Author Archive

Swatching Series: How To Knit A Swatch

Monday, September 4th, 2017
Share Button

In our How To Swatch Series, we’re going over why it’s important to swatch your knitting, how to make the perfect gauge swatch, and advanced techniques for swatching.

Now that you understand why a trustworthy gauge swatch is crucial to knitting, we can dive right into learning how to make the perfect knit swatch. You’ll need a few things to get started:

  • The exact yarn you will use for your project (or you might have a few different yarns you want to swatch with to see which fabric you prefer for a pattern)
  • Your knitting needles, usually 2-3 depending on how well you know the yarn and your own knitting gauge
  • Eucalan Knitting Crochet Wool Wash or other wool wash of your choosing

In this post, I’m going to go over how to make a swatch using the stockinette stitch (knitting on the right side of your swatch and purling on the wrong side). A stockinette swatch is standard in most patterns, however, sometimes you will need to make a swatch in a stitch pattern. I’ll go over how to make a swatch in pattern and count your stitches in the final installment of this series.

Knitting Swatch Size Matters

One of the most common mistakes we see in knitters’ swatches is that they’re not big enough. There are a lot of reasons people have for not creating a large enough gauge swatch: a fear of wasting yarn, boredom, impatience, and incorrect or outdated information about swatching.

A gauge swatch should be at least 8” wide by 8” tall because you want to be able to measure several inches of your swatch at once in several different places to confirm that your gauge is accurate across the entire swatch.

How To Swatch Stockinette Knitting

If your swatch is too small, you won’t be able to find your “knitting groove”. Your groove is your most natural, relaxed knitting. Usually you don’t actually get into your knitting groove for a few rows, so if your swatch is too small, it won’t necessarily be an accurate reflection of your knitting which, in turn, leads to an unreliable gauge swatch.

Not only will a nice big swatch give you a more reliable gauge, but it will also give you a better idea of the fabric you’ll be making while you knit. This is especially important if you’re choosing to knit with a yarn that’s different from the yarn recommended by your pattern or if you’re designing your own piece. An 8” swatch will give you a much better idea of the feel and drape of a fabric than a 4” swatch.

The Edges Of Your Swatch

Knitting in stockinette makes your edges curl—like the edges on the swatch in the image above. For a nice, flat swatch that will be easy to accurately measure, you should knit about an inch of garter stitch (knit on both right and wrong sides) to all four edges of the swatch. Because this edge will help your swatch lay flat, you won’t have to worry that you’re stretching out your stitches while you measure which could result in an inaccurate gauge.

How To Swatch Knitting Garter Stitch Border Swatch


To Wash Or Not To Wash

You should treat your swatch the way you plan to treat your final piece. Are you going to wet block your piece and eventually wash it in some way? The same should be true of your swatch. Many fibers will change as a result of washing and blocking. A piece that measures 8” when initially knit could end up being 8.5-9” after washing and blocking. That’s a big difference if you’re making a sweater that you’d like to fit snuggly!

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of taking your gauge both before and after blocking so you can know what the size of your finished and washed garment will be.

Counting Your Knitting Stitch Gauge & Row Gauge

There are actually two kinds of gauge you should be comfortable with as you get in the habit of making gauge swatches: Stitch gauge and row gauge.

Stitch gauge is the number of horizontal stitches in each inch of your knitting. To count your stitch gauge, count each “v” of knitting as one stitch in a straight line to the left and right of your knitting.

Knitting Gauge Swatch Stitch Gauge Example IllustrationRow gauge is the number of vertical stitches in each inch of your knitting.

Row gauge is used less commonly than stitch gauge, but if your pattern references it, you should be sure to check how your row gauge compares to the written pattern gauge. Row gauge is particularly important in knitting stitch patterns and cable patterns that require certain sections of the stitch pattern to be located in specific places of your final garment.

Counting stitches for your row gauge is the same as counting your stitch gauge except this time you’ll count vertically instead of horizontally. Count each “v” of knitting as one stitch in a straight line up and down.

How to count row gauge example swatchDo I Go Up Or Down In Needle Size

This is always a little tricky to think about. You’ve knit your gauge swatch and your gauge is 6 stitches to the inch on US 7 needles. However, you’re pattern is calling for a gauge of 7 stitches per inch on US 7s. As you know, you’ll need to make another swatch with a different needle size, but how do you know whether to adjust up or down?

