Determining Gauge

Making a Gauge Swatch

In order to use the Knit Contour, it is necessary to know how many stitches and rows there are in 10 cm. Don’t worry about not understanding the metric system; the machine does all the “thinking” for you, when you follow these simple steps.

1. Select the garment yarn.

2. Determine the proper Stitch Dial (tension) setting for the yarn you have chosen. It will be necessary to knit a few small swatches, changing the stitch dial setting for each, until the right tension is found–not too tight, and not too loose. If you plan to knit the garment in a pattern stitch, be sure to knit the swatches in the same pattern. I like to have at least one swatch knitted at a looser tension than the one I think I like best, and at least one tighter. After machine washing and drying (for synthetic yarns) the feel of the fabric sometimes changes a little.


gauge swatch 1

3. After finding the best tension setting, knit the Tension Swatch as follows.

A. Bring out 35 needles on both sides of center 0 to pos B for standard gauge machines, 25 needles on each side for mid-gauge, and 15 needles on each side for chunky. 70 (50-30) needles total.

B. Cast on with main yarn. Set machine to knit the same pattern stitch in which the garment will be knitted. If the garment will be made in Stockinette, knit the swatch in Stockinette; if the garment will be made in Tuck, knit the swatch in tuck; if the garment will be knitted in Fairisle (Knit-In), knit the swatch the same.

C. Knit 10 rows in the proper stitch pattern at the Stitch Dial (tension) setting, as determined from the small swatch in step 2, above.

D. Remove main yarn from yarn feeder and hold it out of the way, either in the yarn clip at the end of the bed, or pass it under the case and to the rear of the machine. Knit 2 rows Stockinette (for all stitch patterns) in a strongly contrasting yarn of the same weight as main color.

E. Clip contrast yarn and rethread main color. Set Row Counter to 000. Change carriage lever back to pattern stitch setting. Knit 30 rows for standard machines, 20 for mid-gauge, and 15 for chunky machines.


yarn markers

F: Cut two pieces of contrast yarn, each about 6″ long. For standard machines, push out to pos D the 21st needles on both sides of center 0. For mid-gauge machines, push out the 16th needles on both sides, and for chunky machines push out the 11th needles on both sides. Hand knit a piece of contrast yarn through each stitch by laying the yarn in the needle hook and pushing the extended needle back to pos A.

G. Knit another 30 rows in pattern stitch for standard, 20 for mid-gauge, and 15 for chunky machines.

H. Remove main yarn from yarn feeder, replace with contrast, and knit 2 rows Stockinette, same as for step D.


I. Clip contrast yarn and rethread with main color. Knit 8 rows in pattern.

J. Mark the number of the Stitch Dial into the swatch with eyelets on top left side. We will assume that the Stitch Dial tension is 6. With the transfer tool move every other stitch to its adjacent needle 6 times, then return the emptied needles to WP, forming 6 eyelets. Leave at least 3 sts on the edge plain. If the Stitch Dial is set between numbers, on the right side of the swatch make eyelets for the number of “clicks” higher than the last full number. Example. The Stitch Dial is set at 6 and 2 “clicks”. Make 6 eyelets on the left edge, and 2 eyelets on the right edge. By marking the swatch in this manner it is easy to see quickly at what tension it was knitted. No more scraps of paper to lose, and no more guessing at the tension setting!

K. Knit another 6 rows and bind off.


measuring swatch

Studio includes a special measuring ruler with each new machine. Use the Green ruler for standard gauge machines, yellow ruler for mid-gauge machines, and blue ruler for chunky machines. This scale is designed to show how many stitches and rows per 10cm, measuring between yarn markers on the tension swatch. The scale has two sides. The side with the large “S” at the left edge is used for measuring stitches, and the side with the large “R” is used for measuring rows.

To Measure Stitches
Turn the scale so that the “S” side is up. Place the arrow end next to the left stitch marked with contrast yarn. Measure to the inside of the right contrast stitch. The number shown on the scale at this point is the number of stitches in 10 cm. That’s all there is to measuring stitches! The scale automatically “counts” the stitches for you. You don’t have to count a thing!

To Measure Rows
Turn the scale so that the “R” side is up. Place the arrow end of the scale at the top of the tension square, just below the two rows knitted in contrast color.

Place the end of the scale exactly where the yarns change color. Measure to the inside of the two rows of contrast color at the bottom, again exactly where the yarn changes color. The number shown on the scale at this point is the number of rows in 10 cm. Again, you do not have to count anything. The scale automatically tells you how many rows there are in 10 cm.


It is often easier to measure the rows on the purl side of the fabric. This method is not shown in the manual, but often works better. Turn the swatch over. Butt the left edge of the “R” side against the top row of MC (this will be above what appears to be a single row of CC). Measure to the bottom row of MC (just below what appears to be a single row of CC).

The Knit Contour unit is calibrated for centimeters. We must use the green/yellow/blue ruler to determine how many stitches and rows to use when setting the Knit Contour itself. So please remember this rule. Use Studio’s colored ruler to determine the number of stitches and rows from the gauge swatch. This is absolutely all you will do with it–determine the number of stitches and rows from the gauge swatch. We will need these numbers later when setting up the Knit Contour.

L. Roll the fabric into a tube lengthwise. NOTE: This is the natural way the fabric wants to roll. Pull firmly to “pop the stitches back into place. If the fabric is Fairisle, pull slightly widthwise to ease the different colors back into proper position.

This completes the knitting of the tension swatch. Allow to rest several hours so that the yarn relaxes. Pat out flat on a padded surface. Place a large straight pin, or a T-pin in the corners of the swatch, being very careful not to stretch the fabric. Place a pin in the center of each side, again being very careful not to stretch the fabric. Steam the swatch, hovering the iron about a half inch above the fabric. Pat with your hands to flatten. Again, do not stretch the fabric!


Alternate Method of Preparing the Swatch
The previous method is the one found in most manuals. Many beginning knitters have a problem getting an accurate gauge. I have found that washing and drying the swatch before measuring the gauge often helps. This seems to stabilize the fabric and keep it from stretching so much. Most synthetic yarns can be washed on a gentle or “knits” cycle in warm water, then machine dried on gentle. Remove from dryer before completely cooked, however, for longest life.


Knit Contour Tutorial Links

The individual chapters of this tutorial are listed below.

Knit Contour Index

Determining Gauge

Using Knit Contour Patterns

KR6 and KR7 Knit Contours

KR10 and KR11 Knit Contours

Reading Knit Contour Patterns

Drafting Knit Contour Patterns


This tutorial is from the book, Making Friends With the Knit Contour by Irene Woods, published in 1988, and uploaded to the original Clearwater Knits Website in 1998.