How much do swatches lie? What makes them lie??? Can they be civilized and taught better manners?

I know swatching flat for a project in the round can cause problems. Swatching in stocking stitch for colorwork or cables is asking for trouble.

But … Really?

How do you deal with the vagaries, problems and pitfalls of swatching, besides by not swatching at all?

I haven’t had problems with swatching, other than the aggravation of having to do it multiple times. I only swatch if it really matters - clothes and things that need to be a specific size. My local knitting group did an afghan where we all did blocks. They needed to be a specific size. I had to swatch multiple times. I had to go down two or three needle sizes to get gauge. When we turned in our squares, one of the ladies turned in this huuuuge square, mumbling, “It seems kind of big.” I gently asked if she had tested her gauge. She said, “What’s gauge?” The organizers realized they should have given a lesson in gauge first. It said right on the pattern what size the squares should be but I think a lot of the women didn’t notice and they didn’t know you need to change your needle size if you are creating a huge square.

What I find really difficult is how different stitch patterns affect gauge so much. I can do two pairs of socks with the same needle, same stitch count and same brand of yarn and come up with radically different size socks by using different patterns. I don’t know how you are supposed to anticipate that difference.

I only make a rough swatch if I am trying out vastly different yarn or needles than the pattern calls for.

Other than that, I just start in on the project and check my gauge as I go. I have found that actually knitting the pattern is quite different than making a swatch. My tension is different, etc. when I am sailing along.

I think some of this stems from me making up my own patterns as a child and fitting by eye rather than measurement.

I don’t swatch. It never works like it should. I think it is because I hate swatching so I am tensed up when I do, so I knit tighter?

If you want a good rationale video for swatching, here is a good short one by Franklin Habit:
There are a lot of good tutorials on how to swatch on the web. I think most importantly, take notes before and after you wash or steam block your swatch. However you intend to care for your item is how you determine this. Even acrylic yarn can “ bloom” in the dryer and change gauge.
I’ve often wanted to get the Akerworks Swatch Gauge, but it’s a little spendy. I suppose if it helps waste less time and yarn it would be worth it.

I did NOT want a good rationale for swatching! But I did NEED one, so thanks for sharing this. I think I tended to always approach swatching for guage mostly and this gives some great reasons to swatch besides just looking for guage.

Thanks so much for the link @PurlgirlButtons

It makes me feel better to see people saying that they don’t swatch, or that they only swatch under very specific circumstances. I don’t make many things that “have to fit”, so it’s usually a non-issue for me. However, I have made a couple of sweaters lately that are worked from the top down so that I can try them on as I go. Why is that? Because I hate sewing pieces together, and I despise swatching. I also find that my tension changes depending upon the circumstances under which I’m knitting, so I don’t put great stock in swatching either, as a rule. I guess there are many roads to the same destination. :slightly_smiling_face:

I have not yet learned to swatch. I am not even sure of the purpose. I get that you do it to make sure your needles and yarn are appropriate for the written pattern you intend to use. However, if I did it, I would not know how to analyze the results let alone how to make the proper adjustments to fit the pattern. :exploding_head:

In sum, I need a Swatching 101 class! :thinking:

I know I am in the minority because I not only almost always do swatches, but I actually rather like them. This is for the most part because I know I knit a lot more tightly than most, so I almost always have to go up in needle size to get the right gauge and need to do a swatch to find out how much. The purpose of swatching is to make sure that your tension is the same as the person who wrote the pattern. For example, when making socks, usually the required gauge/tension is going to be somewhere close to 32 sts = 4" using fingering weight yarn, and often the recommended needle size is a 0 or 1. When I use fingering weight yarn on size 0 needles, I generally get closer to 40-44 sts = 4" because I knit so tightly. So I would do a gauge swatch with the recommended yarn and size 1.5 or 2 needles to see which gets me the closest to the recommended 32 sts = 4". On the converse, if you knit more loosely, you might use fingering weight yarn with the recommended size 0 needles and get 28-30 sts = 4" so you would want to go down to size 00 or 000 needles until you get to the recommended 32 sts = 4". Does that make sense? It really only matters when you are making something that needs to be a specific size, for things like washcloths, scarves, and blankets, it doesn’t matter all that much.

Yes, your explanation makes sense. I guess maybe I get the theory but not the practice. To clarify, I could make a swatch but would not know what to do with it.

I didn’t really start “getting” swatches until I started doing socks, which were the first things I regularly made that the end size really mattered.
Okay, what to actually do with it. So your pattern says “gauge/tension is 32 sts = 4 inches” and you dutifully grab the recommended needles, cast on 32 stitches, and knit 10 rows (that’s the minimum effective number of rows I’ve found when working with fingering weight yarn. If you’re working with larger yarn, you can probably get away with fewer rows before the first measuring). You then lay it out as flat as you can and measure how wide your 32 stitches are and get 4.5". That is fine if your pattern tells you the number of stitches per 4", but what if the pattern says 8 sts = 1"? Then you just divide 32 by 4.5 and get 7.1 that means that your gauge is 7.1 sts per 1" and not the 8 stitches per 1" that your pattern wants. So whatever gauge you are after you simply measure the width of your gauge swatch and divide the number of stitches by the number of inches and from there you can do the math to get to whatever numbers your pattern gives you. The same applies when it tells you how many rows/rounds are in an inch, you just measure the height of the swatch instead of the width. (Sorry, I’m not meaning to come off as sarcastic, I just woke up from a nap and everything is coming off snarky! :grimacing:)

Sounds great @Nyssareen The more info I have, the better it will be for me to figure out. I am grateful you took the time to explain all this