What do I do when instructions only give the gauge in stockinette stitch?

stockinette vs different pattern gauge
Recalculating measurements with appropriate gauge swatch.

One of my pet peeves is pattern instructions that only give the gauge in stockinette, but the design is predominantly worked in one or several different stitch patterns. Of course with some projects it isn’t critical to match gauge to the finished results, so it’s fine to use only the stockinette gauge for items such as dishcloths, donated blankets or felted items. Because gauge is primarily about size, a designer made the original using the gauge for the pattern stitch or stitches that make up the garment. 

If you are only given the gauge in stockinette you won’t be sure that the project will be the right size, even if you achieve the same stockinette stitch gauge. Knitters know that different pattern stitches have different gauges over the same number of stitches and rows. So how do you deal with this dilemma.

Make a large test swatch with the predominant pattern stitch used in the design. I would also make the stockinette swatch which aids yarn substitution. If you are knitting several stitches in one garment, such as an Aran sweater, make a swatch incorporating all the stitch patterns. Block your swatches, then calculate the stitch and row gauges. It’s possible that this gauge will be the same or similar to the stockinette stitch gauge.

Referring to the schematic measurements or the appropriate size in the instructions, recalculate them using your pattern stitch gauge to check that these measurements are accurate. For example, the back width measurement at the lower edge of a sweater is supposed to be 22in(55cm).Your gauge equals 5 stitches/one inch over the pattern stitch used in the design. The number of stitches to cast on for this size is given as 110. Take 110 sts ÷ 5 (st gauge) = 22in. You now know that the gauge is correct for the pattern stitch used to knit the garment, and that the measurements are as indicated in the schematic. Repeat this simple calculation for all sections of the pieces. Check the row gauge as well, particularly if there is shaping (length measurement of section multiplied by row gauge). Recalculating the measurements ensures that the size is accurate, and that the correct pattern stitch gauge was used to knit the garment.

It’s possible, but unlikely that the gauge you obtain from the new test swatches doesn’t achieve the measurements of the garment pieces. You’ll have to decide whether or not to make the adjustments necessary to successfully complete the project. This extra work may entail making more gauge swatches until one is accurate, or even rewriting the instructions.

Designers write instructions based on the gauge of all the patterns stitches used in a project. It’s not good practice to only give the gauge in stockinette stitch when the project is knit in different stitch patterns. It requires a little work on the part of the knitter to make sure that the gauge of these stitch patterns were the ones used to achieve the sizes indicated in the instructions. It means you have to knit a test swatch in the appropriate pattern stitch, and recheck that the measurements are accurate.