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Pearl’s Cardigan Crochet-Along, Part 2: Swatch and Gauge

September 29th, 2010

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Hopefully you have chosen your color and now we need to determine what size to make and how much yarn to order. As I mentioned last week, I chose Coffee. I ordered 10 balls to make size large. There has been some discrepancy in the pattern notes about the size worn by the model in Crochet So Fine, so I measured the original garment, and the sample sweater measures 36″ across the bust (a size medium, not large).

Over the years, I have found that many of us choose our pattern-size based on our bra-size. I believe it is because we are used to shopping for tops based on Small, Medium, Large, X-Large or with the American standard sizes of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, etc… When I see sweaters sized 32, 36, 40 I think of bra sizes.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work, unless you want your sweater to be as snug as your undergarments! I received a great piece of advise a few years ago: lay out some of your favorite clothes on a flat surface and take the measurements of these items, as they include the amount of ease (extra inches for comfort) that you are accustomed to wearing. Those are the sizes you should be making in your stitched garments. Here is an example:

Measuring Flat Sweater

OK, so now you know how many yards (or balls) to order. When it arrives, you will need to work on gauge. I made gauge swatches with 3 different sized hooks because I thought it would be helpful to not only see the right sized swatch, but to also notice how subtle the difference is with the wrong sized swatches. I also took photos before and after blocking as this makes a huge difference in the gauge measurements, too.

Why is gauge so important? Specifically, why is a precise and accurate gauge so important? It is the difference between having a sweater fit or not. You wouldn’t go into a store and buy a size 2 when you need a size 14. And, you wouldn’t buy a size 18 if you needed a size 10. It may sound hard to believe, but if your gauge swatch is off by as little as 1/2″ it can mean being off by many sizes. For example, let’s say your gauge is supposed to be 4 sts/1″ and you came up with 3.5 sts/1″. On a size 36 pattern, your finished garment would turn out to be 31″. If you came up with 5st/1″ gauge, your same size 36″ bust pattern would create a finished garment sized 45″ bust.

Below are my 3 swatches. From left to right, I used an F/5 (3.75mm), G/6 (4mm) and H/8 (5mm) crochet hook. In the first photos the swatches are not blocked. From this photo, I would guess that the swatch on the left is the closest to gauge.

Stitch Gauge BEFORE Swatching

Row Gauge BEFORE Swatching

Next are my 3 swatches after blocking. I think blocking is one of the most important things to do to your swatch because we are talking about a garment that will get wet! Whether in the rain, or when laundered. You need to know how your fabric will react in water. Sometimes, the amount of gauge released in the blocking recedes a bit when the swatch dries, so it is important to not only block but allow it to dry before measuring.

Stitch Gauge AFTER Blocking

Row Gauge AFTER Blocking

Notice how much the swatches grew? If we had chosen the swatch on the right (like I guessed from the original photo) our finished garment (following the size 36″ bust pattern) would create a finished garment with a 45″ bust! Wow. That would be quite a difference!

Now we have decided what size sweater to make, ordered the appropriate amount of yarn, and determined our gauge from the swatches. Before we begin our sweater (in next week’s blog post), I want to share with you how and why I developed this sweater structure technique. After you understand the fundamentals of this design, I hope it will encourage you to crochet this sweater regardless of what size you want to make. This is also a top-down sweater design, the stitch gauge is a lot more important than the row gauge because you can alter the length of both the body and sleeves but just stopping when you reach your desired look.

Normally a round yoke sweater is increased incrementally in the rows from the narrowest point (neck) to the widest point (bottom of the yoke). In this super simple design concept, I use a percentage system to determine the neck, bust and yoke, but work all of the increases into the first row of stitches after the neck is crocheted. As long as you are using a lacy stitch that blocks well, the yoke will be flat. If you use a tighter stitch pattern that doesn’t stretch much in blocking, there will be some puckering at the neck. In some cases, with lighter fabrics, it is still an interesting texture and design element. In Pearl’s Cardigan, there is room for stretch in blocking, so the condensed increases don’t pucker and lay flat after blocking. However, the yoke will begin extremely ruffled but relax as your length grows (as you’ll see in future weeks).

