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Why you should swatch every project. Even scarves.

Fiona Brennan crafts family gauge knitting needles projects swatch wool yarn

Do you find swatching a right royal pain? You’ve got your hank all rolled up into a cake, needles at the ready and you are itching to get cast on but first you have to figure out your gauge and swatch. We all know swatching is important but sometimes it can seem a little surplus to requirements when making something without much shape, like a scarf, right?

The moment I started swatching for every single project was the moment my knitting vastly improved. It was a marked difference in the finished piece as well. But swatching for everything? Including scarves? Yes, because a swatch can tell you so much about how the wool works, what it looks like in certain stitches and how it reacts as a piece of fabric.

If a gauge is 24 stitches over 18 rows, for example, then I will knit 34 stitches over 24 rows and measure the most central 10 cm. This gives me the best understanding of my gauge in the wool and needle size. I rarely go as far as to block the swatch but if I am making a big project, like a sweater, then I really want to see how the fabric will react when washed because I am going to wash my jumper eventually.

All these things are part of the discovery to answer some basic questions at the start of every project such as: does this wool work for this pattern? Do I need to knit this in the recommended needles or go up or down a size? How will this sizing fit me/or the person I am making this for?

Even with a scarf you want to answer these questions. When I first started out knitting, scarves were simple and I didn’t even know about gauge or why it mattered. They had wavy edges and looked somewhat rustic. Now I rarely make a scarf. Once a year, my husband misplaces his hand knit scarf somewhere and I make him a new one.  The swatched scarves hold their shape better, are a better fit for his neck and the fabric looks neater. For me, that is a worthwhile investment of time.  

While this level of detail may seem excessive for such a simple knit, I know that the more I knit, the more I understand the wool and the techniques, therefore the better I will become as a knitter. Plus, I discovered that for every swatch, I have a new square for my ever growing patchwork blanket. Not only does the blanket mark my ever growing family, it also serves a reminder of all the projects I’ve made for them that they’ve misplaced or grown out of.

So, do you swatch everything?

 

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  • Mrs G on

    For anything that has to actually fit I swatch (and I wash my swatch too).
    If it’s a yarn blend I’m not familiar with I’ll also swatch and block for scarves and shawls to check how the fabric works.
    For gloves or blankets? Well, probably not.


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