ronhuber's picture

The Yarn Harlot's Febrary 25th blog entry is a wonderful article on swatching. I tend to agree with most of what she says. I hardly ever have a swatch relate correctly to the article I am knitting. Recently I made a swatch cap of a Fair Isle pattrn in anticipation of knitting a sweater and used a different size needle than I usually do. I got tension of 6.1 stitches to an inch. However, on the sweater I got 7 stitches to the inch. Now, that is a big difference. What experiences do you guys have with your swatches or do you bother?


mrossnyc's picture

I'm too much of a

I'm too much of a perfectionist not to swatch. If I'm designing my own pattern, I'll do a couple of swatches just to test for consistency, then calculate the pattern from that. If it's someone else's pattern, I'll make several swatches on different sized needles until I either get the gauge or get close. If I can't get close enough, then I'll recalculate the pattern based on my gauge. I don't find that my gauge changes drastically from flat to circular, which is nice when finishing sweater shoulders and sleeve caps. It's a lot of work, but it's the rare situation that I have to frog something because it isn't the correct size.

thairapist's picture

Hmm Guess i am not going to

Hmm Guess i am not going to be popular here as any time i do a sweater i swatch for atleast most of a day. I design most of my sweaters and start with the yarn first. Once i find the color and fiber i love then i sit down with all my stitch books and start swatching to find out what stitches and needles look best with that yarn. Once i find what i like i make a final swatch usually 4-5 inches across at least that includes the main pattern. Then i slide my needles into the pattern at one point and put another needle in so many inches across then count the stitches. It is important to have the piece big enough to actually gauge the yarn as well as it has to be off the needles and can't include the last 2 stitches on either end or the cast on or off. Most people don't make a big enough swatch so they don't get an accurate read. I also knit in the round so when i do my final swatch i knit my stitches in one direction and leave loose ends as i come around to do my next rows. It looks really messy but it yields an accurate swatch. For me when i am going to spend maybe 2 months knitting something i like to take a day or two swatching just to make sure what i make will look great when it is done. I then frog the swatches and recondition the yarn and use it in the sweater.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Thairapist - You are very

Thairapist - You are very appropriate with your comments. If a knitter is designing a brand new piece it is only more than prudent to do everything possible to ensure a proper fit and /or gauge. Doubly so if they ever want to publish the pattern. Same with a design that calls for a lot of intricate patterning, etc. I think swatching is important and is another one of those things that are a matter of personal taste and preference. And you are right...if you are going to do a swatch, make sure it is big enough to get accurate measurements from. Even if it means washing and blocking the swatch for "after care" measurements. Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

mrossnyc's picture

I completely agree about the

I completely agree about the planning that goes into a project. For me, swatching and planning is necessary so I can just follow the directions and not have to think about what I'm doing once I start knitting something.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

A lot of it depends upon

A lot of it depends upon what I am working on. For a sock, I have a general idea of the way it will fit based upon past experience. For sweaters, etc. I may work on a few swatches to just see how the general look, gauge, and such will come out. However, I also keep it in mind that your finished project MAY turn out totally different than what the swatch indicated. When I work with friends about swatching, I remind them to do periodic checks as they knit so they won't get any rude surprises at the end. Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

murfpapa's picture

I generally don't swatch.

I generally don't swatch. The last 2 hats I made I gave to a gal at work who loves hats and has a smaller head. Each time I promise to swatch "next time" which never comes to pass. The one time I did swatch like a good boy, it was for a fisherman's knit sweater and was right on the money when I started. At the end of 5 weeks (I was on a sick leave and didn't feel like doing much) the shoulders came down to my elbows. Didn't know if it was my gauge that shifted or if I picked up extra stitches. I just tossed the whole thing in the trash. Then too, I seldom make anything that needs to fit exactly. I tend to stick to scarves, afghans, etc.

mwkbloom's picture

I knit mostly flat stuff

I knit mostly flat stuff (shawls, scarves, etc), so exact gauge is usually not important. I'm taking a class on a ruffled scarf that is being used to teach short rows. We did a small practice version, so I went ahead and finished the entire pattern in the tiny size (15%) we'd started . It was very useful because I decided that I needed a needle 1 size smaller than I was using for the silk/wool yarn I bought for the project. I've started the full-size version, but must spend a good bit of tomorrow afternoon getting caught up on my "homework."

