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!

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