into the armhole. The rate and height of the shaping is really important here and should be worked out to maintain a sleeve cap shape consistent with the original design. Respacing decreases may accomplish this–and some of the change was already done on the armhole, so you can mimic that while staying consistent with the original sleeve cap shape.
So don’t sweat row gauge, but be aware that it does have an impact. A few quick calculations can tell you where to make small adjustments. Look for patterns with schematics so you have good information to work with.