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Beginners Tip – How to Adapt Pattern Sizes from an Off-Gauge

Last week we taught you the importance of swatching. We explained that in most cases if your gauge is off you should go up or down a needle size to get the right stitch count. Sometime however you might find that even if the gauge is right, the fabric feels a little bit too stiff or a little bit too loose to your liking. You might find that the tension and drape of another swatch is more suited to your project – even it is slightly off. The drape of the fabric will greatly impact the look of your knit so it is important to give it careful consideration.

© Tin Can Knits

If you decide to knit with a gauge that is off you will need to recalculate and adapt the sizes of the pattern you’re working on. The logic behind it is simple. If your gauge is tighter your garment will end up being smaller than the original pattern dimensions. Similarly if your gauge is looser it will end up bigger. Depending on your gauge you might need to knit one – or few – sizes up or down to achieve the correct measurements. Here is how you should proceed.

In this example we’re going to use Flax Light, a free jumper pattern by Tin Can Knits. Flax Light has a gauge of 24 stitches and 32 rows measured over 4”. When knitting with the Uncommon Thread – BFL Fingering I get a gauge of 26 stitches and 34 rows. Now let’s say we want to knit a size Medium with a chest circumference of 37”. First we need to look at the number of stitches around the chest. Then we need to determine how many inches does one single stitch measure and multiply it by the number of stitches around the bust. To do so we need to divide 4” by the total numbers of stitches in our gauge. Those simple calculations will help us determine the new circumference around the bust.

© Tin Can Knits

– Let’s begin with the original gauge. By diving 4” by 24 we obtain approximately 0.1667”. The original size 37” has 222 stitches around the bust. By multiplying 0.1667 by 222 we obtain 37” – which makes complete sense looking at the original dimensions of Flax light.
– Now let’s repeat those calculations with the new gauge.
4/26 = 0.1538 x 222 = 34.15”. As expected we end up with a smaller chest circumference. To get a size 37” we will probably need to knit one or two sizes up.
– The next size up – Medium to Large – has 234 stitches around the chest. 0.1538 x 234 = 36”.
– The size Large has 258 stitches around the chest. 0.1538 x 258 = 39.7”

As you can see from those results we won’t be able to reach an exact size 37” . Depending on how much positive ease we need we will have to choose in between the new sizes 36” and 39”.
Please note that in most cases your row count should be proportionally off to your stitch count. If that isn’t the case you will have to make some minor changes at the shoulder shaping so to insure that the depth of the armholes and the yoke have the correct dimensions.

Sometime adapting the gauge of your pattern will have a positive outcome as the new measurements will end up being a better fit than the original ones. It can also be a good technique to use if you want to knit with a different yarn weight than the one recommended on the pattern. I tend to always choose the swatch with the nicest drape rather than the one with the correct gauge and adapt my patterns from there. Of course that’s only a matter of personal preferences and it might be best to stick to the technique you feel most comfortable with.

Until Next Time…. Happy Knitting!

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