Tuesday, December 4, 2018
HOW TO KNIT AN ACCURATE GAUGE SWATCH
The dreaded word. This is the part of a knitting project that no one ever wants to do. However, swatching is essential especially if you’re knitting a garment that needs to fit correctly.
Rarely if ever does any knitter get the exact gauge shown in a pattern. We all knit differently and even though you may use the same needle size your knitting will probably not be the same as on the pattern
If your gauge is off, your garment will most likely not match the pattern’s finished measurements and will probably not fit as you expect it to fit. Also, in order to insure proper fit you should know your body measurements and understand the ease built into the garment. Some have very little ease and your finished project might be too tight others have a lot of ease and might be looser than you like.
Be sure to use the same yarn and the same needles for your swatch as you will for your project. Most needles of the same size are not exactly the same and even the needle material can change your gauge. Steel needles are more slippery than Bamboo or wood and that will also make a difference in your gauge
Bigger is Better
I repeat no one likes to swatch. You do it just because you know you should but you want to get it done and move on. Often knitters make their swatches too small. This leads to inaccurate gauge readings. In order to measure your knitting gauge correctly your swatches should be about an 8 inch square.
Always add 4 stitches of garter stitch on both sides and the top and bottom of your swatch. Just doing stockinette stitch will produce a swatch that will not lay flat when bound off and therefore will not will not read your gauge correctly.
To decide how many stitches to cast on for your swatch look at the gauge recommenced in the pattern. So for example, if the pattern tells you that 20 stitches and 20 rows = 4 inches. Cast on
1 ½ times that amount (30 stitches in my example) and then add 8 stitches to that number for the garter edging for a total of 38 stitches. The larger the swatch the more accurate your gauge will be.
We all know that very often blocking is important especially if your piece will have any lace. Blocking will allow for any changes that may happen when you wash your garment. Sometimes you
might plan to block to stretch a project. This is almost always true with Shawls but is often also true for a sweater. If you are planning on stretching your finished work you should also do this with your swatch to determine the amount of stretch which again will give you a more accurate gauge.
If you are planning to stretch block your project, you should wet it and pin it out stretched to dry. Otherwise, If your garment will not need to be stretched leave your swatch in its relaxed, unpinned, state to dry. You may also just want to steam block your swatch if it will be dry cleaned. It won’t look as neat and straight as a pinned out swatch, but you will get a more accurate reading for what you will be making.
One more consideration is if you will be knitting flat or in the round. For most knitters the gauge will differ if your swatch is flat but you will be knitting in the round. The reason for this is that most often our purl stitches are looser than our knit stitches and when you knit in the round you are usually only doing knit stitches.
Here is a Craftsy link to making a swatch for knitting in the www.craftsy.com/knitting/article/gauge-swatch-round/
To swatch for knitting in the round cast on the required number of stitches you have determined you need for your swatch using a circular needle and work the first 4 rows, knitting every row for a garter stitch border . Now begin your mock knitting in the round. Keeping the first and last 4 stitches of each row in garter stitch
Do not turn your work, slide the stitches with the right side facing you to the other end of the needle. Your yarn will be attached on the other side. VERY loosely carry your yarn in the back of your work and work row 2. You will be always be knitting on the right side remembering to work your edge stitches.
Keep repeating this, always working with the right side facing you and be sure that your floats on the back are extra loose so that when you bind off you will be able to make your swatch flat. If when you are finished your floats are too tight you will need to cut them. When you have completed the swatch work 4 rows of garter stitch.
Bind off and block if necessary before measuring. You will measure the stitches inside the border. Divide the number of stitches you have between the borders by the number of inches you measured. If you have 20 stitches and your swatch measured inside the edges 4 inches you will divide 20 (the number of stitches) by 4 (the number of inches) and get a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch.
If you are knitting a pattern or a cable you need to do this on your swatch as well.
Your gauge may come out to be a fraction. Do not ignore this. If your gauge is 5.25 it will be very different over a large amount of stitches than a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch. Never round up or down.
Am I finished Now?
If your swatch is spot on great. You can safely cast on. But what if it is not?
If your swatch is too small (your stitches are tighter) you have more stitches to the inch than you wanted. This will produce a smaller garment. Go up to one needle size larger and make a new swatch.
If your swatch is too big.( Your stitches are looser) go down a needle size and make a new swatch.
How about row gauge? Row gauge is important in patterns with repeats but for pain knitting I do not usually worry too much about it. You will knit to the desired length as either given in the pattern or to meet your measurements. You might want the body or the sleeve length different from what the pattern calls for.
While Swatching might not be something you love doing it will be worth it in the end when you have produced exactly what you wanted and expected. So many knitters just pick out a size on a pattern and get to work only to be disappointed in the end with something that doesn’t fit. By knowing your correct gauge you also also might find that you can knit a different size in that pattern. You might think that you are a Large but the pattern could be designed with a lot of ease making the sweater much wider than what you want and you might be able to go down one size or go up one size if the fit is tighter than you want. Having correct gauge information before you knit will be worth the time you took swatching.
Posted by The Patchwork Frog Knitting Blog