Tallguy's picture

Haha -- some of you say you

Haha -- some of you say you don't swatch, but will start and re-start a sweater 3 or 5 times until you get the tension right. I call that swatching!!

scottly's picture

I guess so but it's a much

I guess so but it's a much more accurate way to get the right size garment. And, I frequently get lucky and don't have to start over.

SteveP's picture

Creating a swatch is a

Creating a swatch is a little like running anti-virus software on your computer. Usually everything is fine, but every once in a while things go wrong... Having said that, I hardly ever do a swatch (except on the knitting machine...) or run virus software :)

I'm not running the machine now - but because you go through wool so fast, and a small adjustment makes a huge difference, doing a swatch and writing down the settings, and then keeping it for future reference saves a lot of frustration.

From experience I know that I have to use needles one mm bigger than the pattern and then it usually works out. And if it doesn't work out exactly, generally you can see that and adjust or start again before too long.

TheKnittingMill's picture

Gauge is such a dirty word.

Gauge is such a dirty word. Swatching aggravates me to no end! I usually have to swatch like 4 or 5 times, then a lot of times I'll meet the gauge in one direction, but not the other! Do you guys ever have that problem? If I do meet the gauge the item that I start knitting will inevitably be a different one. Luckily, I haven't had too many problems with the over all size of the completed piece and end up being lucky. One of the first things I knitted was a pullover vest for myself and because I swatched on bamboo straights and switched to metal circulars it ended up at least 2 sizes too big! Lesson learned!

New York Built's picture

I am starting a new sweater

I am starting a new sweater in baby alpaca, with a 2X2 rib in its and red tweed. I am testing the Yarn Harlot's fiber to me, exploring bottom up, no seams, sleeve steeks, knit in sleeve, and buttoned-neck. May need to use sock reinforcement yarn at shoulders and sleeve heads to prevent stretching.

So far, the sleeve swatch looks as expected, though I an watching the alpaca's "bounce-back" qualities, or lack, thereof. Sheep wool feels like iron compared to this stuff.

albert's picture

What do you mean by "sleeve

What do you mean by "sleeve head"? How would you use sock reinforcement yarn at the shoulders? Will this be a drop shoulder? Are you using three needle bind off for the shoulders? Not that I'm nosey! (sure.)

Thomasknits's picture

I'm def going to start

I'm def going to start having to read her blog regularly: I love her writing style.

albert's picture

I don't trust swatches. As

I don't trust swatches. As you say, there is seldom a relationship between the swatch and the knitted object. Even when knitting something as large as a sweater, if I check the gauge on two different days, I'm likely to get two different gauges. Usually I end up pretty close to what I was shooting for, but sometimes must add or delete stitches as I go. I was going to say that it's more an art than a science, but I think alchemy would be a more apt comparison.

scottly's picture

I couldn't agree more

I couldn't agree more Albert! Swatches for me are a waste of time. With a bit of experience under my belt now I can almost always tell in the first hour of a project if I've guessed the right needle size and number of stitches for what I want to accomplish. If all is well I continue, if not, I frog it and make the apropriate adjustments and start over. I'm having to start over less and less lately - progress. It's like any skill, the more you do it the more intuitive it becomes.

New York Built's picture

On sweaters, I do the sleeve

On sweaters, I do the sleeve first...solves lots of problems early, gives accurate swatch IN THE ROUND, tells me the yarn will work in the stitch, drape, color and texture departments, eases me into the zen of the piece and makes all the difference between joy and hatred.

Particularly good for Fair Isle projects. Perhaps we all knit differently flat than in the round.

albert's picture

What kind of sweaters do you

What kind of sweaters do you generally knit?