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Swatching: It’s Not Just for Gauge Anymore

November 16th, 2009

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It doesn’t take long for a new knitter or crocheter to learn about the importance of making a gauge swatch: one badly off-size project usually convinces even the most gung-ho non-swatcher. Learning to make and measure a gauge swatch properly is one of the most important steps on the road to a great finished project. I’ve noticed that most of the knitters and crocheters I know (including myself, I’m sorry to say) tend to skimp on the swatching, doing only enough to make sure they’re getting approximate gauge and then plunging headlong into the project at hand.

By doing this, we’re only short-changing ourselves. Not only can getting the proper gauge solve a number of problems, a gauge swatch can tell you much more than just whether you’re getting the requisite number of stitches and rows per inch. Your gauge swatch is the most important place to start learning what your final project will look and feel like. This is particularly important if you’ve chosen to use a different yarn or even color than the one called for in the pattern.

You might find, for instance, that even though you are getting the correct number of stitches and rows per inch, the fabric you are creating is too stiff or too drapey for the project you’re making. Or you might find that the stitch pattern you love just doesn’t show up when worked in the navy yarn you’ve chosen to work with. Better to find out now than after you’ve crocheted half an afghan! Next time you find yourself tempted to skimp or skip the swatch, remind yourself that even though it might seem like a drag now, you’ll be much happier in the end if you do a full, proper swatch.

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  • Bobbie

    I have finally learned to swatch after making an afgan in a gorgeous deep purple that failed to show the pattern!! What I do now is think of the swatch as part of the pattern. I attach it,all pattern notes I make, and one of the bands with washing instructions, weight etc to the original pattern and keep it as a record of the project. It’s especially nice if I’m gifting the project.

  • teresa lamorte

    A persuasive argument for producing a guage. I like the idea of making a sample and attaching pattern notes! What a clever idea.

  • Penny Smith

    I WAS one of those “gung-ho non swatchers” you spoke about. I was going to make a scarf. Now, how hard can that be? I decided to make the scarf length wise. I cast on what I thought to be about the correct number of stitches and off I went. (I was using a different weight yarn, but didn’t think about it at the time) When finished, I started to bind off and bind off. As the yarn was continuing to come off the needle, I knew I was in 15′ of trouble! Thanks for the article.

  • http://www.krazyawesome.com/knitmonster Jenz

    I’m still a gung-ho non swatcher! Okay, not entirely true, I’ll swatch to test out new stitch patterns, especially lace. But I find I get a better idea of the actual drape, gauge, stitch definition, etc. if I actually start the project rather than swatching it. I should probably acknowledge, though, that I’ve been knitting and crocheting for nearly 30 years now, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my approach to someone who’s new at this.

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  • Beth Wicklein

    I make my swatches 8 x 8 incches. This allows me to take a good measurement out of the center of the swatch. The swatch goes into a basket and eventually I have enough to piece an afghan. Waste not, want not. :-)

  • joyceea

    I never make swatches and have ripped out a lot or frogged it. This has convinced I am going to make swatches from now on.

  • maia simon

    What a great idea – 8 inch swatches made into an afghan! Way to go, Beth!

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  • Flora Kuritsky

    You may be impatient to get started on a project, but, but it is worthwhile to take the time to swatch. With the investment of your time on a project, it is well worth the effort to swatch.
    Attach them all together and what a wonderful original creation. They are also samples of all you
    created.

  • Laura

    I’m a gung-ho non-swatcher, lol! The only time I’ve ever swatched… it lied and I ended up with disaster. I find it much more useful to just start knitting and measure gauge after about 3-4 inches because, by then, I’ve taken the time it would have taken to knit a swatch, if changes need to be made, I’m not far enough in to care, and I’d be knitting another swatch ANYWAY and if I don’t need to make changes, I’m already that far in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joanne-Goranson/1378789664 <fb:name linked="false" useyou="false" uid="1378789664">Joanne Goranson</fb:name>

    I finally learned to make a swatch. I rarely use the yarn recommended in the pattern, so I finally realized that if I didn’t swatch I would be ripping out constantly. I do a 6″ by 6″ swatch and find that that works for me, but I might try doing an 8″ by 8 ” swatch and keep them to make an afgan or something else. I love ribbon yarns and yarns with what I call “bling” and often use 2 yarns together to get what I want, so my swatches might not make a great afgan. Also, sometimes I have just enough yarn to make the project, so after I make the swatch I need to rip it out so I can use it in the project.

  • Dalena

    Anyone know what might be going on and how I can fix this problem? I crochet, and my gauge usually matches across (number of stitches), but rarely is it tall enough. The swatch is pliable and the stitches look proportional.

  • Lina

    I had the same experience as Penny Smith. I knit a scarf lengthwise and it ended up 12′ long!! The idea of making 8×8 swatches is brilliant. I found 4×4 did not give me a true indication, so I stopped doing them. 8×8 would be much more true to my knitting tension.

  • Sewadilly

    Swatch this —- I must admit I never thought about the swatch showing you if you really like the way it drapes/or not, as well as how the pattern shows up.  Thank you so much for that info … swatching will
    now be a part of my knitting life.

    thanks again,
    Happy knitting

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