Guest Post: Swatch Like a Pro

Have you heard about the 30 Day Sweater Challenge? Happening in October, this is a KAL to help 5,000 knitters around the world knit a sweater they’ll love, in 30 days. To sign up just visit and download your free Sweater Planning Guide. It will help you get started on the right foot! I am quite excited about this – I have knit a handful of sweaters, but really only love a select few. You have to start somewhere, and I’m hoping to swatch up my yarn today. I think I might do Cassis, or the Purl Bee’s Sweatshirt Sweater, though I have admired Notre Dame De Grace for so long as well and the Long Sands Cardigan is very appealing too.  Today, I’m hosting a guest post all about swatching! Let me know if you are going to try it – I’d love to hear about it!!


Swatch Like A Pro”

Gauge. It is the most important number in knitting and yet somehow is also the part of knitting a sweater that people most often skip over or speed through. It’s understandable. Of course it’s a lot more fun to just start knitting your sweater than to bother knitting a couple of boring little squares. But imagine this, a world where every project you knit ends up exactly the size you anticipate, where every sweater fits perfectly and everyone lives in peace and harmony. Well maybe not that last part, but a world of nicely fitting, proportional knits does exist! Lets take a look at four details that will get you on your way to swatching like a pro so you can knit a sweater that fits and you will be proud to wear!

Knit a Large Swatch & Bind Off

To get a swatch that is large enough to measure properly it should be about 5” x 5” in the stitch pattern that you will be knitting your sweater out of or in the stitch pattern that is called for. Below is a chart that gives you about how many stitches and rows to knit for a good sized swatch.

Yarn Weight Stitches to Cast On Minimum #of Rows
Fingering 40 48
Sport 32 40
Worsted 28 36
Bulky 24 32

After you have finished knitting your swatch, bind off. Leaving your swatch on the needles makes it easy to stretch the fabric and you could end up with an inaccurate measurement.

Wash & Block Your Swatch

This step would be very easy to skip because it seems like a total overachiever move, some sort of extra credit that you can brag about to your knitting group. But it turns out, all fibers react to washing and blocking differently.  Your swatch may grow or shrink, but if you don’t treat it like you would your finished garment you may never know and end up with a big surprise when your “perfect gauge sweater” ends up too small for your chihuahua after you wash it.

After you have finished (and bound off) your swatch make sure to wash it like you will wash your finished garment. If you’re unsure how to wash and block your swatch use the following instructions.

1. Soak finished swatch in warm water for 10-15 minutes, gently squeezing out all air bubbles.

2. Drain sink and squeeze out excess water, being careful not to twist or wring fabric.

3.Roll your swatch in a clean, dry towel, burrito-style and stomp on rolled towel from end-to-end.

4. Remove swatch. Fabric should feel damp but not saturated.

5. Once you have your swatch washed lay it out flat on a flat surface. Let it dry completely.

Measure Your Swatch

Using a RULER – not a tape measure, measure 4 inches in the center of the swatch for both stitches (horizontal) and rows (vertical).

Place a straight pin in-between the stitch columns to mark the beginning and then place another at the 4 inch mark. Be sure to place the second pin exactly at the 4 inch mark, DO NOT fudge the numbers to get a certain gauge.

Repeat this step TWO MORE times in different areas of the swatch.

Add all three measurements together, then divide by 3 to find the average stitch measurement over 4 inches. Averaging the measurements from different areas of your swatch ensures the accuracy of your gauge numbers. Repeat to find row gauge.

Adjust Until Your Gauge Is Perfect

Sometimes making one swatch isn’t enough. If you, knit a swatch and it isn’t exactly what is called for in the pattern, you’ll need make a second swatch with a different needle size. But sometimes knowing what needle to switch to can be confusing. It can be tempting to just stretch your knitting a little bit to get the gauge you want instead of making a new swatch. Just remember that if your gauge is off by even half a stitch per inch it can mean the difference of a few inches on your completed sweater. If you are getting too many stitches per inch that means that your stitches are too small. Try going up a needle size.If you aren’t getting enough stitches per inch that means that your stitches are too big. Try going down a needle size.

