Nephele Sweater: Why Row Gauge Matters

Why yes, I did knit a sweater the same colour as my hair. Thank you for noticing.

Ravelry project page can be found here. 

Pattern: Nephele

Yarn: Delicious Yarns Frosting in Chocolate

Mods:  No modifications on purpose, but……

I loved the Nephele sweater pattern when I first saw it, so much so I featured it on one of my Friday posts. A simple knit with a dramatic cable worked diagonally across the front, it seemed a perfect fit for the kind of wardrobe staple sweaters I want to be knitting. I decided to knit it in this gorgeous chocolate brown shade from Delicious Yarns – A seriously amazing bulky weight yarn that I am dying to use again. Super soft and seems to hold up well with wear. The sweater is super cozy, with 3/4 length sleeves providing a nice counter balance to the heavier gauge of the sweater.

So, onto the lesson I keep having to re-learn….

Why Row Gauge Matters

So, if you click  on over to the original pattern, you’ll see that the length of Nele’s sweater and my sweater are VERY different. Her Nephele sweater is hip length, and mine is clearly a tunic. Which brings me to the Achilles’s heel of my knitting life…. row gauge.

You know how in the pattern information, the gauge swatch has the number of stitches per inch AND the number of rows? I usually ignore the row gauge, because most instructions are “knit in pattern until X inches in length from (cast on/under arm/whathaveyou)”. Usually, I get away with that just fine. I swatch, but I focus on my stitches per inch, not on my row gauge.

But if you are knitting a sweater that has instructions for large scale design features that are going to travel vertically, like, say, this big dramatic cable, the instructions don’t focus on ‘knit until X inches’ and instead will focus on a certain number of pattern repeats. And if you decided to be all loosey-goosey about your row gauge like me, then there will be a difference in length.

What I Should Have Done

Now, if I had swatched properly by measuring my row gauge, I would have known that I was off. You can adjust your needle size to change the row gauge, but that will affect the fabric you get, and knitting a bulky weight sweater in a needle size much smaller than called for will result in a sweater so stiff it will look like you are wearing it even when you aren’t.

In this case, I probably would have kept my needle size and instead reduced 4 rounds from the cable pattern in each of the larger cable sections, and carried on as written. Fortunately the pattern has the sleeves worked from the top down, so I was able to get away with my lack of row gauge just fine on the sleeves!

Of course, tunic length sweaters are awesome! It’s a happy accident, I’m lucky that it didn’t affect something that would would have a negative impact on the wearability, like turning out too short (although cropped sweaters are sometimes a wardrobe choice for people, right? Not really my thing, but never say never….).

Regardless of the length, that cable has totally stolen my heart, and I love how the boat neck helps balance the movement of the cable and anchors it perfectly at the shoulder.

You can read my previous post about this sweater in progress here.



  1. Turner   •  

    I love your sweater, Julie! Length, color, everything is lovely.
    I have the same disease as you—I loathe knitting swatches because I can’t do math to know how to adjust if things don’t come out right on a swatch. Embarrassing!

  2. miss agnes   •  

    A pretty impressive sweater/tunic, and it works well on you slender frame. Yes, row gauge is indeed important, but like you, I tend to focus on stitch gauge really, for the same reasons.
    So thanks for sharing the lessons learned, it is always a good reminder for patterns with specific design features like this one. The color is gorgeous.

  3. Kate G   •  

    I like it better as a tunic! Wonderful happy accident 🙂

  4. Tahnee   •  

    What a valuable lesson, I have to admit I never check my row gauge. Luckily, so far it has never impacted my projects in a negative way. But this is a rather dramatic difference and I think I’ll be checking row gauge from now on!

  5. Loulou   •  

    That is gorgeous! I love the tunic length and that diagonal cable is wonderful.

  6. Di   •  

    Love the tunic and that color with your hair is a knockout! I usually lengthen my sweaters for the CYA effect. I also do not check row gauge that much so find it helpful when patterns list length in cm or inches as a guide.

  7. Kelly J. R.   •  

    I’ve always ignored row gauge thinking that it didn’t really make a difference. Now I know that it does! What a helpful post. I still think your sweater turned out great.

  8. DWJ   •  

    Yeah I have to look at row gauge because my arms are short and if I don’t my sleeves will be down to my knees! LOL But at least this turned out to be a cute tunic.

