Where I write about knitting, crocheting and lace, and, on occasion general comments on other topics

Things Learned from a Swatch

Written by: Lindy

It took me years to appreciate the value of doing a swatch before starting a knitting project. I cannot tell you how many poorly fitted sweaters I knit before I came to realize that it truly was worth the time and effort to swatch first.

I learned this when I bought my first knitting machine. You see, when you are using a knitting machine, you can’t even get started without doing that swatch – as you need it to tell you if you have your machine tension set up correctly. It only takes one frustrating experience with a too tight tension on the knitting machine to convince you of the necessity for doing a swatch or two.

Swatching also provides you as a knitter the freedom to become, as Elizabeth Zimmermann says, “The boss of your knitting”. If you know your gauge, and understand the basics of the design you are wanting to make – you are free to modify any pattern – or MAKE YOUR OWN.

So, I always swatch. This last weekend I did a swatch using the Baby Ull yarns that I purchased to knit a sweater and romper for my new grandson due the end of January. I had a couple of extra reasons for doing this swatch beyond determining what size needle I needed to obtain the stated pattern gauge. First, I wanted to try out the three color pattern for the sweater and get comfortable with it. Second, I wanted to see if I liked the color combinations of the yarns in the color pattern.

Swatch_Cardigan1 Here’s a picture of the swatch. I cast on 44 stitches so that I could have a 40 stitch area surrounded by a 2 stitch garter stitch edging. I started using US 2 (3.00 mm) needles and then switched to a smaller US 1 (2.50 mm) needle for the last part of the swatch. I did a section of garter stitch, then stockinette stitch, then the color pattern using the lighter aqua blue as the main color and then switched to using the darker teal blue as the main color. I finished the swatch by doing a section of sockinette stitch on the smaller needles, followed by a section of garter stitch.

Here’s what I learned from this swatch: 1) I need to use smaller needles than what is stated in the pattern in order to obtain gauge. This is important because I want this sweater to fit. 2) I like using the darker teal blue as the main color – I think the lighter aqua blue shows up better against it than the other way around. This is significant – because I bought 7 balls of the lighter aqua and only 1 ball of the darker teal. (I have now ordered enough teal to make the sweater, as my LYS did not have enough of it on hand…) 3) The 3 color pattern is fairly simple and easy to knit. I think it’s good to practice such things before starting off on a special project like this.

So to those readers who “hate to swatch”: do you see the value of what I did here? Swatching is a valuable technique that helps you be the “boss of your knitting”. Now go swatch!

2 Responses to “Things Learned from a Swatch”

  1. Amanda says:

    Swatching. Yeah I’ve not been good about doing it. I need to get into the habit though.

  2. […] — I swatched some more on this cardigan project. Earlier I had posted about Things Learned from a Swatch. Well, I continued to be dissatisfied with my color selections — I really just do not like […]