The Art of Swatching

By Coralie, in How to How to: knitting Myrtille1 Comment

The holidays are coming up and certainly with it the urge to make some hand-made gifts!

The Art of Swatching - Pin in Swatch

You’re certainly wondering why on earth would I cast on something new with my “unfinished-projects-sorting-month” ahead. Well some people just deserve a special treat, and besides some knits are relatively quick.

However if you’re in need of a reason for swatching, Myrtille, my new pattern for the Swiss Delights Yarn Kit is coming out in the beginning of next year.
If you don’t want to miss out on a fun KAL, with great yarn or simply need a perfect gift for a knitter, order your kit now!
Better hurry, the subscriptions end on December 15th.

Now enough said about future projects, this post is all about the fine art of swatching and how you can easily become a master at it! 😉
Nerdy knitting post ahead, you’ve been warned!

When starting something new, the first step after choosing the yarn and project is to do a swatch. I’m going to pretend that I’m not hearing people complaining about it and that you all do it regularly, your knitting and especially your unfinished project pile will thank you for it! 😉

The Art of Swatching - Swatch

Doing a swatch is also the best way to test a yarn and the needle size you need. It’ll also help answering a lot of question such as: Does the yarn drape well, does it pile at lot? How does the variegated yarn affect the stitch pattern? I guarantee that knowing these answers will save you a lot of headaches.

Because you want to treat your swatch like you would your finish object, don’t hesitate to put it into your handbag for a few days and see how it behaves. You’ll also need to block it in order to have a accurate measurement of your gauge.

The Art of Swatching - Blocking

Besides increasing the quality of your knitting or unless you don’t plan on ever washing your beautiful cable sweater you took months to knit, blocking will avoid the nasty surprise of finding out that the yarn and stitch pattern grew a lot when soaked. The idea here is determining if you have the right gauge when your knitting is finished and in doing so, making sure you’ll have enough yarn to finish it.
Plus getting your yarn wet will also let you see if the colour pools.

Don’t panic, it’s a quick process. Most of the time only soaking your swatch in the water for a few minutes, removing the excess of water, pinning without stretching it is enough. Simple, efficient and fast, what’s not to love?

A good swatch consist of casting on at least four more stitches than what the gauge requires. Then knit across the two first rows and continue in stockinette stitch (or stitch pattern required by the gauge) always knitting the first and last 2 stitches. Finish with two knit rows before binding off. What the knit stitches do is add a border thus preventing the swatch from rolling.

And remember, the bigger the swatch is, the better!

It’s also a useful idea to label and keep your swatches for futur reference, you can even keep the yarn label attached to it. That way you won’t have to knit a new one each time you’re knitting with the same yarn.

The Art of Swatching - Needle size trick

To remember the needle size used, a simple trick is to knit a row doing a yo, k2tog for each size. If, like me you prefer to remember it in millimeter, half sizes  (ex: 4,5) can be a problem. An good method is to use a purl stitch on the right side to indicate the half mm. Ex: (yo, k2tog) four times, purl one = 4.5mm needle.

The last thing to do is measure the gauge and compare it to the one required.
Remember that the stitch gauge equals the horizontal measurement and the row gauge the vertical one. You want to get the stitch gauge spot on while the rows are less crucial because they are often given in the form of measurements.

The Art of Swatching - Measuring

I hope this convinced you of the fun and usefulness of swatching! It’s certainly is an invaluable skill to have, remember it the next time you start something new.

  • Pat

    Thanks for all this precious information on swatching. I think the idea for remembering what needle size you used on a particular swatch is a great tip and the two rows of knitting to prevent the swatch from rolling up. Good thinking batwoman!!