I Can’t Meet Gauge, Is My Project Doomed?

May 20, 2022

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We’ve all been there…you’ve swatched what feels like 600 times and you still don’t have a perfect swatch…now what? It’s incredibly frustrating. Especially if you had your heart set on making that beautiful pattern. While that’s an awful feeling, the good news is that it doesn’t mean the end of your project!


Take a DEEP Breath

Trying to meet gauge can be super stressful. Sometimes all that is needed is to walk away and come back later. Other times you may need to go searching for a different yarn to better match the design. If you’d like to grow your confidence in making yarn substitutions I have a post and video that you can find here!

Remember, this is your hobby and should be fun! If you’re feeling stressed, take a break. The yarn will be here later and you’ll often be more productive with a little time away. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve obsessed about a yarny issue for way to long, only to have the solution become clear after a little time away.



The Hard Truth

The reality is that you may make lots of adjustments, take several breaks and never meet gauge spot on. Do NOT be hard on yourself! There are so many human factors that affect gauge and since you and the designer are human, it’s not uncommon to never meet gauge exactly. The good news is you can still end up with an amazing final project!



Close is Close Enough

Many times your gauge doesn’t have to be perfect. While gauge swatching is almost always a good idea, oftentimes perfection is not required to end up with a great finish project! If you’re finding that you can meet either stitches or rows, that’s super common too! 


First, think about which is the most important measurement of the project you’re making – width or height. Consider how the project is constructed. Is that hat worked from the bottom to top – or the top to the bottom? If that’s the case then stitches will affect the circumference of your hat and rows will affect how short of tall the hat is. Conversely, if the hat is worked sideways – usually worked flat and seamed – then the rows will be your circumference and the stitches will make up the height of the hat. 


Width is often the most critical measurement, because whether you’re making a hat, a sweater, or a pillow, the width needs to fit. Also, unless the pattern has a complex colorwork repeat, it’s usually easy to add or subtract a few rows to adjust the length. Of course, while lots of patterns are worked top to bottom or bottom to top, again, be on the lookout for unique construction that will cause the rows to be the width and stitches to be the height! Adjustments can still be made if this is the case, it may just take a bit more math or trial and error.





What if it’s Not All That Close?

It IS possible to make a well fitting garment, or other project, even if your gauge is off quite a bit, especially if the pattern includes several sizes. Sometimes you can use your gauge and use the instructions for a smaller or bigger size to get the right fit. This takes some math and a willingness to make more adjustments, but it can be done! Watch out for places like arm and neck openings where this technique may call for some extra adjusting! If you think about these types of projects as more of an adventure, they can be a fun way to test your skills and try new things. While these projects may take a little more time and  a bit more frogging, they can be super rewarding and beautiful!



Don’t Forget the Fabric

The last thing you want to consider when you’re looking at your gauge swatch is fabric quality. Usually when we’re gauge swatching we are hyper focused on getting the size of our stitches just right. While that is important, if you meet gauge perfectly, but end up with a stiff, dense fabric when you were hoping for a nice flowing fabric, you’re still going to want to make some changes! It’s true too, that if you end up with a loose fabric when you need structure – for a jacket or basket – that gauge still isn’t going to work well. If you’ve completed your gauge swatch and you don’t like the quality of the fabric you’re creating, you may want to think about changing up your materials. The perfect fit won’t matter if your sweater is uncomfortable to wear. If you plan on blocking you project and haven’t yet blocked your gauge swatch, keep in mind that blocking can change the characteristics of a fabric and you may not want to judge it just yet!




Congratulations! You’re a gauge master! With the knowledge from this series you know all you need to know to make great projects! Please keep in mind that every new pattern is an adventure and a learning experience! Try to enjoy the process! If in doubt, contact the designer to ask questions. We’re always here to help!


If you missed out on any of the other posts in this series, check them out!

What is Gauge and Why is it Important?

How to Make a Great Gauge Swatch

What Affects Gauge

Why Gauge Swatches Lie and What You Can Do to Still Make a Project You Love

Often the first step in making the perfect gauge swatch is making a good yarn substitution. You can read more about yarn substitution and get another free printable here!


Buy a gauge ruler set here. Get a cute one inch gauge ruler here. Purchase a wooden four inch gauge ruler here.

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