If you need to add more stitches to your gauge, as is the case in this example (you need to be knitting one more stitch per inch), you should adjust your needle size down. A smaller needle will create smaller stitches, so you would be more likely to knit the correct gauge on a US 5 or 6.

If you need less stitches to reach the correct gauge, you should adjust your needle size up. A larger needle creates larger stitches which means there are less stitches in every inch of your knitting. So if you were knitting at 6 stitches per inch on US 7 needles but your pattern called for 5 stitches per inch, you should try swatching on a US 8 or 9 to reach the appropriate gauge.

Congratulations, you’re now a swatching champion! Stay tuned for our final installment of the How To Swatch Series to learn some specialty swatching skills like swatching in the round and swatching in pattern!


How To Swatch: Why Swatching Your Knitting Is Important

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Share Button

how to swatch knitting | valley yarns northampton

Learning how to swatch correctly is one of the most important things you can do to bring your knitting to the next level. It’s also the step many knitters are keen to shorten or skip entirely. But often, when we field knitters’ questions about why a garment didn’t work out, the problem could have been avoided if a proper swatch had been worked before starting.

In this three part series, I’m going to walk you through how to swatch to achieve the best possible results in all your future knitting projects. First, we’ll go over why swatching is so important to knitting, especially if you’re knitting garments. In the second part, I’ll cover how to swatch with details about how big your swatch should be and how exactly to count your stitches to achieve the most accurate gauge. And in the third part, I’ll go over some advanced swatching techniques: how to swatch in pattern, how to swatch for colorwork, and how to swatch for pieces that will be worked in the round.

Isn’t Swatching The Worst?

I used to hate swatching, too. I didn’t like to “waste” yarn and all I wanted to do was dive into knitting my sweater. But after hundred of stitches, I would try my sweater on and be disappointed. My sweaters rarely fit properly and my incorrect gauge would even throw off the stitch pattern’s placement around necklines and armhole decreases.  

I eventually realized–especially after taking a few classes at WEBS–that swatching really mattered and I needed to reframe my view of it.

It’s definitely not a waste of yarn. By figuring out a proper gauge I avoid wasting yarn making a garment that doesn’t fit me properly. I also started to look at swatching as practice for my upcoming work: knitting a pattern swatch helps me get the hang of it and develop some muscle memory around the stitches.

I’ve actually sort of grown to love swatching! (Don’t worry, I still hate weaving in my ends!) I pick up an extra skein of yarn and take my time finding the proper gauge whenever I start a project. Sometimes it only takes one swatch, other times a few. If I’m designing, I swatch until I’m 100% satisfied with my gauge and fabric before knitting my first sample.

hot to swatch knitting | madelinetosh tosh sock | malabrigo mechita

Swatches of Malabrigo Mechita and Madelinetosh Tosh Sock I made as I designed the colorwork pattern of a sweater I’m working on.

Why Swatching Your Knitting Important (H1)

The main reason why it’s so important to swatch is to confidently know your gauge: how many stitches fit into one inch of your knitting. If your pattern’s gauge is 5 stitches to the inch on US size 7 needles with a worsted weight yarn, you can’t assume that you will automatically knit the same gauge with size 7 needles and a worsted weight yarn. Take a moment to click on the link for worsted weight yarn and compare the gauges.

Did you notice how much variety there was in our worsted weight selection? The yarns’ gauge could vary anywhere between 4.5 stitches per inch on US 8 needles to 5 stitches per inch on US 6 needles.  

There will even be gauge variation in the yarn itself! Let’s take a look at Malabrigo Rios, pictured below:

Malabrigo Rios Yarn Hanks | WEBS How To Swatch Knitting

We list Malabrigo Rios’ gauge as 4.5-5.5sts = 1″ on US 6-8. Would you be able to knit this gauge at 5 stitches per inch? Definitely! Will it be on the US 7 needles you prefer to use? There’s no way to accurately know without making a gauge swatch.

You might then ask, “But I’ve knit with Malabrigo Rios before and I know what my gauge is! Can’t I just assume it’s still the same?”

The answer is maybe. If you’re going to knit a scarf or a shawl and you know that in the past you’ve really enjoyed the fabric you’ve knit with Rios on US 7 needles, skip the swatch. Just be aware that if you’re following a pattern, you might run into yardage issues if you’re not sure of your gauge compared to the pattern.

