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You better swatch!

You better swatch!

How can knitting a swatch help you achieve successful results?

It may not be what you want to read, but we really mean it: don’t skip your swatch! 

Knitting a swatch is a fundamental step in the course of knitting any project. No matter how much you want to skip this step, but taking the time to knit a swatch can make a significant difference in the outcome of your knitting project. In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of knitting a swatch, explain its importance, and provide you with tips for achieving successful knitting results.

Why Knit a Swatch?

A swatch is a small sample of fabric that you knit using the same yarn, needles, and stitch pattern as your intended project. While it may seem like an extra step, knitting a swatch is essential in order to...

Check your gauge

Gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows per inch in your knitted fabric. It is crucial for ensuring that your finished project matches the desired size and fit. By knitting a swatch, you can measure your gauge and make any necessary adjustments before starting your project. This step helps prevent surprises such as a too-tight sweater or a scarf that ends up much larger than anticipated.

Choose the right needle

Different yarns behave differently with various needle sizes. Knitting a swatch allows you to test how your chosen yarn interacts with the selected needle size and stitch pattern. 

Get the right knitted fabric

It’s very difficult to tell what a finished object will be like, just based on the yarn wrapped up in a skein or ball. Swatching helps you determine if the combination of needle size and yarn produces the fabric texture and drape that you want.

Buy the right amount of yarn

The recommended yardage for a pattern is based on the yardage used at the pattern gauge. If your gauge is different, you may run out of yarn - or end up with too much left over.

Enjoy the knitting process

Knitting a swatch gives you the opportunity to practice the stitch pattern and become familiar with the yarn's characteristics. This practice enhances your knitting skills, allowing you to work more efficiently and confidently on your main project.

Steps to Knit a Swatch

  1. Choose the Yarn and Needles: Select the yarn you plan to use for your project and the recommended needle size. Refer to the yarn label or pattern instructions for guidance. It's best to use the same category of yarn to ensure accuracy.
  2. Cast On: Cast on a sufficient number of stitches to create a square or rectangular swatch. Most patterns give the gauge measured over 4x4 inches (10x10 cm) so aim for a size that is at least 6x6 inches (15x15 cm) to get a reliable measurement. You don’t want to be measuring right up to the edge of your swatch, as this is less accurate.
  3. Work the Swatch: Follow the stitch pattern specified in your project or opt for a simple stockinette stitch. Knit a few rows in garter stitch or ribbing for a border that prevents curling.
  4. Wash the swatch: All fibres and fabrics change with washing. The only way to get a truly reliable measurement is to treat your swatch the way you intend to treat the garment.
  5. Measure the Gauge: Once your swatch is complete, lay it flat on a smooth surface. Use a ruler or measuring tape to count the number of stitches and rows within a specific area (e.g., 1 inch or 4 inches). Compare these measurements to the recommended gauge in your pattern.
  6. Adjustments: If your gauge matches the pattern's gauge, congratulations! You can proceed with confidence. However, if your gauge differs, adjustments are needed. 
    1. If you have more stitches or rows per inch, your fabric is too tight: switch to larger needles. 
    2. If you have fewer stitches or rows per inch, your fabric is too loose: switch to smaller needles.
  7. Repeat if necessary: If you make adjustments, knit another swatch with the modified needle size and re-measure the gauge. Repeat this process until your swatch matches the recommended gauge.

Tips for Swatching Success

  1. Use the same stitch pattern: To get an accurate gauge, it's important to knit the swatch using the same stitch pattern specified in your project. Changing the stitch pattern may alter the fabric's tension and affect your gauge.
  2. Block your swatch: Blocking involves washing or wetting your swatch, then laying it flat to dry. Blocking helps the fibers relax and settle into their natural positions, providing a more accurate measurement of your gauge. Follow the blocking method recommended for your chosen yarn.
  3. Measure in multiple spots: To ensure accuracy, measure your gauge in multiple areas of your swatch. This helps account for any irregularities or variations in tension.
  4. Record the details: Keep a record of the yarn, needle size, stitch pattern, and gauge measurements for future reference. This information can be invaluable when starting new projects or working with similar yarns.

But do I really need to knit a swatch? 

With all that in mind, it’s true that not everyone knits a swatch every time. To be honest, we don’t either. If you have used the same yarn at the same gauge for a previous project, you can fairly confidently get started. But these situations are probably few and far between: and when it comes down to it, it’s always better to take a little extra time to check your swatch.

We’ve seen many cases where somebody didn’t bother to swatch for a shawl (it doesn’t matter if it comes out a slightly different size, right?) only to run out of yarn because their gauge was looser than the pattern stated. Or they didn’t bother to swatch for a hat (I’ve knit so many hats, they always turn out!) only for the finished project to indeed turn out… baby sized.   

Happy knitting...

Knitting a swatch is a crucial step for achieving successful knitting results. It allows you to determine the correct gauge, familiarize yourself with the yarn and stitch pattern, and make necessary adjustments before diving into your project. By investing a little time and effort in knitting a swatch, you'll set yourself up for a more enjoyable and rewarding knitting experience. So, grab your needles, choose your yarn, and start swatching – you'll be one step closer to creating beautiful, well-fitting knitted garments and accessories!