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!

WIP Wednesday – a bit of everything

Before & after. I am a lazy gardener, should have done this last fall. Getting the beds ready.Instagram has captured what I have worked on this week.  I finally cleared out my garden beds. After a not-so-successful garden last year (the weeds won), I left everything there over the winter. I figure it gives a little bit back to the soil. This year, with the sole exception of green beans, we’re going to try and have a flower garden. This will give the soil a break from our usual attempts of general vegetables. Our house came landscaped, which is great and all, but I miss seeing the blooms.  Hopefully this will also attract butterflies!

My Morning Coffee is coming along! On to the sleeves! #knittingThe body of my Morning Coffee sweater is done and I love it! I have started a sleeve and it is slowly but surely moving along.  Speaking of coffee, I tried a coffee “recipe” I saw online – this particular blogger raved about coffee + coconut milk + cocoa powder, so I gave it a try. And I will not be doing that again – ugh! I will stick with my cream and sugar.

Working on my #frostedpumpkin #springtimesapler - I'm slow & behind but it makes me happy! @heyporkchopThe weather has taken such a nice turn over the last week or so, we’ve been getting outside just about every day! Yesterday I was so tired at the end I didn’t even want to pick up my knitting, or crochet! Shocking! Thankfully I have another craft in the works. I think I mentioned being bit by the cross stitch bug – I have the Woodland Sampler and the Springtime Sampler, both from the Frosted Pumpkin. I am behind on both, and I am not fast at it, but I really enjoy it. One little stitch at a time.

I haven’t been reading much, a few fluff magazines is about it, but I am expecting a few books to arrive soon to help with my toy box project! I also really need to get moving on a few custom-request items, so hopefully I will have some fun to show on Friday!

WIP Wednesday – Ombre Coffee

photo.JPGI’ve been really pushing myself on my Morning Coffee sweater. I would like to be able to wear it a few times before fall! The body needs one more inch or so and then several inches of ribbing. I should be able to start the sleeves next week! Except for the first skein which was used to knit most of the yoke, I have been alternating skeins. You can see there is a slight ombre effect going on here, but I’m ok with it. I have added what feels like 2398754 more things to my mental queue – the beginning of the month is always like that, but this month we have the added excitement of my baby (19 months now!) being awake a lot more when I need to get work done! Also, I am going to be an aunt this summer! My niece is due to arrive in August sometime! I am very excited and I’ve coordinated with my SIL (who is not just a knitter but the daughter of a knitter too) with special-request items.  Lucky for my blog readers, I am sure to have multiple projects going so I won’t have to just show teaser pictures between now and then!

Too much stuff – Yarn Along & WIP Wednesday

Let’s just sum up by saying I have a lot of stuff. I have a lot of projects going on, I have to keep track of a lot of details for my work, my home & family. I may be reaching a tipping point.  Today I started the washing machine and left the top open; luckily once it’s filled and bubbly it doesn’t continue on with the cycle unless the top is down! Later, when I went back to move things along I opened the machine to find it completely empty.  I didn’t bother to actually put the clothes into the machine! This week I’ve worked on 2 cross stitch projects, my Morning Coffee Sweater, my Carousel sock, a slug and a secret project. I have a really hard time doing one thing at a time. I feel bored and antsy if I do not have a choice of projects. Some nights I need plain stockinette or garter stitch, other times when I have a moment to work stitches I want to tackle a cable or two.  I started reading “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie.  I’ve been a long time fan of her mysteries and this one, somehow, I had not read before. I thought it was going to take me longer as the typeface on each page is tiny, but I am already a third of the way through the book.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to try and salvage what’s left of this afternoon and my to-do list, with two little ones adding to the chaos!

Yarn Along – January 9

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~ yarn along

Yarn Along Jan 9
This week I have been reading Pippi Longstocking. For whatever reason, I could not stop thinking about this book, so I borrowed it from the library.  I couldn’t remember if I had read it as a kid, but now that I am halfway through I think I did; so much of it is familiar and enjoyable. This was a good way to get back into the reading groove! I’ve been working on several things.  The Snuggly Monster buddy is ready for eyes, ears & limbs.  The belly is done in yellow and the eyepatch is on the needles. I think the ears / limbs will be solid teal and solid lime green.  I hope to get this done in the next day or two so that it can be given to a brand new baby! On the right is a sample sweater. The same sweater on which I already broke two needles! Knock wood, so far so good and my new needle set arrived today.  In the middle is my current “ooh shiny!” project.  I found the NaKnitMittMo group on Ravelry and immediately had to start a pair of mittens for me.  That didn’t take long at all! I pulled out my Cast On, Cast Off book to try the “Provisional Tubular Cast On” for a stretchy cuff. It was a bit fiddly, but not terrible once I got going!

Charleston Tea, finished!

Just today, I put the Charleston Tea in the mail, to return home at Good Karma Farm up in Maine. I know that I have said it here before but it is worth repeating: I love this yarn! It is a new blend and weight for them, and I am hoping to purchase more at Rhinebeck in a few weeks.
This colorway, which I believe is “Artichoke”, was left to do its own thing. I did not bother to alternate the skeins and there was no instances of flashing. The cable and lace portion probably helped to break that up. There is a little bit of striping activity on the hood, but it still looks good.

I am considering knitting this again, for me. Now that’s saying something! If I do decide to do that, I will be lengthening the body and sleeves and losing the hood. And those are rather minor modifications. I would also wear a more appropriate shirt underneath.
I love this photo. I can’t put my finger on why, because it doesn’t show the sweater very well, but something about it works, I think.

Feels Good

Way back in early 2010 I started to knit a sweater. It was a test knit and I managed to get all the pieces knit, and I even found buttons.

When I started to seam it up, I encountered major shoulder issues. There should have been a bit of cute puff on the shoulder, but instead I had pointy shoulders. It looked like an odd outfit you might find on Star Trek.

This is one instance where I really did not enjoy test knitting. When I made contact with the designer I was told, “Ok, I’ll look at it, but really you should just reknit it”. UM. That’s not professional or helpful. My gauge was good. I’m testing a pattern to bring potential issues to your attention. I offered a few thoughts on what I thought would work. I was told, “That sounds good. I appreciate your notes.” But that still doesn’t help me with my sweater. I was so frustrated that the sweater sat. And sat. And sat. I never did try to redo the sleeves because I was just annoyed. Beyond the initial pattern revision due to a math issue, I never saw a revision of the pattern or even the final version so I don’t even know what that is like. Anyway. 

Hello Ravellenic Games event, Frogging Trampoline. I have my yarn back.  I have great buttons to match! Now I need to find a better sweater.  I’m thinking maybe Snow White (no buttons needed), Arm Candy, Samovar, or even Notre Dame de Grace.

I am very surprised at how I felt ripping all that work out. It was addictive and therapeutic. And I can tell my seaming skills are getting better as it took me a while to find my ends! Here’s to starting over!!