10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch

Let’s start by asking ourselves, what is a swatch? A swatch is a smaller piece of knitted or crochet fabric we use to ensure we have met the stated gauge/tension required by a pattern. It can be a sleeve, a hat, a mitten or just a square in your chosen pattern.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 1 you want your sweater to fit a person, not a doll

Whether you knit or crochet, if you are making a garment for an adult, you need to swatch and find out what size needles/hooks you need for your yarn. If you don’t, your sweater could end up with so much positive ease that you could use it to cover the car on a cold day. Or, even worse, it might be so small and tight that you can’t fit into it. You’re investing time, lots of it, and cash in terms of your yarn purchase. So, please make a swatch of a decent size and block it the way you intend to block your garment so it behaves the same way.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 2 You are substituting the yarn

If the garment or item you’re making is a Summer top knitted with hemp/cotton, that yarn will behave very differently to wool, alpaca, acrylic or silk.

Silk has very little memory but combined with wool (which does) the cables will be springy and the item should hold it’s shape well.

Alpaca grows, sometimes a lot, it’s very warm but also very stretchy. If you knit or crochet a swatch and then wash and block it the way you intend to take care of the finished item, it’ll give you a better idea of how it’s going to behave.

The designer, should, and probably has, taken the qualities of the yarn they used into account when designing the pattern. If you use an acrylic yarn, it may not have the same stretch as wool, you may need to consider making a larger size, or going up a needle size for cuffs and other elements that could end up being too tight.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 3 You’re using a different colour to the designer and you aren’t sure if it will work with the stitch pattern.

Busy yarns don’t always work with lace or cables, sometimes they drown out the pattern you’ve spent many, many hours to lovingly create. Using a very dark or very light colour can also obscure the pattern. It’s worth doing a swatch to see how it looks with your yarn, you could save yourself a lot of heartache and time.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch photo of a swatch for my Find Your Way Cowl in Mushroom, Rose, Grape and Mocha stripes
10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch photo of a swatch for my Find Your Way Cowl in Mushroom, Rose, Grape and Mocha stripes

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 4 You’re making modifications to the pattern

Adding an extra cable, adding length, making an item shorter are often easy modifications to make. You may need more or less yarn depending on those choices. A swatch can help you figure out any changes that should make to the finished item in terms of width, yarn usage etc to guarantee it will still fit.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 5 The designer used dk yarn and you want to use aran weight

Great, make a swatch, find your stitches and rows per inch in the designated pattern stitch. You could wing it and make one or two sizes smaller, or you could do that little bit of mathematics and be certain. If the gauge/tension is 22×28 and my swatch is 18×24 and I knit my usual size, I’ll end up with a much bigger garment. I could end up with a garment that has over 40 stitches and 8 inches wider than I need.

I worked on a 44″ bust and at 5.5 sts per inch that is 242 sts cast on, with 4.5 sts per inch I’d only need to cast on 198. Look for the size that has the closest stitch number and give that a go. You’ll need to make sure you check your length for underarms and any shaping, but it’ll be pretty close. A swatch can tell you so much.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 6 You’re adding bust shaping, darts or short rows

It’s worth you understanding how that will look on a patterned sweater, how will it affect cables, stripes etc? A swatch can help with that. You might choose to do short rows and not bust darts, but it’s best to know up front, pardon the pun, and save a lot of re-knitting and/or tears.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 7 You don’t have the right needle size

If you don’t have the right needle size to get gauge/tension (number of stitches per inch and rows per inch), you need to know whether to make a larger size, a smaller size or just order the right needles.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 8 It’s your first time making a large item like a garment

If this is your first garment and all your other projects are small items, this is a bit investment in time, yarn, emotionally and mentally. You want it to a) fit your body and b) look great. Make a swatch of a decent size in the given stitch pattern, get to know the stitches and understand the pattern first. If you are short of yarn, you can rip out your swatch and use that yarn. Ask me how I know, lol.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 9 You usually knit or crochet toys/amigurumi

Why does that matter? Because you need to knit/crochet at a tighter gauge/tension for items like toys which are then filled with a stuffing so that the stuffing isn’t seen through the stitches. When you come to knit a garment and you’re still in toy mode, your garment will be too small and you may have to go up one or two needle sizes to get gauge.

10 Mysterious Reasons Why You Should Swatch – 10 To Understand the Yarn and how it behaves

What do I mean by that? Does it work well with your cables or lace? Does it have the right drape, do you need to go up or down a needle size? If the fabric is too tight, even though it says it’s the right weight, will you like it? Learn about the yarn and that yarn will help you.

I hope that’s been a useful round of of all the reasons I love to swatch, let me know if you’d like to see more articles like this one. I’ve embedded a link to our YouTube video where we talk about swatches and what is a swatch.


Loraine is lor-artemis on Ravelry Loraine’s website https://woollymadlydeeply.com

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