Every week, I swatch for fun. But sometimes I need to swatch for gauge. While my fundamental swatches have flexible criteria as to what makes them effective tools, I make sure to work my gauge swatches diligently. There are some truths that are universal for both knit and crochet gauge swatches.
Gauge swatches are important and tell me what I need to know to work the project, and what might need to change so it’s a successful project.
Do swatches lie?
This is a common misconception. Swatches don’t lie, however they might not tell the full truth.
Here are three potential reasons your swatch may not be entirely truthful:
- It’s too small to measure accurately or it’s not worked in the same manner as the project. Working in the round is different from in rows.
- As you become familiar with the stitch pattern your tension may loosen.
- You didn’t block it in the manner you plan for the project.
The fixes are straightforward, though there’s no shortcut: if gauge matters for your project, then you need to take the time to make a proper swatch.
You can’t stop halfway through and say close enough.
You need to work the swatch as you plan to work the project, from choosing your tools to finishing.
5 Tips for a truth telling swatch
- Use the hook/needle/cable that you plan to use. Don’t use a smaller interchangeable needle cable because the swatch is only a few inches wide. I work differently on a shorter circular needle than I do a long one. I often go through several crochet hooks to find the one that fits not only for my gauge but to successfully work a stitch pattern.
- Make it big enough! Don’t you want an excuse to buy more yarn? I am confident that your 4 inch square (10cm) swatch will differ from your 42 inch (107cm) blanket. You don’t have to make your swatches massive (unless you want) however, a few additional inches help you to take several measurements to determine your stitch tension.
- Work the swatch as you mean to work the project. If that means at night in front of the TV with a glass of wine, then cheers! (via Amy Herzog)
- Make more than one swatch. Make a smaller fun(damental) one to work out the stitch pattern. Once you are confident on the stitch, then cast on a nice sized one to work completely.
- Block it as you mean to block. Toss it in water for a wet block. If you plan to steam, then get out the iron. If it’s a a fabric that might lengthen, then block it vertically.
Beyond the Square
Do you still find swatches a waste of yarn and time? Turn them into projects in their own right.
- Group swatches of similar yarns together and seam them into a scarf… or eventually a blanket.
- Work the swatch into a 6-11 inch (15-28cm) wide by 22 inch (56cm) rectangle, seam the short ends together. Voilà! You have a cowl.
- Mount it in a frame. (Here’s another way.)
- Practical tips on Swatching
- Thinking beyond the pattern
- How to Measure Hanging Gauge
- A Swatch is Sublime, It Even Saves Time
- The joy of swatching
- Are you committing a gauge sin?