But if you’re going to knit a sweater, you should definitely knit another set of swatches. Start with the needle size you think will be right and double check! It’s better to know certainly that your gauge with that particular yarn and needle combination hasn’t changed before knitting a garment that ends up not fitting you properly.

Factors That Affect Your Knitting Gauge 

It’s important to recheck your gauge because so many things can affect it. Anything from how you’re feeling that day to what kind of dye is being used in the yarn can alter the the way you know.

How to swatch Valley Yarns Haydenville

Working large swatches of at least 8″ will help you find your knitting groove and yield a more accurate gauge swatch.

Your Knitting Needles

Different knitting needle materials will yield different gauges from the same knitter. I’ve been knitting with Knitter’s Pride Dreamz for awhile and was reliably knitting about one needle size down from what a pattern would call for. I recently picked up a set of Knitter’s Pride Royale special needles. They have a metal tip but are otherwise the same as Dreamz. This seemingly small difference changed my gauge! On the Royales my gauge is frequently correct in the needle size recommended by the pattern.

Yarn Materials & Dye

A worsted weight yarn that’s 100% wool is going to knit differently than a worsted weight yarn that’s a cotton blend. Even the same yarn you used a year ago could have a slightly different dye component that can affect your gauge. There’s really no way of knowing how a yarn is going to behave on your needles, even if it’s a yarn you’re familiar with, until you knit up a new gauge swatch and find out.

How Much Time You Spend Knitting 

We recommend large gauge swatches for a reason, and it’s really not because we want you to buy more yarn! A large gauge swatch of at least 8 inches helps you get into your knitting groove. If you only knit a 4” x 4” swatch, you’re not really knitting the way you would knit when you spend a couple of hours working on the body of a sweater while binging your favorite Netflix show. We all tend to loosen up a bit as we knit for longer periods of time and a large swatch helps mimic your natural knitting. A swatch that is closer to your natural knitting rhythm will yield a more trustworthy gauge swatch and a more accurate final project.

How You Feel While You’re Knitting

The mood you’re in on any given day can also affect your gauge! If you knit a small swatch while you’re really stressed out after a hard day at work, imagine how much tighter your tension will be than if you knit that same small swatch after a couple of glasses of wine on a Saturday. Neither will be an accurate representation of your gauge! Knitting a larger swatch will help alleviate any quirks in tension caused by any good or bad emotions you might be feeling that day.

A Small Difference In Gauge Makes A Big Difference In Final Project

So we convinced you and you’ve knit a nice big gauge swatch, now it’s time to count your stitches per inch. (We’ll cover this in more detail in the next post.) You realize that instead of your gauge being 5 stitches per inch on the nose, it’s 5.25 stitches. It’s such a small difference, you might be tempted to say that it’s good enough and knit your final project.

But a ¼ stitch difference per inch across an entire garment really adds up. Let’s say you’re making a sweater with a gauge of 5 stitches per inch. If your sweater’s total circumference is 38”, at 5 stitches per inch, the pattern would ask you to cast on 190 stitches. If you cast on those 190 stitches with a gauge of 5.25 stitches per inch, your final garment will actually measure about 36”. You’ll lose two whole inches of circumference from that little difference!

Now, if you really wanted to keep your gauge of 5.25 stitches per inch, you could do a bunch of math to make your pattern fit your gauge. But that’s a post for a different day.

Everyone Knits Differently

This is really important when you’re following patterns. Your gauge with a worsted weight yarn on US 7 needles is most likely different than what the pattern author’s gauge is with the same yarn and needles. Take a look at these two swatches of Valley Yarn Northampton:

Valley Yarns Northampton Swatches | two different knitters

At first glance, you might think these two swatches are knit on drastically different size needles. However, they’re the same yarn on the same needles knit by two different people! It’s the perfect example of why you can’t assume that your knitting is going to match the knitting of a pattern designer.

TL;DR? Swatching is key to insure that you’re knitting at the correct gauge for the pattern you’re following. It will ultimately save you a lot of time and frustration. There’s no better feeling than being able to trust your knitting and follow a pattern without fear that your end result won’t fit properly.

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to catch the next installment of our Swatching Series!