Knitting a Tension gauge swatch

Good tip on how to measure correctly for a jumper to be made

Have you found a pattern you like and delicious yarn for it, but dread knitting yet another sweater that fits somebody else better than it fits you? End that pain. Here’s how.

Find a sweater you always wear because it fits you just the way you like.

Select one in the same weight or fabric thickness as the one you’ll knit with your new pattern. If you’ll use bulky yarn, measure your favorite bulky sweater. Same if it’s worsted weight or sock weight, match the weight as best you can.

Lay the good-fitting sweater out flat and measure from armpit to armpit.

That’s the finished chest measurement you want. While you’re at it, do the other measurements you’ll need:

  • shoulder width
  • waist
  • hip
  • length from nape of neck to hem
  • width of neck opening
  • depth of neck opening
  • armhole depth
  • sleeve length
  • upper arm circumference
  • wrist circumference


Now that you know what numbers fit you just right, check them against the pattern.

What gauge is it based on? Let’s say 5 stitches makes one inch. If you’ve done a swatch and get gauge, you’re on your way. (If not, try different needles or adjust your math.) If you want a finished chest measurement of 42 inches, multiply 42 times 5 and you need 210 stitches around the chest.

Does the pattern tell you? Maybe, maybe not. If it just says how many to cast on at the hem, then how many to increase, add them up and see how many stitches it calls for at the chest.

Knitting in the round might give you one number. When knitting separate pieces, add the stitches across the midback, and the stitches across the chest front or fronts. Did you get 210? Or not?

Maybe you need 208 or 212 stitches for a special texture design called for in the pattern. Good, you’re close enough.

If you’re off by 5 stitches either way, this sweater will be an inch bigger or smaller than your target size. Can you live with that? If not, figure ways you can adjust the pattern by adding or decreasing stitches here or there.

Check the other measurements the same way.

Yes, I know you’re itching to cast on. Hold off just long enough to make notes on your pattern of what fits you where, jigger the numbers as needed and note down your changes.

Now you can knit with confidence that when you’re finished and try on your sweater, the whole world will hear your jubilant “Yee-haw!”

For more sweater fitting tips and tricks from a professional tailor who knits, visit my KnitFitNinja blog at