Swatching is probably my least favorite part of knitting. It runs a close second to weaving in all the yarn tails. When it’s time to begin a new project, I’m always so excited to start and there’s an inner battle . . swatch or don’t swatch. It only matters (to me) with projects that need to fit. For non-knitters, each pattern will indicate a gauge . . say 20 stitches over 4″. Because all knitters have a different tension on their yarn, several of us using the same yarn could get a complete different gauge. If the pattern is written for 20 stitches over 4″, and I’m getting 24 stitches over 4″, then my garment is going to be too small. With the recommended gauge, 80 stitches would equal 16″. But with 24 stitches over 4″, the piece would be about 13-1/2″. When making a sweater that has maybe 200 stitches on the needles, that could make a huge difference . . at the correct gauge, you would have 40″. At 24 stitches over 4″, you would have about 33-1/2″.
I’m just about to finish up my Dunbar wrap and begin a new sweater so I took a break from Dunbar and swatched for the new project. For this project, I’m not concerned about rows so much as stitches per inch so I did a fairly short swatch. If rows mattered, I’d have made it about 6″ x 6″.
Sheri at The Loopy Ewe has a great blog article on swatching. Knitters, or knitter wannabes, you may want to check it out. It encouraged me to swatch every time . . even though I’ll probably have that argument with myself before every project.
A reader recently shared this tip: When swatching, tie knots in the tail to respresent the size needle being used. I was using a size 6 needle so I tied 6 knots in the tail. That way, until I get my swatch filed away in my little swatch notebook, I can look at it and know it was knitted on a size 6 needle.
If I’m determined to use a particular yarn for a project, and the swatch isn’t correct, I can go up or down a needle size, or maybe two, to get the correct gauge. In the end, it really isn’t that much work to be sure the garment I’m making is going to fit.