Why do my swatches never match my project gauge?

No matter what I do, my swatch gauge is always significantly different than the project gauge. I wash and block swatches, and even while the project is still on the needles, it’s always looser. I make my swatches at least 6" or even 8". How am I supposed to calculate true gauge when I always loosen up in the actual project? Especially in larger projects? Frogging multiple times gets annoying, plus it tends to damage the yarn.

Also, why do I sometimes get the same gauge using 3 different needle sizes? I don’t understand… I am an experienced knitter btw.

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I hear the frustration. My recommendation would be to change needle size yet you say you have. I will be watching for others to answer to learn.

What change do you make if the gauge is larger or smaller “

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Maybe when you swatch you are concentrating, then when you get rolling on the garment you relax. If you can locate where you picked up the piece after a break, does it look tighter than the rest? I ask because that is what I do. And it is maddening.


I know I loosen up as I get going in the actual project. But I haven’t figured out a percentage or anything that simple yet. :dizzy_face: I’ve tried going down a couple needle sizes from the swatch, which occasionally works but not always. I haven’t actually paid attention to how it looks after a break, I will start paying attention to that.


Good luck. I had no luck with using smaller needles, just have to remind myself to stick to gauge. Sort of mindfulness for knitters. :crossed_fingers:t3:

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I’d recommend a larger swatch than 6x6”. I know I knit tighter on small circumference. Sleeves often end up snug for this reason.

It’s time consuming when you really want to just jump into a project but a 12x12” swatch might give you a more accurate tension.

Other things I tell my students are to always use the exact same needle (brand and length if circular) that you will use in the sweater. If the sweater is knit in the round - knit the swatch in the round. This is vital.

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Something I learned in Patty Lyon’s gauge class. If you’re getting the same gauge on different needle sizes, you’re forming the stitch too close to the tip of the needle. You have to loop the yarn on the full thickness part of the needle, past the narrow tip. It was a game changer for me.


Thank you all for your comments on swatching. I’ve been a little baffled by “swatching” too, the outcome and what the number are really reflecting in my anticipated garment.

To this point I have been a “purchase yarn and get going” knitter but now ready to venture into the more fitted or detailed sweaters prompting my quest to understand swatching.

I have watched many YouTube videos and have gathered this information to implement in my next project:

  1. Yarn choice - is it the right yarn for “that” project, as per the designer choice, not a yarn that we want to work… for example the weight, drape, will the yarn work with the details of the pattern such as cables or bobbles.

  2. Will the yarn bloom excessively, drape or sag as seem perhaps with a super washed yarn.

  3. Is yarn choice swatch going to adapt to the ease recommended by the designer? To the ease we desire?

  4. Measure swatch both before and after washing to determine how the yarn reacts.

  5. If you’re knitting in the round swatch in the round or utilize the technique to knit your swatch flat with carrying your yarn for “in the round” simulation.

  6. Make a large swatch square so that you can measure several different row and stitch count areas, avoiding the edges all the way around in the count as the edges may be tighter or looser.

  7. Recommendations to “adjust our hands for tension” was not supported in that it is likely a technique we can do for a few rows but not sustainable for an enjoyable knitting experience.

  8. The conclusion one designer recommended is that there are so many variables in swatching, human and mathematical and our expectations that even with presumed “perfect swatch numbers” our garment may not fit as we imagine or hope. Their recommendation was to swatch as for a guideline not the “rule of fit”, select the best yarn based on it’s character and best estimated weight class and relax and enjoy knitting.

I hope this information I gathered is helpful. I’ll be following these recommendations for my next project.


I do always make sure to use the same needle. 12 x 12 swatches would make great patchwork blankets, too. I’ll give that a try.

Ooh, I never thought of that! Thank you!

Thank you everyone for all the helpful answers! Now I’m off to swatch some Atlas, I bought one of the stepping stone blanket kits but I want to use the yarn for a sweater using EPS (Elizabeth Zimmerman’s percentage system). Based on various patterns I looked at, I should have enough yarn for my (plus) size.