  9. Celeste   •  

    Oh I know this well too. I did it with my Shapley Boyfriend Cardigan. I thought I got row gauge, but the weight of the alpaca yarn weighed it down severely. Let’s just say that the waist and bust shaping now hit in unfortunate places. I should have knit a longer swatch and hung it up.

    But I agree, yours is a lovely accident. If you hadn’t pointed out it was supposed to be hip length I never would have guessed.

  10. Annie   •  

    Gorgeous and amazing sweater. Looks fabulous on you!

  11. Barbara   •  

    Row gauge is also a problem when you’re short! I love circular-yoke sweaters, but they’re nearly always too deep for my petite size. When they also have a pattern on the yoke, there’s not much you can do to adjust the length of the yoke. The only time this worked to my advantage was when my stitch gauge was perfect for a pattern, but I had more rows per inch in length. Thus, the yoke turned out the perfect depth, without me having to change anything 🙂

  12. Heather   •  

    Beautiful sweater!

    • Julie   •     Author

      Thanks Heather! 😀

  13. Di   •  

    Most used Wollfolk Luft for that sweater. Bulky but lightweight. Do you think Knit Picks Wonderfluff would be a substitute?

    • Julie   •     Author

      Hmm, that’s an interesting idea, using Wonderfluff- Wonderlfuff has a lot of halo to it, almost like an angora yarn, but I think that it would look great.It would look VERY different from the original pattern, though! I haven’t tried Wonderfluff before, but it looks very soft.

  14. Annie Wilson   •  

    I’ve found that if I change the needle material I can alter my row gauge without altering my stitch gauge. I keep the same size needle, I just switch from wooden needles or metal, or vice versa.

    • Julie   •     Author

      Really! That’s amazing and I hadn’t heard that before!! I tend to only knit with metal/aluminium needles, I didn’t realize that if I switched to bamboo that it could affect my row gauge! What a great tip.

  15. Wanda   •  

    I love the length for this, because it seems the extra length highlights the dramatic cable even that much more – truly, I think your ‘mistake’ led to an improvement in this particular pattern, it’s gorgeous as a tunic! And frankly, I can never get row OR stitch gauge and end up frustrated. My solution is that I have only knit top-down sweaters so far, as I can keep trying them on and just make my own adjustments as needed. That, and knitting lots of things that don’t need gauge (scarves, cowls, blankets, toys).

  16. Carmela Biscuit   •  

    I looked at all of the projects for Nephele on Ravelry and quite honestly your is by far the best version, I like it even better than the original! I think this length is more suitable for the big cable and on your slender body and in this yummy color the sweater/tunic looks absolutely gorgeous.

    • Christine Gilmour   •  

      I agree – gorgeous and I think looks better as a tunic! Great colour!

  17. Renee Anne   •  

    Now, if you wouldn’t have said anything, I wouldn’t have ever known.

    Also, sometimes the material your needles are made from can mess with your row gauge. If the needles are “stickier” like bamboo or carbon fibre, my row gauge is slightly looser than if I use metal needles. Just a weird thing I’ve noticed. On most of my items, it’s a non-issue but sometimes, it’s problematic…

  18. Snow   •  

    The tunic length really accentuates the design and is a length that really flatters the majority of body shapes.
    Lovely. Destined to be a favorite.

  19. Alina   •  

    This fallish color look so good on you! beautiful and cozy knit!

  20. Tanis   •  

    Row gauge shmow gauge, it totally looks like an intentional tunic length sweater and I love that it matches your hair colour perfectly!

  21. Christine   •  

    Wow Julie the sweater looks great on you. I find it funny that even knitters who have knit for many years can still make mistakes. I do it all the time. It’s one of the things that fascinate me about knitting.

  22. Stefanie   •  

    OMGosh, what a statement this sweater makes. I hear you, girlfriend. I never really worried about row gauge because I generally have enough yarn since I buy for a full sweater but my sleeves are usually 3/4 length. This time with my Flax, row gauge was important because of my yoke. I had knitted the amount of raglans needed and then yeah, I had to knit until I hit a certain length. I think if I had used one needle size up, there would have been a big difference. I still have to block it which may make a difference but I need to do better on my gauge swatch. I’ll remember this post. I may save it (unless scatter brain happens) and refer to it when I blog about my Flax.

  23. Tien   •  

    It’s gorgeous! Such a beautiful color and those cables are an amazing feature. I think the row gauge mishap was a happy accident because I love the tunic length even more that the original one in the pattern.

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