Swatching for Success
On Shopcast Episode #175, I made my debut by sharing some of the recent swatches I had knitted along with my WIPs and an FO. Several of our viewers left comments asking me to share my pattern for my swatches, so I wanted to write this post to share that information (and more) with those of you that might find it helpful.
I will be the first to admit that I used to hate swatching. I felt it was a waste of time, and I just wanted to get started knitting on my project. To be fair, most of the knitting I did when I was younger was smaller items - hats, scarves, toys - so swatching for gauge was not as vital.
However, when I started working at The Woolly Thistle and was ready to knit my first sweater (the Felix Pullover by Amy Christoffers), I wanted to be sure it fit since I was going to be putting so many hours into knitting it. So, I did a small gauge swatch and then jumped right into my project. It turned out perfectly, and I finished just in time for summer, so it’s only gotten a few trips out of the house :)
Fast forward a few months and after spending so much time surrounded by our lovely yarns and answering lots of questions from our customers, I couldn’t resist anymore. I just had to knit with several of our yarns that had grabbed my attention. Life is busy, I’m sure many of you can agree, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to knit garments or large projects in all the yarns. Rather, I decided to buy a skein of each of the yarns that interested me, and knit swatches. And, from there, my love of swatching began.
The swatches I’ve knit so far have given me the chance to
- Feel how the yarn is to knit with
- Determine the gauge I get with a particular yarn
- See the stitch definition each yarn provides
- See the drape each yarn has when knitted at a particular gauge
- Feel how the yarn and knitted fabric changes with washing and blocking.
The swatches have also helped me figure out what I like in a knitted fabric. As someone who is always warm, I knew if I knitted a heavy sweater it would not get much use. So, I opted to knit my swatches on a needle at the larger end of a suggested range. Most of my swatches with sport and DK weight yarn were knit on a US 5 (3.75mm) or US 6 (4mm) needle, and I really liked the drape and lightness this gave the fabric.
While I do not have a set “pattern” (yet), here is what I generally do for my swatches.
CO 30 (worsted/aran), 36 (DK, sport) or 40 (fingering) stitches using long tail cast on, or your preferred CO method
Row 1 - 4:: Knit across
Row 5 (RS): Knit across
Row 6 (WS): K4, Purl to last 4 stitches, K4
Repeat rows 5 and 6 until your work measures approx. 5.5” (or desired length)
Next row (RS): K5, *YO, K2tog, repeat from * until you have created YOs equal to the needle size you are using, then knit across the rest of the row. E.g. if I am using a size US 6, I will YO, K2tog 6 times, then knit across the remainder of the row.
Knit next 4 rows, ending with a RS row.
Bind off loosely using your preferred BO method.
A couple tips that I have learned from other knitters along the way:
- Always cast on more than the pattern says you will need in 4”. For example, if your pattern says 20 stitches in 4”, cast on at least 32 (if you plan to include the garter stitch border I described above.
- After your beginning garter stitch border, (K3, P1) across your first knit row in the stockinette section. This will help the garter stitch border lay flat and not flip up onto the stockinette section.
- When a pattern calls for swatching in the round, you can knit across your first row, then slide your work back to the other end of your needle, carry the yarn (loosely) around the back, and knit across the right side again. Then you will be knitting every row, rather than knitting across and purling back.
In the photo, yarns from L to R are: Vovo (olive green), Ullcentrum 2 ply Sport (light blue), Strikkegarn (yellow), and Brusca (teal).