Why & How to Knit a Swatch

While it can be difficult to muster the patience to knit a swatch, we promise, it is so worth it. This is particularly true if you’re knitting garments that you would like to fit in a certain way…like sweaters! For this article we’re giving you an overview on swatching and gauge. We’ll also provide a few of our favorite tips and tricks to make your swatching successful. So whether you’re brand new to knitting or more experienced, we hope this article motivates you to make a big and beautiful swatch for your next project.

SWATCHING

One of the things I love best about summer in the yarn biz is that all the yarn makers and distributors have new yarns to try out.

HOW TO SWATCH?

With your project yarn and needles, begin by casting on with your preferred method, or the method given in the pattern. If it’s a cast on method that you haven’t worked before, this is a great way to try it out and see if you like it.  Work a few rows of a flat stitch such as garter stitch, ribbing, or seed stitch (or the stitch used in the pattern) to anchor the bottom edge of the swatch, so it doesn’t curl up. Then, keep working the first and last 2-3 stitches of every row in garter stitch, to prevent the sides from curling inward.

Then work a few more rows in garter stitch or ribbing and bind off. You don’t have to weave in your ends if you don’t want to! Take a photo and/or write down what needles you used so you don’t forget.

Swatch Knitting Tips:-

  • Use the Same Yarn and Needles
    It probably goes without saying, but in order to measure your gauge, you must make the swatch using the same yarn and needles that you intend to use for the project.

  • Go Big or Go Home
    Many knitters make their swatches too small, leading to inaccurate gauge readings. In order to measure your knitting tension correctly, you should try to make your swatches 6-8″ square.

     

  • You should also accommodate for uneven stitches at the edges of your swatch by using a 4-stitch garter edging on either side and 6 rows of garter stitch at the top and bottom.
  • An easy way to calculate the number of stitches to cast on for your swatch is to take the number of stitches per 10cm/4″ recommended in the pattern and multiply it by 1.5. You might want to play around with this number to accommodate a stitch pattern repeat. Then add 8 stitches to that number for the garter edging.
  • E.g. If my pattern wants me to get 22 sts and 28 rows per 10cm/4″, then I would multiply 22 by 1.5 to get 33. I would round that up to 34 because I like even numbers. Then I would add 8 sts for the edging to give me a final cast on of 42. This might seem like a lot, but a larger swatch like this will give you a far more accurate gauge reading.
  • Block your Swatch
    We all know that blocking does wonders for any handknit, but do you block your swatches? Blocking your swatch before you measure the gauge will allow for any shrinkage.
  • If you are planning to stretch block your project, you should do the same with your swatch by pinning it out to dry. Otherwise, leave your swatch in its relaxed, unpinned, state to dry. It won’t look as neat and straight as a pinned out swatch, but you will get a more accurate reading.
  • Knit Flat or in the Round, Depending on the Pattern
    Most knitters will find that their gauge in the round differs from their gauge when knitting flat. This is because some people’s purl stitches are a little looser than their knit stitches. If your pr