Swatching 101

A question about swatching came up in the Mystery KAL discussion, and it’s something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time, so here we go.

Swatching-1

As you knit more and more, you come to realize that, even though it can sometimes feel like a slog and a big ole pain in the patookis, swatching is very important. For items like shawlettes and cowls, it’s not super vital, but a stitch difference here or there can make or break a sweater or a hat. And, frankly, if you’re a stitch or two off in a shawlette or cowl, you could have a much smaller or larger finished object.

Swatching-2

So, having said all of that, taking the time to swatch (and block that swatch) will make for a happier enjoyer of finished objects (YOU!). Are you excited? Ready to swatch? Here’s what you need to know:

Swatching 101 – Gather the following:

  • The yarn you will be using.
  • Needles in the size called for in the pattern AND 1-2 sizes larger and smaller.
  • Blocking paraphernalia (towel, blocking board, pins, woolwash).

Swatching 101 – Do the following:

  • Cast on the number of stitches called for in the pattern over 4″ PLUS 4 for the border PLUS 4 for the edges. If you are doing a sweater, I’d strongly suggest casting on the number of stitches called for in the pattern over 4″ times 1.5 (for a 6″ swatch), PLUS 4 for the border PLUS 4 for the edges. Larger swatches for sweaters are very helpful and important.
  • Knit 4 rows of garter stitch
  • Next row: k2, p to last 2 sts, k2.
  • Next row: k2, (k2tog, yo) for as many times as your needle size. For instance, if you are using a US4, work the (k2tog, yo) repeat four times total, so you have four holes (this will give you a row of yarn overs to tell you what size needle you used).
  • Next row: k2, p to last 2 sts, k2.
  • Next row: k across.
    Work these two rows until your swatch is 4-6″ tall, then work 3-4 rows of garter stitch, and bind off loosely.
  • Now, BLOCK IT. Sorry, I know you want to cast on right now, but blocking is really the only way to ensure you’re getting as accurate a gauge swatch as you possibly can. Believe me, it’s worth it.

A few things to remember:

  • If your swatch is too small (i.e., if you have too many stitches in your 4″), that means your stitches are too small, so in order to make them bigger, you need to go UP a needle size.
  • If your swatch is too big (i.e., if you have too few stitches in your 4″), that means your stitches are too big, so in order to make them smaller, you need to go DOWN a needle size.
  • Swatching is a good way to spend some time with your yarn, and make sure it’s something you want to make a commitment to. Look at it that way, and you’ll be a happier swatcher.

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2 comments on “Swatching 101

  1. You make it sound so simple, I will try to be a good swatcher. I am always in such a hurry to start my project, but I know it is important!.

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