When you know the bust measurement you desire for your sweater, the other calculations are easy to figure out. The neck measurement is 50% of the bust, and the yoke is 150% of the yoke. This means that if you need 4sts/1″ for size 36, 36×4=144 sts for the bust, then you would begin with 144 x 0.50 = 72 and you would need to have increased to 144 x 1.5 = 216 at the end of the yoke. From there, you would separate for front, back and sleeves, add underarm stitches to the sleeve and add the same number of sts to the body when joining the fronts (as we will discuss in the following weeks).

Best of luck swatching everyone. If you have swatch-related questions, make sure to jump in on the comments here or on our Ravelry CAL group!

Related links:

  • Jackie

    Would you mind giving us the exact pattern for the swatch? I found it difficult to follow from the whole pattern as it was adding onto the existing stitches. Thank you!

  • Nicole

    This is the gauge swatch the I used, and it looks the same as Kristin’s. There are a couple sets of instructions the people have posted on project pages on Ravelry if you don’t like this one :)

    To make my gauge swatch:
    Chain 27 (or so – I left a couple extras on the end).
    Row 1 (Adapted from Row 10 Yoke): sc in 2nd chain from hook, * ch 5, sk next 5 chains, sc in next ch. ** Rep from * to ** 3 times. 4 5-ch spaces.
    Row 2 (Adapted from Row 9 Yoke): ch 3, dc in sc, 5 dc in each 5-ch sp across, 2 dc in last sc.
    Row 3 (Row 10 again): ch 1, sc in 1st dc, ch 5, sk next 6 dc, * sc in sp (between 5 dc sets). ** Rep from * to ** across. sc in top of turning chain.
    Repeat Rows 2 & 3 until done :)

    Hope this helps!

    Kristin says: Hi Nicole! Thanks so much for repeating the pattern here in the comments for swatching!!

  • http://www.restlessgrace.blogspot.com Grace

    I think there are 2 errors in this post:

    “From this photo, I would guess that the swatch on the left” is the closest to gauge.” … “Notice how much the swatches grew? If we had chosen the swatch on the right (like I guessed from the original photo)…”

    and

    “When you know the bust measurement you desire for your sweater, the other calculations are easy to figure out. The neck measurement is 50% of the bust, and the yoke is 150% of the yoke.”

  • Jackie

    Thanks, Nicole! However, I thought we were supposed to be swatching from the body pattern not the yoke as the yoke stitches are a little different. Is this incorrect?

  • Karen

    Yeah, the book says to swatch from the body pattern, so I just followed the body pattern, Really easy.

    Thanks for showing the swatches before and after blocking Kristen. I had also made 3 swatches, using 4mm, 4.5mm and 5mm hooks. I found I needed the larger hook to achieve row gauge, though a smaller hook would achieve stitch gauge. After reading your comments I realised 2 things:

    1. I should ignore the row gauge and just judge the length of the garment as I crochet.

    2. I should stop being such a coward and actually block my swatches. It sounds like the 5mm – which achieved gauge without blocking will be too big.

    I have a fear of blocking – I made a lovely broomstick lace cardigan, which is finished apart from blocking because I am scared I will ruin it when blocking.

    Anyone got any advice – instructions or help with blocking for me – do I wet the whole garment / swatch, or am I mean to spray it wet???? Plus how do you pin it out?

    Any comments appreciated.

    Karen

  • Barbi

    Thank you Nicole for the swatch gauge pattern!

  • Nicole

    Jackie, if you read in the Body pattern, it says:

    “ROWS 15–26 (28, 30, 32): Rep Rows 9–10
    of Yoke 6 (7, 8, 9) times.”

    So, the body pattern is the one described in Rows 9 & 10 of the Yoke.

  • Nicole

    Karen,

    There are lots of websites and books that talk about how to block for all kinds of different materials. How you should do yours will depend on what type of yarn you used.

    Since I use mostly acrylic or cotton based yarns, mostly I use a wet blocking technique where I immerse the crochet project in water for a while (what I’ve read suggests times from 20 minutes to overnight). Then I try to get the excess water out without wringing it. Finally I layout layers of my biggest towels and pin the project (or swatch) to it and just let it dry. For me that’s usually an overnight thing.

