I Thought I Knew How

A podcast about knitting
and life and all sorts

A podcast about knitting
and life and all sorts

Designers: Gauge is important! (Yes, even for shawls.)

A red shawl, unblocked, against a brown wooden backgroun.

I am harumphing this morning. I’m harumphing at myself, and I’m harumphing at designers. Not all of them. Some of them.

As you can see, the shawl I’ve been working on came off the needles last night. I was so happy! The Dance Rustic Silk from Dragonfly Fibers–the color the feel–were perfect for this project, and I love the intended look of this shawl.

A red shawl, unblocked, against a brown wooden backgroun.
I was so excited to have this shawl to wear in time for my birthday. It was not to be.

As I was binding off, the first thing that gave me pause was the amount of yarn I had left. The pattern called for 400-420 yards of fingering weight. No problem. The yarn I was using had 450 yards. Good to go.

A ball of red silk noil with a 3" diameter showing how much yarn was left over from the project.
A 3″ ball of leftover fingering weight yarn is not a good sign when you should only have about 30 yards left.

And yet, I clearly had far more left over than I should. Concerning.

When it was fully bound off, I gave the longer edge an aggressive stretch and that’s when my heart well and truly sank. The shawl is meant to be 75″ long. It was barely stretching to 62″. That’s thirteen inches shorter than it should be!


My tight knitting struck again. I was so annoyed with myself. Only recently, I had well-and-truly learned my lesson about doing a gauge swatch first, yet here I was, charging ahead into the pattern without checking.

I was so frustrated. For a good 15 minutes, I argued with myself about what to do. I love the project and I want to have it to wear on cooler evenings and in air conditioning over the summer. But I was so annoyed with myself for not checking the gauge and I have projects I need to get knit for other people. There was a strong inclination to throw the project and the leftover yarn into a bin in the basement and maybe return to it in a few months.

But, ultimately, my desire to wear this thing won out. I even have an outfit that I specifically want to wear this shawl with. So, I turned to the opening pages of the pattern and started looking for the gauge. So I could swatch. So I could start over. So I could do it right.

And you know what?


That is when I started throwing things.

Ok, not really, but I wanted to.

I didn’t remember to do a gauge swatch because there is no mention of gauge in the pattern. I paid $6 for a pattern for a project that the designer didn’t value enough to take a ruler to when it was done and tell me how many stitches per 4″ it would take me to recreate it. I thought that the phrase “gauge is unimportant” was the evilest thing a designer could do to a knitter, but not even mentioning that gauge exists as a concept takes the cake.

I don’t care if you are designing a pillow cover, a dishcloth, a sweater, a shawl, a cowl, mittens, a nose warmer, a tea cozy, felted bowls, whatever. I don’t care: GAUGE MATTERS.

Take three minutes to measure your finished, blocked design and tell me how many stitches in pattern it takes to make a 4″ square. Especially if you are going to charge for the pattern.

Here is why gauge is important:

  • I just spent 40ish hours on a project that was meant to be a shawl that worked up like a fichu and will need to be reworked.
  • The shawl as knit is not going to drape like the ones in the lovely photos that came with the picture.
  • If I was a looser knitter, I would have ended up having to buy more yarn.

Honestly, I’m so very annoyed right now. Yes, I bear some of the responsibility for not remembering to check gauge beforehand and for not contacting the designer when I saw that information was missing. But for the designer to not even include it really, really annoys me. It reflects a lack of respect for her own designs as well as for the time of those who will knit her patterns.

Stop living under the delusion that just because something isn’t sized doesn’t mean that the gauge doesn’t matter. It does. It affects the drape, structure, stitch definition, amount of yarn needed, and whether the project will turn out as the knitter expected. Three minutes of the designer’s time could have saved me 40 hours.

I know I sound grumpy about this. You know why? Because I am.

So, designers: I’m not buying any more patterns online unless the gauge information is on the sales page before I buy the pattern. If you haven’t filled in that field, then you likely haven’t taken the time to figure it out. I’m not going to risk wasting my time again. If I see a pattern I like in print, the first thing I’ll do is flip to check that the gauge information is there.

Even if I’m the only one who skips out on your pattern because of this, a $6 sale for 3 minutes of your time seems worth the effort. But I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has been bitten in this way. Take the time.

The finished shawl with the new cast on next to it, showing how much larger the stitches are on the new attempt.
The first attempt (bottom) with the recommended US size 6 needles compared to the new cast on using US size 8 needles.

I’ve cast on again. I’m not happy about it. But I do want this shawl.



Anne Frost

knitter & podcaster

The host of the I Thought I Knew How Podcast and Online International Fiber Festival.

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