Go swatchless if you dare, but we suggest swatching is always in style.
The primary reason people swatch is to check their gauge against that of the designer’s anticipated gauge.
Definition of gauge: Gauge refers to the number of stitches AND rows a knitter makes per inch. Gauge is dependent on the needle size, needle type, the fiber weight and type, and YOU.
No one wants to finish a cardigan only to find out that their gauge didn’t match that of the designers and now the sizing is off on the garment that they spent weeks or months knitting.
But swatching reveals more than your gauge in a particular fiber.
Here are our top reasons and tips for swatching:
Knit as you mean to go on
Use the type of needles (bamboo, metal, ginger etc.) that you intend to knit the pattern with. Our gauge varies even on needles that measure the same if they’re made of different materials.
Don’t just swatch in stockinette or garter!
If your pattern incorporates lace or cables or color work make sure to include that in your swatch pattern.
Go big or go home!
Unless you’re making doll clothes for your kid’s doll collection, make sure your swatch is big enough to tell the fiber’s story or it isn’t going to give you the information you need. We’re talking swatches of 6-8” in width.
A swatch can show you just how a fiber will perform in the knitted fabric. Will the knit fabric show definition? Will it maintain structure? Is it the fiber for this project? Not sure how a fiber will perform in a certain pattern, ask us in the shop, we can help.
Wash, block, dry, repeat. Have you noticed how different fibers change once washed? A rustic yarn may soften up; another yarn might bloom to the point where you lose all definition. Try swatching, washing, and blocking a variety of yarns from your stash and keeping those samples where you can find and evaluate them when considering a yarn for a project.
Doing stranded color work?
Swatch your color work pattern! Make sure you’re consistent in how you create the strands and how long the strands in the back of your knit item. Swatching is particularly important in color work for those of us who combine both continental and English knitting methods to create the fabric as our gauge varies dependent on our technique.
Knit in the round or flat accordingly
If you’re creating an item in stockinette by knitting in the round make sure your swatch is created in the round. Your gauge may vary significantly if you’re knitting in the round rather than back and forth. Check back here for a swatching in the round post soon.
Swatching can help prevent bleeding in your final item. Especially important if you’re using rather lovely hand-dyed yarns. It’s horrific to find out during wash and block after knitting an item that one skein bleeds into another. A swatch will allow you to test how fixed a dye is. Not fixed enough? The yarn isn’t a loss; there are ways to fix the skein.
Fiber weights are approximate
Just because the yarn label states worsted weight doesn’t mean it’s the same dimensions as another brand’s worsted weight yarn. Don’t count on your gauge for a set weight always being the same in different yarn bases.
Swatch for wear-ability
I love Wensleydale and Gotland yarns, their luster and drape are divine, but they don’t work for me next to my sensitive skin! Ryland fiber however is just fine. I found this out by swatching and wearing the swatch under my bra strap for an afternoon following Knit British’s suggestion. It’s also a great way to check for pilling. Swatch, wash, block and wear.
Don’t forget row gauge
We admit this has slipped our mind on occasion, but it’s just as important to measure the vertical or row gauge as the stitch gauge.
Don’t swatch while mad or drunk
We’re kind of joking, but not really. Your gauge really does change based on your mood or for that matter state of inebriation.
Coming soon: How to measure gauge and what to do if my swatch gauge doesn’t match the pattern gauge?
Swatching in the round! A how-to-guide.