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 – 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.
Today Emma and I chatted on our Facebook Live about the Pantone Autumn/Fall 2020 colours, how to wear them, how to combine the colours and what catwalk trends are for this Autumn/Winter season 2020-2021.
I’ll link to the video, which includes a presentation with the colours for the New York Fashion shows and the London colours which are slightly different.
In the video above, I talk about the London and New York colour trends, suggest possible colour combinations, which colours are bright/clear, soft/muted, warm or cool and how best to make them work for you. Emma shows us her Pinterest board from the Autumn 2020 Fashion catwalks for ready to wear. If you prefer to bypass our intro and chat, the Pantone presentation starts at approx 7 mins into the video.
Today’s post is a round up of Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting, though to be fair, some of this also applies to crochet so crochet fans, please read on.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – Try to keep your tension or gauge even
What does that mean? Well, for a start, try and keep the stitches the same size in each row or round. Then try and make sure that your wrong side rows (if you are working flat) have stitches the same size as the right size rows.
If you notice loose or sloppy stitches in your rows (crochet or knit) you need to work on improving your tension. I don’t know about you, but when I am stressed I knit tighter than when I’m relaxed. Same with crochet. I have to make an effort to keep my stitches the same size, but it’s worth it.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – Always finish the row or round
I’m knitting a sweater at the moment, top-down on circular needles in the round. I finish the round, then slip the marker and knit a couple of extra stitches before I put the work down. When I come back to it, I tink the couple of stitches I worked back to the marker and then knit a full round. This helps keep my tension even and stop the needles pulling on the fabric in the middle of the garment.
When working flat, back and forth, I ALWAYS finish a row before putting the work down. Otherwise you get pulled stitches in the middle of the row that may not even out with blocking later. Most of our kids know not to interrupt us mid row, so let’s use it.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – Learn how to fix your mistakes
There are so many tutorials on YouTube, Craftsy and other sources to help you learn how to fix a problem with your knitting or crochet. Do a search and watch a few until you find the video that works for you.
We learn through our mistakes and you’ll be so much better a knitter or crocheter for doing it.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – Check Your Work
Check your stitch count, particularly in lace or cable patterns, to make sure you haven’t dropped a stitch, missed a yarn over increase or worked a decrease in the wrong place.
If it’s crochet, count your chains, stitch clusters/shells to make sure you haven’t missed any. If you miss a chain or a cluster it can wreck your next row, so check regularly and rip out if needed to work it again.
Learn to read your knitting, it makes it easier to see a mistake in the work as you look at it. And, hopefully, save a lot of tinking back.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – use a row counter
When you are first starting to knit, it’s hard to keep count or track of your knitting. Some people mark off every row they knit on their pattern, others are able to ‘read’ their knitting and count up every now and then. For me, my favourite gadget is a swimming length/lap counter. It’s a digital counter with buttons to count each lap/length and a digital display. it fastens to my finger just like a tiny watch, the battery last for ages and it works well.
You can get row counters to go onto your needles and change that each row. It’s handy when you are working increases or decreases to shape a sleeve, waist shaping etc. My friend adds a locking stitch marker to the end stitch of the increase/decrease row when she is knitting sleeves to make sure they are worked every x rows and also so she can count up and make she she’s worked them all. It also makes life easier when working the second sleeve, to ensure the shaping matches.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – a crochet hook is a fantastic help when knitting
It’s a great tool for picking up dropped stitches and working back up to the top of your knitting. I use a crochet hook sometimes for picking up stitches on a neckline as it can be easier to pull the yarn through to make each new stitch. A fine crochet hook can be really useful for adding beads to your knitting. Beads are sneaky little horrors but a crochet hook can help you wrangle them.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – use the right yarn for the stitch pattern
Fancy yarns, textured yarns and busy patterned yarns are great for stocking stitch (stockinette) as the yarn does the hard work. A plain yarn with a good twist will give better stitch definition for cables, lace and textured stitch patterns.
When you’re starting out, buy cheap, plain yarn. Why? Because it’s easier to see your knitting if you’re not distracted by stripes, speckles, random colours, fancy textures that are hard to knit. As you learn and build your skills, you can move up to more luxurious or expensive yarns if you want. If you like knitting with cheaper yarns and that suits your budget, that’s fine too.
The right yarn is the right yarn for your pocket, your colour preference, works with the pattern you are knitting and makes you happy. If you’re knitting for a busy Mum, she’ll want something machine wash because it’s easier to care for, so an acrylic or blend might be best. If your budget runs to a superwash wool, that’s great, but it’s not essential. It needs to be easy for her to look after.
I can’t think of a single person who has commented ‘That’s a lovely sweater and it’d be so much nicer in a fancy yarn.’ No one says that, they all say ‘That’s a beautiful sweater.’ End of story, they don’t know what yarn it is, how much it cost or anything else, they just like what I’ve made, so it’s the RIGHT yarn.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – It’s okay to rip it and start again
It’s not a failure to rip something out. Think of it as perfecting and improving your finished project. It’s also a learning experience that will help you in future projects. It takes time to learn to knit and you need to practice. I’ve been knitting since I was 4 years old, I’m now 52 and I am still learning new things. I love that there is so much to learn that keeps me interested.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – Always block your knitting
I block all my projects, that might be steam blocking with my iron held above the piece, spray blocking or web blocking. Sometimes I’ll machine wash the item, then pull it to shape/size and dry it flat. For smaller items I will spray with water, pull to size and to even out the stitches and leave it to dry. The main reasons are to a) make the knitting share the stitches evenly and make the work look neat and b) to make the finished item the correct size (or as close to it as we can get) so it fits.
