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Knitting Hints & Tips #2: Why You Need to Make a Knitted Swatch

There are several reasons to make a knitted swatch before beginning a project.

  • Perhaps the most important reason is to determine gauge. You need to know exactly how many stitches and rows of your knitting equal 1 inch.
  • It is also important to check the way the yarn and stitch pattern interact, especially if you are changing the yarn indicated in pattern instructions you are following.
  • You will also need a swatch if you are changing the stitch given in the knitting directions. This is very important because gauge changes as stitch changes. For example, cables draw the knitting in and result in more stitches per inch. Similarly, lace stretches both horizontally and vertically because of all the yarn overs you are doing and this results in fewer stitches and rows per inch. These changes in gauge with fancy stitches as opposed to stockinette continues with each type of stitch -- slip stitch patterns, fair isle, twisted stitches, and so on.
  • It is also important to make a large swatch so that you can see and feel what your fabric is going to look like. Sometimes when designing we assume that a particular yarn will drape in a certain way, but when it is knitted up we may be surprised to see and feel a fabric that is stiffer or limper than we imagined.

  • Finally, it is important to knit a swatch so that you can see what happens when the swatch is steamed, washed, fulled, or whatever you are planning to do to the final garment.
  • For more information on swatches see next week's KnittingGuru Tip: How to Make a Knitted Swatch.