Today, I'm reviewing swatching as it seems like we can't emphasize it enough! I don't know how many people have come into the store lately who've gone to the trouble to knit up a sweater only to find out it's too big and have to either give it away or frog it and start again! I'll be the first to admit that swatching can be a drag when you're excited to get started but I've learned through experience that if I want to make a garment fit correctly the first time with no tears or frustrations then I must knit a proper swatch before I begin. It's worth the effort and is never a waste of time.
As Diane Soucy (of Knitting Pure and Simple) says: "A tiny difference in your stitch gauge will make a HUGE difference in the size of your finished garment."
There are two vitally important measurements you need to know to making a garment fit correctly.
- The first is to know the finished measurements of a similar garment that fits you well. Please watch our video How to Decide What Size Sweater to Make to help you with this measurement.
- The second is to get the exact pattern gauge.
The first step to getting pattern gauge is to compare it to the suggested gauge on the yarn label. If the pattern gauge and yarn gauge are close then the yarn will work for your pattern. You will still have to swatch and possibly adjust your needle size to get exact pattern gauge.
This is where swatching is so important. There are a number of ways to knit up a swatch but the most accurate measurement for your gauge will be to knit up a large swatch in stockinette, 30 to 40 stitches wide and 4” tall, use the exact needles you will be using for your project. Don't expect to cast-on the number of stitches needed in 4” and expect it to measure 4”, it won't! Edge stitches, cast on & bind off all effect gauge so you want to have sufficient swatch to measure well away from all. If you will be knitting in the round you will need to swatch in the round.
To measure gauge on your swatch:
- First, launder the swatch as you would the finished garment (steam it if it will be dry cleaned). This is important because yarn can bloom or shrink! Bloom means to expand or plump up and I think we all know about shrinking.
- Once the swatch is dry, lay it flat.
- Use a gauge check tool or a good ruler, measure no closer to any edge than 1”.
- Then count how many stitches there are in a full 4". Be sure to count quarter and half stitches or even an eighth of a stitch-- it will make a difference in the size of your finished sweater.
- If you have too few stitches per inch then your gauge is loose, work another swatch with a smaller needle.
- If you have to many stitches per inch then your gauge is tight, work another swatch with a larger needle.
- Repeat this process until you get the gauge called for in the
pattern. Some people will just purl a few rows and try the next needle size, this can work but to get the most accurate gauge, bind off and begin a new swatch.
Always take the time to swatch and measure gauge! You won't regret it!
Any questions or suggestions for topics you want to read about, please email them to me at askTerry at jimmybeanswool dot com.