Top 10 Tips to improve your knitting – Use the right needles for your yarn
That might be circular needles or dpns for a piece knitted in the round. Though I used circular needles a lot for flat knitting things like cardigans because they allow the weight of the piece to be in my lap and not dragging on my straight needles. When starting out, I suggest bamboo straight needles as they grip the yarn and make it less likely for your stitches to fall off as you knit. Your local yarn store (LYS) will be able to show you different types of needles and may let you try some in the store and see what you think before buying them. Interchangeable needles have different size tips,
I hope you’ve found this article helpful but if you have other questions, do get in touch and we’ll try to answer them.
If you have knitting FAQs or frequently asked questions to add to this post, let us know and we’ll try to answer it here. I’ll be updating this post every week with several new questions and answers, so there will be more info each time you visit.
How do I learn to knit?
Depending on where you live and your proximity to a yarn/wool shop, you may be able to attend classes to learn to knit. If your local store doesn’t offer in person classes, they may offer online classes for beginners. For those who don’t have a local yarn store (LYS) there are thousands of videos on YouTube to teach you how to cast on, how to use the knit stitch, how to purl and build up your skills. Another good resources is myblueprint.com aka Craftsy which has classes you can buy and watch online, download to an iPad or phone via their app. The courses start with Knitting 101 with all the basics up to designer level.
The two terms mean the same thing, it’s a small piece of knitting worked in the suggested pattern to ensure you have the right number or rows and stitches per 4 inch or 10cm square. If you have more stitches per 4 inch, try a larger needle, if you have less stitches per 4 inch try a smaller needle. I usually make a square that’s approximately 6 inch or 15cm square, a larger piece gives me a more accurate result when I am counting my stitches per 4 inch/10cm square.
If you don’t knit a swatch then your finished object (FO) could end up being a lot smaller or larger than you wanted or anticipated. With a hat, that’s maybe not such a problem as it’ll fit someone, but a sweater could be a lot larger or smaller than you need. It could be too long or too short and end up wasting your time and money.
If the front of your sweater has 100 stitches, at a gauge/tension of 20 sts = 4 inch it will measure 20 inches in width making a 40 inch sweater. But, at a gauge/tension of 18 sts = 4 inch it will measure 22 inches in width, making a 44 inch size sweater. If your sweater works out at 4 sts per inch, the end result would be 50 inch chest. That’s quite a difference in terms of fit and possibly yarn usage.
Always block your gauge/tension swatch after you’ve finished knitting and cast off the piece. You need to block it the same way you intend to block the finished item, whether that’s wet blocked, steam blocked or spray blocked and pinned to shape. Your square in lace will typically be larger than a stocking stitch square because of the holes/eyelets.
Do I have to use the yarn recommended in the knitting pattern?
No, you don’t have to use the exact yarn recommended in the pattern, you can use any yarn that is the right thickness and gives you the correct number of stitches and rows per 4inch/10cm square for the pattern. However, it’s worth understanding the characteristics of the recommended yarn. For example, a garment knitted with linen will typically grow in length when blocked and when worn so is knitted shorter than the same garment knitted in acrylic which doesn’t grow in the same way.
You can find suggested yarns at https://yarnsub.com or chat to the staff at your local yarn store, who will find a yarn to suit your pattern, your pocket and the right fibre for you. If you’re allergic to wool, they could recommend an acrylic, cotton or other plant based yarn.
If you are knitting from your stash, you could combine yarns, so two strands of yarn to make the equivalent of a heavier yarn. Always swatch to make sure it’s not too stiff or too floppy a fabric when knitted.
Can I photocopy a pattern for my friend?
No, that would be copyright theft. Your friend needs to buy their own copy of the pattern for their use. The same applies to digital pdf patterns, you not allowed to share patterns with others, they need to buy their own. A lot of work goes into designing a pattern, both in terms of knitting a series of prototypes, testing, technical editing, graphic design, tutorials and special instructions, the cost of the yarn used etc.
What is ply? I’ve seen it next to yarn weight, what does it mean?
Yarn manufacturers used to make yarn using multiple plies or strands of yarn twisted to make a thicker yarn. So 4ply in the UK is fingering weight, 8ply is DK or double knit weight yarn and so on. Although there are yarns called roving, a loose single strand that can be any thickness. On that basis, it’s best to go with the yarn thickness or weight as a guide. Standard Yarn Weight System
My yarn has a dyelot on the label, does it matter?
Yes, and No. If your yarn is dyed in a particular way and contains natural fibres, then dye lots matter, you don’t want to run out and find that your second sleeve is a different shade of that colour than the rest of the sweater.
If it’s a big box acrylic yarn, then it probably doesn’t matter. I used a lot of Stylecraft yarns and their dye lots are very consistent and I’ve never had an issue.