There were, like, five other things I was planning to post today – they’re really piling up. But let’s talk swatching, because Norma’s post reminded me of some stuff I’ve been meaning to mention for ages.
1. I don’t mind swatching.
Sometimes I’ll swatch a new yarn instead of starting a new project, because it’s less commitment.
2. I only swatch yarns I haven’t used before, or yarns I haven’t used in a really long time.
Or one of those annoying patterns that makes you measure gauge across some crazy-ass stitch pattern.
3. Sometimes I don’t bother to swatch.
Usually if I go down 2 needle sizes from the pattern or label specs I get the right gauge.
4. It’s okay to do this, but you have to be honest.
You may find, after knitting a few inches, that you’re not at the right gauge. If that happens, you have to rip back and try again.
Are you willing to do that? Can you resist the pull of denial? If not, then maybe you should swatch.
5. I used to keep all my swatches, nicely labeled, in their own separate tub.
Then someone (Rachael?) said something like, “Seriously? Why? I always just rip back my swatch and use the yarn to start knitting my project.”
Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?
So that’s what I do now.
6. Sometimes there’s no point to swatching.
For example, I almost never swatch for something that’s going to be knit in the round. My gauge is always way different knitting in the round versus knitting back and forth.
There are ways to fake it for the swatch, but they never give me the right number. Your true gauge only comes out when you fall into the zone, and that’s not going to happen when you’re (e.g.) sliding your swatch back and forth and carrying the yarn across the back, or knitting a teeny tube of 24 stitches distributed across DPNs.
When I knit something in the round on a new yarn, I just go down two needle sizes, cast on, and cross my fingers. After an inch or two I’ll check the gauge. I may even wash and block it first, depending on the yarn.
7. Don’t just rely on the ball band for gauge.
A lot of manufacturers
lie err on the loose side with their recommended gauge. I guess they have an easier time selling yarn with a looser recommended gauge. Maybe the label specifies 4 st/inch. But you don’t get decent results unless you knit it at 5 st/inch, or even 5.5 st/inch.
(Cascade 220, I’m looking at you.)
8. Tighter is usually better.
Loose gauge makes sad projects. It creates sweaters that sag, hats that lose their shape, and socks that puddle around your ankles.
9. Swatching won’t tell you everything.
Just as an example, you can get an awesome gauge with dishcloth cotton in a 6-inch swatch. But if you use that yarn and those needles to make a sweater… it’s going to sag like crazy, due to the weight, and the nature of the yarn.
10. There’s one thing I NEVER swatch.
Patterns that require you to get N st/inch over a ribbing or pattern that’s “slightly stretched.”
Screw you and your “slightly stretched,” I don’t even know what that MEANS. I just knit it, and count on the elasticity of the ribbing to get me where I want to be.