Recommended gauge is only, as said, a recommendation. It's intended to yield a knitted fabric which is comfortable to use. Recommended gauge is always only an opinion,given by the manufacturer or pattern designer. Some people prefer a very tight gauge, while others want find softer fabric more suitable.Furthermore, the preferred gauge depends on the intended project. The same yarn can be very well used for a lace shawl worked to a gauge of 18 sts per 4"/10 cm (4½ spi) or for socks worked to a gauge of 26 sts per 4"/10 cm (6½ spi). The intended use of the garment is always the priority – not the gauge recommendation given by the yarn manufacturer.
Consider recommendations for needle sizes or gauge with care and critique! Feel free to choose the gauge that pleases you by appearance, drape or wear. If you like very tight socks, you can knit Väinämöinen to a gauge of 40 sts per 4"/10cm (10 spi). At least then the socks will be very long-lasting.However, if your feet prefer socks with some positive ease, choose a larger needle size and/or more stitches for more loosely-fitting socks. They might not last as long as tightly-knit socks - but most importantly, your feet will be comfortable!
Recommended Needle Size
The needle-size required to obtain a specific gauge is not set in stone - on the contrary, it's very individual and depends on your tendency to knit loosely or tightly.If two people are given the same yarn, the same needles and the exact same stitch pattern and stitch count, it is possible that the width of the two pieces are very different. Some knitters may need to choose a size or two smaller (or bigger) needles to obtain same gauges. To complicate the matter even further, the material of your needles (bamboo, metallic, plastic etc.) can also affect the gauge.Even if the needle size remains always the same, different yarns slide differently on the needles.
The recommended needle size is usually based on needles that most knitters can obtain a specific gauge in stockinette stitch. If your stitch pattern of choice is lace or cables you might have to choose smaller or bigger needles to obtain more suitable gauge. That is why recommended needle size is only a recommendation. Try out different needles and choose the needle size which, with the yarn and stitch pattern of your choice, yields a finished fabric which pleases you in shape, drape, wear and feel.
Choosing Appropriate Gauge and NeedleSize
Some knitters might cringe reading what follows but I hope I can convince you to always knit a swatch.
Knitting a Swatch Is Always Worth It
A swatch is a wonderful way to try and test out different gauges, needles sizes, stitch patterns and finishing on a small piece of knitted fabric. Knitting a swatch does not mean wasted time or yarn- it's much more convenient to knit a small swatch and then make a fitting garment at once than to knit an unfitting garment which will never be worn due to wrong gauge or because it should be unraveled and re-knitted.
A swatch doesn't need to be a small square of fabric that is never used. Firstly, you can always unravel the swatch and use it in the knitting project if needed. In that case it is advisable to wind your yarn into a skein and wash first in order to yarn to loosen up and getting smoother. (Freshly unraveled,wrinkly yarn behaves differently and it may even affect the gauge.)
A swatch can also be a finished garment for which gauge is not that essential. A good example is a top-down hat. In that case the swatch is quite big because it is several inches/centimeters wide and even if it's small and low hat, its height is adequate to measure the gauge. For a hat you will need 100-150 g yarn (3½ to 5 oz) at most and the end result is a usable accessory that makes a perfect gift, for example. You can find a pattern for a top-down hat from Louhittaren Luola website for free.
Many knitters dread knitting a swatch and there is a good reason for it: many a swatch is often knitted to give inaccurate information about gauge. To avoid an untrustworthy gauge swatch, take account of these three basic rules for knitting a swatch:
1. Always knit a swatch. Even if you are familiar with the yarn and you already know roughly the gauge which is good for your project, it is still better to knit a swatch if you are going to apply a new stitch pattern. For instance, lace patterns spread out in blocking. On the other hand, cable patterns pull together to a much tighter gauge than plain stockinette stitch.In both cases, you can choose to work with larger needles, hence test your gauge with a swatch.
2. Knit a swatch reasonably large in size. Many knitters are in a hurry to start their new project and knit only a tiny swatch. However, it takes some time before your hands get used to the yarn, the needles and the stitch pattern and knitting becomes relaxed. That is why a swatch should always be of some size. Furthermore, thicker yarns require larger swatches. For bulky yarns, thick as your index finger, a 10 cm (4”) square swatch is not large enough, but it might be appropriate for a very fine lace yarn project. The size of the swatch depends on the fabric in the middle of the swatch: the edges distort fabric and gauge. When working on a swatch, there should be enough fabric in the middle for you to determine gauge in stitches and rows without the edge stitches distorting the result.
3. Always treat your swatch like you would treat your finished garment. If you plan to wash your finished garment some day, give the swatch a good soak. Washing might affect your gauge, so measure the gauge before and after washing (and write the gauges down for future reference). Block all lace knits. Soak your swatch (or garment) in lukewarm water, and let it sit for awhile. Press excess water out of the piece with towel, and pin the piece to measurements with T-pins or sewing needles and let dry. For other knitwear only shaping them when damp is probably enough. Dry all knitwear flat.
It is best to measure the gauge from as large an area as possible. The gauge is more accurate if it is measured at least across 4"/10 cm of fabric. Lay your swatch on a flat surface and place a tape measure on top of it. Mark the beginning and the end of a 10 cm (4”) section of fabric along one row of work. Repeat this along one column of stitches. Calculate, how many stitches there are per 4"/10cm, and how many rows there are per 4"/10cm. Make sure to write these numbers down, as well as the needle size used to obtain the gauge.