After you’ve made any necessary adjustments and have achieved your desired gauge you can cast on with confidence that your sweater will turn out at your desired dimensions.

As you are knitting your swatch make sure to relax and knit how you will be knitting the rest of your sweater. If you are concentrating on making a perfect gauge swatch and then knit your sweater while you are relaxed and watching tv you may end up with a looser gauge. Try to make knitting your swatch as much like knitting your actual project as possible so you don’t end up with inconsistency between your swatch gauge and your actual gauge.

If you’d like to learn more about getting gauge and everything else that goes into preparing to knit a sweater, download our free Sweater Planning Guide. In this guide we talk about choosing a suitable yarn, how much yarn to buy and how to plan a sweater that you’ll love!

Click here to download

This guest post is a part of the 30 Day Sweater Challenge promo tour. Join us this October as we help 5,000 knitters around the world knit a sweater they’ll love, in 30 days. To sign up just visit and download your free Sweater Planning Guide. It will help you get started on the right foot! See you in October!


First, thank you for putting good thoughts / prayers / vibes out into the universe for my niece this week.  Her surgery went well and so far, recovery is looking good.  I’m going to share the Heartcat I made one more time, because I am so super proud of it and I got possibly the best feedback on it ever – my SIL said she held on to Heartcat during Vi’s surgery, it was a comfort to her as well.  That is a powerful handmade project right there.  The pattern was great, and the crochet stitches were not any more complicated that simple increases / decreases.  I will make this again.

picture006My second project this week is my Windschief hat! Knit in a game of yarn chicken, I did not have enough of my Malabrigo Rios to finish this hat until a knitter friend very kindly shared with me. Her skein of yarn was much more green than my skein, but it all works out just fine, and even if I could tell the difference, it’s on the top of my head. I have been wearing it a lot since I finished it last night – I put it on right away, then today it’s chilly in my house, so it’s on again. My husband took it and wore it this morning while getting breakfast ready – he was surprised that you could wear a hand knit hat in the house and not overheat.  I would make this pattern again. My only hold up is I feel like because the twisted rib section pulls the fabric a bit, I can’t quite figure out where on my head to place that rib section – it’s like the hat doesn’t sit evenly on my head. I’m probably overthinking this. I made the large size, it nice fits my head and hair and covers my ears, it also fits my husband’s head!

Here’s to a restful weekend with lots of restorative crafting!


Waiting on WIP Wednesday

Today is a tough day. Violet is having open heart surgery. I’m waiting, hoping, praying, and sending as many positive thoughts as I can out into the universe. I am welcoming distractions of my own kids and work, and my yarn is not far (right next to my computer actually, and at my feet). I have an almost-finished Windschief hat, I am short by several yards, but luckily another knitter has the same yarn and is helping me after that foolish game of yarn chicken (I love that phrase!). The collar on my Morning Coffee is slowly but surely moving along (how is it possible that 4 inches feels like you have to knit 4 feet?). I worked a bit on the Rainbow Latte socks; they need to be measured for a double check, but I am pretty sure they are ready for some heel work. I started a dinosaur for Nate and I have started a wee pair of socks for Violet to help keep monitors in place. I picked up a book based purely on title and cover photo, then I realized it was written by a blogger who I had given up on reading / following. I gave the book a two-chapter chance and we’re not clicking, so that will go back to the library. It’s a meh sort of day and I really don’t feel like pulling out the projects for a photo, so instead I turn to pinterest.  Give your kids a hug.

