Your Gauge Swatch for Socks

by Sharyn Anhalt October 27, 2014

In our first post, we mentioned that your needle size will be determined from your gauge swatch. Yes, swatching is important for socks - you do want them to fit and be comfortable, right? In order to measure accurately, your swatch should be knit in the round with the needles you will use for the socks. Since we are looking for 7 stitches to the inch for gauge in this project, you should cast on 30 or so stitches on dpns so you can measure across an inch when laid flat. Knit in plain stockinette (knit every stitch around) for an inch or two. Your swatch will look like this:

Once you've knitted your swatch, take it off the needles to measure - this is very important! The swatch will lay flatter and more even if not held by the needles. Pin or hold flat and count how many stitches are in one inch:

If you have more than 7 stitches in an inch, your gauge is too tight (stitches are packed too close) and you should swatch again with a larger needle. If you have less than 7 stitches in an inch, your gauge is too loose (stitches are too far apart); swatch again with a smaller needle.

For those of you that are new to dpns, I'd like to offer a tip - cast all your stitches onto one needle, and then redistribute the stitches among four needles before joining to knit in the round. This will be much easier than juggling the cast on between two needles, and will help prevent the dreaded "gap" from one needle to the next.

And here's a tip that I hope everyone can use - how to achieve a stretchy cast on edge. When a pattern tells you to "cast on loosely", the intention is for the cast on edge to have some give. There are stretchy cast on methods, but I want to show you how to use a long tail cast on to achieve a stretchy edge:

The needle on the left is a tight cast on - not only are the stitches tight around the needle, but they are also packed close together. This cast on would never stretch, and socks would probably leave a mark around your ankles - if you can get them over your foot! See how the stitches on the right needle are spread apart? The stitches are still tight around the needle, but there is space between each stitch. This is a loose cast on - each stitch was still "snugged" up, but there was more yarn between each stitch along the cast on edge. It takes a bit of practice to cast on loose and keep an even distance between each stitch, but I highly recommend doing this for every project.

Casting on loose should more accurately be stated as "cast on, leaving a loose cast on edge" - it's the edge that needs to be loose, not the stitches!

If you are ready to cast on and begin your sock, here is the first set of instructions:

Sharyn Anhalt
Sharyn Anhalt


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