I confess, I am not the world’s most dedicated swatcher.
Most knitters know what a swatch is (it’s a sample size of how your yarn will behave with a certain size needle), but just in case here’s a little explanation of how to swatch correctly.
Back to the confession, because confession is good for the soul, right? I tend to swatch for an inch or so, maybe as much as three, to make sure that I get the right gauge. If my gauge isn’t coming out right, and it usually isn’t, I switch to a small size needle. With me, I almost always know I need to go smaller. I keep going smaller until I get to the correct gauge. If I’m really feeling
sassy lucky, I do the gauge swatch as part of the garment. This works especially “well” with sleeves and sock cuffs. Just cast on the number of stitches for the sleeve and away I go. I measure after a few inches and then rip and redo if need be.
There’s just one teeny tiny problem. Knitting tends to behave differently once it’s been washed. Yarn blooms, the fibers stretch out, sometimes it acts completely differently from the yarn you think you had. All of a sudden that perfect gauge swatch is big and floppy. The sock cuff that fit perfectly is now sagging down around your ankles. Not to mention what happens to a perfectly good sweater. To get a completely accurate gauge swatch, you really need to wash and block your swatch first.
And that’s where I tend to cut corners.
As in I don’t do it at all. Or at least I didn’t. After my last two sweaters haven’t fit as well as I’d like, I am trying to turn over a new leaf. I have swatched for my April sweater – the February Lady Sweater/Sweater on Two Needles sized for an almost 8 year old girl. I’m also proactively swatching for my May sweater, done in fingering weight alpaca.
Wish me luck in turning over this new leaf. I’m a little nervous about the sizing for the April sweater, but I figure if my gauge still leads me wrong at least this time it will fit my 6 year old instead of being given away to a much taller person.