(Most awesome Threadless Shirt appropriate for today I think)



I Heart Team Violet

Team violetLast week my family received some very big, not very good, news about the littlest and newest member of our family. My niece Violet was diagnosed with several Congenital Heart defects. She had an emergency catheter procedure on her heart and will have to endure a few more open heart surgeries (one this week) to make things right. We are hopeful and positive and the outlook is good, but it will be one day at a time until she’s there. I crave information in things like this so that I can get my head to stop spinning and wrap my brain around this set of complications. The bare bones of what she has include:

  • Her aorta and pulmonary artery are flipped – in opposite positions from where they are found in a normal heart. (Official: TGA = Transposition of the Great Arteries)
  • She doesn’t have a mitral valve connecting the upper and lower left hand chambers.(Mitral Atresia or Congenital Absence of Mitral Valve)
  • She also doesn’t have a wall between the right and left ventricle (lower chambers) – she basically just has one big lower chamber. (VSD = ventricular septal defect)

I needed a picture to help see this. Here’s a normal heart and an image of a heart with 2 of the things Violet is dealing with – TGA & VSD. She doesn’t have PS, but do you see in the second picture where that PS is, that space between the LA / LV is the mitral valve and in Violet, there is no space.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be one good foundation / organization to look to for information; every case is so unique to that individual (complicated by age and any other health factors). I’m not quite sure how I found the Hjartekatten blog, but I was so taken with the idea of these cats and critters given to children who have to have heart surgery in Sweden. That idea stuck with me and I made Violet her own little “HeartCat”. We were able to visit her this weekend and she was looking good – especially if you look past the feeding tube and a few extra (necessary, but noisy) monitors, she was awake for a good part of our visit and we were able to hold her and get in lots of snuggles.
Team violet Team violet Team violet

She’s got a long road ahead of her, and we are all rooting for her. I love knitting for babies and kids and this just motivates me to do more toys and accessories for Violet & my own kids, as well as the charity knitting projects – PatPats Hats, Hjartekatten, are certainly near and dear to me. It’s absolutely no fun when kids are sick.

Mostly Teal

I am so very happy it is Friday. This week has been a bit much to bear and there has been a lot of stress, I’ll be posting about some of it soon as I’m finding a new cause to support but still finding the right words as it involves kids, and sick kids just make my heart hurt. In a nutshell, my father is dealing with a broken wrist (surgery is done, casting next week), my grandmother took a spill, and my niece has a rather long road in front of her dealing with a newly diagnosed health issue.

My FO’s this week are simply a few new hexipuffs, a random green one that was half finished and three teals that I dug out of my stash of minis.  Perfect for Tealtember. I really enjoyed getting a bit of hexipuff mojo back. Each one still takes me 45minutes to an hour, so they aren’t particularly quick, but they are satisfying. On the top (left to right): Knit Picks Stroll Glimmer in Peacock, Spud & Chloe Fine in Anemone, bottom: Wollmeise 80/20 Twin Fritzi Frizzante (perfect teal IMO) and random one. Have a good weekend and I hope you get to work with yarn you love!


It Does Not Look Like Much

photo.JPGThis week I dug out my Morning Coffee sweater and was very pleased to see that I had maybe half a sleeve to finish on the body. I took care of that over the weekend. The purple blob on the right side of the photo is the collar (mostly knit while catching up on Breaking Bad). The blue is the beginning of a Windschief hat for me.  The mornings have had a chill to them and I have had this cake of Malabrigo Rios leftovers sitting on my desk since the spring. Time to knit it up! I am incredibly happy to have fiber in my fingers this week. There have been a few personal events where I can do nothing except wait for the next phone call. My yarn is not a cure-all, but it is soothing.