    Hope this helps!

    Kristin says: Thanks for the great blocking tips!!

  • Veronica Carmichael

    I gently hand dipped my swatches in water. I am using bamboo silk, label reads hand wash no dry cleaning. It is now fuzzy (felt looking) and lost it’s shine. Should I take it back? They are laying flat on a towel.I did not wring. What happened. Too expensive to make this lovely sweater and have that the end result. I used two different needles 4mm was best.Sizing tips right on!

  • Angela P.

    Kristin, I have several questions. Which gauge swatch are you going to use? The smallest? Most of the increase after blocking seemed to be in the row gauge. The measurements do not seem very different before and after blocking in the stitch gauge, but it is difficult to tell which swatch you’re referring to as Grace mentioned. Also the pattern listed 9 balls for large, but on this blog you say 10. I ordered 9, so I hope I don’t run out! The pattern also lists 40 as the finished bust measurement for large. I’m pretty confused at this point, but trying not to get discouraged!

  • Diane

    I am almost finished. I am working on the edging . I have identified several errors in the pattern and wrote to Lion Brand. I’m sure they will be addressed as they responded to me. It turned out great and plan to try others using different yarn.

  • Angela P.

    Sorry, I see that you addressed the finished size question (36 is med, 40 is large). I’m still worried about having enough yarn though! And confused about the gauge.
    Diane, wow I’m impressed!

  • Julie

    I am excited to get started on this. I have been crocheting for many years but don’t make garments too often. I am making this for my Daughter for Christmas. I got my yarn today. MicroSpun in Teal. It is gorgeous yarn and I cannot wait to see how it looks when it is finished. Thank you Kristin for hosting this CAL.

  • Paula too

    I also did not understand “The neck measurement is 50% of the bust, and the yoke is 150% of the yoke.” If this is supposed to motivate plus-size crocheters to try this design, it’s still second-class citizenship. People who want a sweater that measures 36″ or 40″ at the bust have proper directions in a pattern that presumably has been tested to work at their sizes. I know I would want my cardigan to measure 52″ at the bust but from from reading this, I’m not sure it would work out without adding an unwanted ruffly area at the neckline/yoke.

  • Dee

    Is the sample in the CAL crocheted with Microspun? How was it blocked?

    Zontee says: Hi Dee, yes, the samples are made with Microspun. Click here for more info on blocking.

  • Jeanne

    I swatched with Caron Spa. ( has similar qualities as Microspun)

    My question isn’t about the yarn. It is about swatching in general. ‘

    WHAT DO I DO IF MY SWATCH MEASURES EXACTLY 4″ in HEIGHT (PERFECT) BUT IT MEASURES FIVE Inches in WIDTH (If I want the width correct, I need to go down in hook. If I want the height (row #) to be perfect I should stay with G HOOK.

    My guess is that width accuracy is more important thn height accuaracy because I can always add more rows.

    Is there any way for me to get BOTH width and heigt the same?

    Jeanne.

  • Pingback: Pearl’s Cardigan Crochet-Along, Part 3: Let’s Get Started! | Lion Brand Notebook

  • Karen

    Nicole – thanks for the great tips!

    Veronica, my cardigan I mentioned I was too scared to block was in bamboo silk. I had a small swatch, so I wet it by submersing it in water, then blocked it. I was also quite horrified it looked fuzzy, BUT when it dried it was fine. Phew, going to block the cardi this weekend I think.

  • Pingback: Pearl’s Cardigan Crochet-Along, Part 3: Bodice and Modifications | Lion Brand Notebook

  • Veronica Carmichael

    Thanks Karen. I am now on row 15 and it seems to be coming out lovely and soft. I am doing a large . Can you put a photo on when you are finished?

  • Jennifer Trizano

    I am making this in short sleeves. It’s been really easy so far. I have had no trouble following the pattern. I did add extra rows before the eyelet row. Also, for the short sleeves I added an eyelet row and then regular pattern rows and then the edging. I plan to put something (belted and mathing sleeve ribbon) in the eyelet rows. It’s turning out lovely and I plan to make another.