Fat Knitting Superhero, disguised as Mild Mannered Yarn Shop Employee.

Swatching Made Easy


Look at your pattern’s gauge information.  It will usually say something like “24 stitches and 36 rows equal 4 inches/10 cm.”  (If it’s a British pattern, it will say tension instead of gauge, but it’s the same thing.)  Each swatch will have two measurements – one horizontal, measuring the number of stitches in the swatch, and one vertical, measuring the number of rows you have.  Most patterns express the gauge in terms of the number of stitches in 4 in/10 cm, but occasionally you’ll find one that will say “X stitches per inch.”  We can easily figure either number.

To figure out how many to cast on, simply use the pattern information.  Take the number of stitches needed in 4 inches (multiply by 4 if it asks for stitches per inch) and add 6 stitches to that number for a total cast on number.  If the pattern is for a fancy pattern, like lace or cables, cast enough for 8 inches – this will make your measurements more accurate.

The 6 extra stitches are for a non-curling border, to make it easier to measure your swatch.  We’ll also work a border on the top and bottom edges.

Example: the ball-band says 20 stitches = 4 inches.  Add 6 to 20, and cast on 26 stitches.

Work 6 rows in garter stitch (knit every row) for the bottom border.

Work the body of the swatch as follows:

Row 1: k 3, work right side of pattern until you reach the last 3 sts, k 3

Row 2: k 3, work wrong side of pattern until you reach the last 3 sts, k 3

Repeat these two rows until the pattern part of the swatch is AT LEAST 3 inches long.

Now measure the width of the center portion of the gauge swatch.   DO NOT include the garter stitch borders.  If it measures 4 in., then continue knitting the swatch until the pattern area is 4 in. long.  Count the rows.  If the number of rows is close to that called for in the pattern, then congratulations, you’ve gotten gauge.  Almost.

Finish the swatch with 6 more rows of garter stitch and bind it off.  Measure the swatch (not including the garter stitch border) and figure out the stitch gauge information as follows:  Stitches ÷ inches = stitches/inch.  The row gauge is figured the same way: Rows ÷ inches = rows/inch.

Pre-washing Gauge:

Stitches__________  ÷ Inches__________  = Sts/In__________

Rows__________ ÷ Inches__________ = Rows/In__________

Now take your swatch and go WASH IT.  Use whatever washing method you’re going to use to clean the finished item.  This is very important, because if you don’t get gauge after washing, then the garment will not fit once washed!

While it’s still damp, lay it flat, and tug and pat it into shape, so that the main section is as square as possible.  Now measure it again.  You’ll be surprised at how much the measurements can change.

After-washing Gauge:

Stitches__________  ÷ Inches__________  = Sts/In__________

Rows__________ ÷ Inches__________ = Rows/In__________

If, after washing, you’re no longer getting gauge, you’ll have to make another swatch.  To save time, I usually knit several swatches together.  I’ll do a 3 or 4 inch long section with a needle smaller than the pattern calls for, then another with the next size, until I have at least 3 or 4 different needle size tests.  Make sure to write down what needle sizes you used.  Then you can wash all of them at once.

Good luck and Happy Knitting!

Comments on: "Swatching Made Easy" (3)

  1. […] Swatching Made Easy […]

  2. Very cool blog Gwendolyn!!!

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