I haven’t been reading much this week. I have a book on hold to pick up tomorrow, and one I’m planning on getting on to the kindle, so next week I should have a bit more to share. On a book related note, have you read Extra Yarn? It’s very sweet. I just found out this week that you can buy prints! I would love to have this one somewhere in my house:


Weekend and Crushes

How was your weekend? I really enjoyed mine – Saturday was full of swim lessons (and a Hello! to Heather, fellow knitter!), rediscovering a hibernating project, podcasts, watching Fiber Factor, dinner out, and a fire in the new fire bowl.  Sunday involved a whirlwind trip to New York to see “Book of Mormon” with my husband, parents, uncle, and brother. Great show, highly irreverent and offensive on many levels but really, really funny. I brought a pair of socks along for knitting on the train. This is Twisted Limone in “Over the Rainbow” in the Vanilla Latte pattern.  So far, so good!
 This week’s list is 10 Things I Have a Crush On

  1. Self striping yarn
  2. The Frosted Pumpkin patterns
  3. Jared Flood (and his whole pattern line)
  4. Cables
  5. New York City – being back there this weekend only makes me want to go back there more.
  6. Salted Caramel whatever: ice cream, fancy coffee drinks
  7. Accents. Particularly Irish ones.
  8. Etsy items – project bags, yarn, artwork, love it. (side note: I recently enabled myself to score a bag from GirlCaveBags and Bling Your String, they are awesome! I’m also waiting on yarn from Marigoldjen to arrive – the shipping notice arrived within 30 minutes of my order! Should be here today I think.)
  9. Iceland – hoping to make a trip there happen sooner than later
  10. The return of fall weather – sweaters, mugs of hot drinks, cozy, cozy, cozy!

Teal and Violet

Here’s hoping this is the day when things turn around. The new school and work routines are still in progress. My WIPs are somewhat under control (after I wind up a lot more yarn today), and I’ve been finishing things too! First up is a project for my niece. I saw the pattern for these baby bloomers in early August and as I knew there was a new baby girl on the way, I just had to make them! When I picked the yarn, I did not know that she would be named Violet – I just really liked the color. I did one row of the hearts and the end result is very sweet. Though they are meant for a 3 month old, I think they might be more of a 3-6 month size. If I were to do them again (which I might) I would use a stretchier bind-off at each leg opening, so there would be a bit more give for chubby baby legs (or layers with tights). My other FO this week is in support of “Tealtember” to raise awareness for Ovarian Cancer. I bought a skein of Malabrigo Rasta in the Spring for Malabrigo March, but never started the project. When I pulled out my teal yarns, I spotted the Rasta already caked up and ready to go. I used Liat Gat’s free pattern for Super Bulky Toe Up Socks to make a very warm pair of slipper socks. I did not divide the cake before I started, so I did play a bit of yarn chicken and my result is that one sock is slightly shorter than the other. I’m fine with that, and when they are worn this winter it won’t bother me. These are super warm and worked up super quick. I started the first one Friday afternoon waiting for the bus to come home and that night, after watching a few video podcasts, I had a sock!


Nothing but a mess

MessHello Wednesday. It’s September 11, a day that will always make me stop, for more than a moment.  Remember what happened, and remember what happened next. There was a lot of knitting amid the mess. And that will take me into my WIPs for this week. I have finished a few projects, started / stopped others, ripped out another. The space between my desk and the couch is where most of my current projects reside. It is a disaster area. I am hoping to be able to sort this out today – put away the needles not in use, wind up and return the yarn leftovers to stash and figure out the current state of the active projects. I can tolerate a great deal of clutter, it just doesn’t bother me most days (and I’m organized in my head), but today I’m fed up. Ready to chuck it all and start from scratch.  Here’s to a tidy rest of the week!


Done Dinosaur


Way back in April I agreed to knit a Terence the Tap Dancing T-rex as part of an swap on Ravelry. Thankfully, the intended recipient is very patient with me. This dinosaur is ready to head off to a new home! His body (including tail and arms) were made with one skein of Ella Rae Worsted, the striped tummy panel are Cascade 220 Superwash. Nate spotted him as I was trying to take photos and promptly ran off with him! Looks like I will be making another in the near future. I’m a bit curious about working this pattern again with a super bulky yarn – there have been several of Rebecca Danger’s monsters made at my SnB lately with larger yarns and they are just incredible! Check out the blog roundup over at Tami’s to see what others have are up to!