Gauge is the most important principle in knitting.

So sayeth Elizabeth Zimmermann. These words are from the chapter on gauge in Knitting Without Tears. It’s one of the first books on knitting I ever read. It’s right here next to me. I can reach out and touch it. It’s spent so much time by my side that the corners are fuzzy, a bunch of the pages are stained with coffee, and one whole end is purple from the wine that Augie knocked over onto it when he was a kitten. It seems like I’ve learned a lot from EZ.


Apparently, I am a hardheaded person who ignores the sage advice of her heroes and scoffs at the lessons offered by her own experience. I am someone who, while staring across the room at the giganto-cardigan recently knit without benefit of a swatch, casts on for another cardigan and knits for a skein and a half before checking her gauge. Yep. I’m that person.

My gauge on Gramps is completely off.

Despite Calligraphy and the things I said right on this very blog earlier this month about the need for swatching, I dove into Gramps without one single teeny tiny thought about checking my gauge. Actually, there may have been one, but it didn’t last long. So it turns out that instead of getting 20 stitches and 28 rows in 4”, I’ve been getting 16 stitches and 24 rows. I know that now because I did finally check my gauge. I’ve been wrestling with what to do about the situation since last night, and here’s where I am. Because I’d really like to have a sweater that fits and because I’m hoping that every stitch I knit for the second time will help drive home the importance of swatching, I’ve ripped back to the beginning.

Here’s an action shot:

Ripping gramps

Back, back, back to . . .

Square one, meet the hardheaded knitter. Hardheaded knitter, meet square one.

Swatching for gramps

I swatched.

I went down from size 7 to size 6 needles, and this gave me 19 (rather than 20) stitches and 27 (rather than 28) rows in 4”. I’m still off by one in each direction, but I think that’s okay. Knitting Gramps on size 6s should produce a finished sweater that bears a little closer resemblance to the measurements provided by the pattern than I was going to get with the 7s.

Hopefully, the time I spend reknitting the entire top half of the sweater will give me ample opportunity to reflect on the importance of checking my gauge.


  1. It’s times like this that I appreciate you even more as a knitter, and a human being. Someday I will actually read Knitting without Tears. I picked it up at the Everything Fiber Sale in August for $5. I think I’ve avoided tears so far by a. doing easy projects and 2. (yes, 2) quitting when things make me cry. 😀

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