April 01, 2003

Swatch City.

During my first year of knitting, I never swatched. Never measured, either. [What? Waste all that yarn? Pfffft.] Moreover, I was the type of knitter who - gasp! - never read through or studied a pattern before beginning to knit. I just gave the pattern a quick skim-through, cast on the required number of stitches, and giddy-ap, pardner! Let's get knittin'! Which resulted in too large garments. Too small garments. Garments of the right size but with sleeves long enough for an ape's arms. Thankfully, my first year of knitting was dedicated solely to making things for my baby so swatching didn't seem necessary because I figured he could grow into his knitted garments (lazy girl reasoning, I know). Then I came up with a raglan cotton sweater pattern for myself and surprise! My first attempt came out a tad short in the tummy. I blocked the dickens so much out of that garment the cotton nearly slapped me back. Lesson learned: When coming up with a pattern, don't go with the gauge on the yarn label, brainy act. Knit. A. Swatch.

So these past few days have been swatch city for my new projects. Don't believe me? Take a look at how my table looked this morning. When my husband saw all those swatches, he said, "Making waffles?" Funny guy. I guess they do look like waffles. But waffles that saved me from possible badly-sized garments. The swatches in beige cotton were knit using metal needles of varying sizes, and the swatches in cream-colored cotton were knit using bamboo needles of varying sizes. The swatch in straight stockinette stitch is for my husband's raglan sweater, and the swatches in box stitch are for my pretty cotton jacket. Please note that all swatches are done in the same yarn (Aviso, by Phildar), but it took me two swatches to get to the pattern's gauge of 16 sts per 10 cm of stockinette stitch for my husband's raglan sweater (prize goes to addi turbo's, size 4.5mm) and it took me four swatches (there are two swatches missing from the picture) to get to the pattern's gauge of 17 sts per 10 cm of box stitch for my pretty cotton jacket (prize goes to crystal palace bamboo's, size 4mm). Yarn gauge is 17 sts per 10 cm on 5mm needles. Imagine how my knitting would have looked if I hadn't swatched? And that, my friends, is why swatching is my pal.

Speaking of pals (and on an entirely unrelated note), look what's on the needles for you, Carolyn:

That sure is a purdy color!

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14 comments to this entry:

I'm known as Swatch Lady in my knitting group. Not only do I knit multiple swatches (some yarns are so darn hard to get to gauge) but I wash and block them, too. I used a Pingouin Coeur de Laine for hubby's sweater last year and it softened up so much after washing that even after swatching, his sweater still grew. I then realized that paying attention to recommended needle size on the yarn label is important, too. I used a needle that was one size larger than the recommended and, boy, did that baby grow. I still haven't shortened the sleeves for him either. Bad Wife.

All right, all right, I hear you. I'll swatch before I start the next sweater. I've already read the pattern a number of times, and I don't understand the short-rowing thing about the sleeves at all (I'm going to make the same Phildar sweater you just did for your son), but I'll figure it out. Or ask my mother. Or bother you...

my latest big dream is to felt a multicolor coat...knowing swatch and felt will be my life for a long long while. i have been reading 'fulling around with felting' in which 8 inch square swatches are recommended. also been reading elizabeth zimmermann ~a chapter titled 'gauge:required reading' we knit and learn:)

I always hated swatching because when I was a newbie, a swatch was a big commitment--a good night's work. Now I can whirl one off fast enough that it doesn't bother me to do (so much). Plus, as you say, baby things are more forgiving. :-)

i am suffering from terminal gauge-angst, despite my swatching efforts. i think i need an impartial other to check the gauge on my swatches, as i must be deluded by wishful thinking; my swatches keep coming out right on gauge, and then my projects are tighter, eg. smaller gauge. dang! sad velma. i am ripping out no less than *3* count 'em, 3 projects right now, 1 for the 2nd time. ah well, learning curve will flatten out soon, i trust.

p.s. very envious of carolyn's piece. lovely! cheers, v

ooooooo, so pretty! :) hee hee hee..... everyone wants to be me!

i keep coming back to look at it again and again! :) purty pink! wee hee!

Very admirable swatching there, Becky. If only you could do my swatching too, or better yet, you swatch and I'll explain to my yarn: "lookie here, yarn, Becky got gauge with these needles, so what's your problem?" ;)

I know what you mean. I started knitting about 2 years ago and have so many UFO's that I knitted half way and didn't realise that the measurements were way off. Now I am a smart kid and swatch!

Oh how great minds think alike.....I find it fascinating (yup, easily entertained am I) at the profound differences in knitted product between Addi & CP needles....just that nth of a mm difference in needle size means success or failure.

Very interesting to read about your experiences with knitting swatches. I cringe when I hear someone defiantely proclaim, "I DON'T KNIT SWATCHES" in a dismissive tone.
Well don't come cryin' to me when your project looks like hell. ;)

I'm glad to see that there are others who share my thoughts re swatching! Frankly, I don't like it. But now I cannot start a project without swatching first. It's like a rule.

John, your comment made me laugh out loud. Whenever I hear anybody say that "I DON'T KNIT SWATCHES" phrase - sometimes even condescendingly, like I'm a fool girl for even wasting my time doing it - what goes through my head is exactly what you wrote. Tee hee.

I too used to not swatch... now I have seen the error of my ways. Also, I have learned to WASH THE SWATCH like you mean to when the project is done... my beautiful tank for my tiny mother grew three sizes that night and now it looks like a sack on her. >:( Alas.

Hi Becky,

Since gauge not important to a scarf or dishcloth, I don't remember the last time I knit a swatch! I have an idea though...instead of worrying about wasting the yarn, why not make a larger swatch and donate it to one of the blanket making projects? For example, in North Americal, Michaels has a program called 'Warm up America" and "Bankets for Canada". Knitters and crocheters donate 7" x 9" squares. Volunteers put them together to make afghans to donate to those in need.


Love that purdy pink!!!

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