A lot of times row gauge doesn’t matter. But not always.
Row gauge matters if:
- Your pattern is written in rows instead of inches (say, work this row 20 times versus work this row for 4″)
- You’re making a top-down or bottom-up raglan. The row gauge will have a big impact on the armhole depth. You might not read this (I’ve rarely read this) but it’s important. Very important. So much so that I plan to do a separate post just about this.
- You’re close with yarn. If you just have the stated amount of yarn, a different row gauge can have a big effect on the amount of yarn you use.
- You’re trying to match a schematic
Rows instead of inches
If your pattern is written in rows instead of inches, there’s a corresponding length that’s expected too. It’s just unwritten. You can figure it out though.
How long is it supposed to be?
It’s pretty straightforward to figure out the length.
#rows * row gauge
If you row gauge is in something other than per 1 inch, divide by that number. This gives you the number of rows in that section.
Now, figure out how many rows you’ll get.
#rows * your row gauge
If they’re pretty different, you’ll want to compensate for it by working fewer/more rows.
Yarn usage and row gauge
It’s intuitive that if you knit tighter, you’ll use less yarn.
Don’t always believe your intuition.
In this case, knitting tighter uses more yarn.
If you think about it, it does make sense. Knitting tighter means you’re making a denser fabric. Denser fabric is thicker so it uses more yarn.
What this all means is:
Don’t try to compensate for the wrong row gauge by knitting tightly.
Adjusting your gauge
Sometimes, just changing the material of a needle can change your gauge. Change from a metal to a wood (wood will likely give you a looser gauge). It will also likely change both your stitch gauge and your row gauge. And you’re washing the swatch before you measure, right?
Row gauge can matter
All this means that row gauge can matter. Don’t just ignore it. If you’re knitting a shawl, and you have plenty of yarn you’ll probably be fine. But if you’re knitting a garment, maybe not.