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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Blocking

We’re on our final blog post of the Sweater KAL series: blocking and finishing! Many knitters don’t bother blocking small projects and when they tackle a larger project they aren’t quite sure how to go about blocking. Once I started knitting sweaters and shawls (both things that really require blocking), blocking FOs (finished objects) became second nature and now I block 99% of my knitting as soon as it’s off the needles.

You can weave in your ends either before or after blocking. Some people think that it’s better to weave them in before blocking so that you aren’t messing too much with the fabric after you’ve carefully blocked your project. Other knitters say that it’s better to wait until after blocking because if you weave in the ends before blocking you won’t be able to stretch and manipulate the fabric as well. When it comes to sweaters, I haven’t found that it matters too much since you (hopefully!) won’t want to stretch it too much and there shouldn’t be overly aggressive blocking (unless it’s to open up a lace pattern). Weaving in all those ends can be a bit tedious, so some folks like to weave them in as they go. That way the only tail you have left at the end is from your bind off!

Find some wool wash:

We carry Soak at Stash…I have a large bottle like the one pictured and it’s lasted me about 8 months so far and I’ll probably get a whole year out of it. I wash a lot of handknits and use Soak for my handspun yarn as well.

You’ll want to use something gentle and ideally something that doesn’t require rinsing. I know Woolite sounds like something you should use to wash your wool handknits, but it’s a bit too harsh. You can also use a shampoo formulated for normal hair, but this requires rinsing. Personally, I like to stick to something that’s specifically for handknits and that I don’t have to worry about rinsing.

Figure out where the best place to wash your sweater is. I almost always use my top-loading washing machine. But you can also use a large mixing bowl, your sink, bathtub, or anything that will hold enough water to submerge your sweater.

Fill your container of choice with a squirt of wool wash (check bottle for specific amounts) and enough lukewarm water to fully submerge your sweater. I don’t usually measure my wool wash….but most of them instruct you to use 1 tsp per gallon of water.

Place your sweater in the water and gently push down on it so that it becomes fully submerged. If you’ve knit your sweater using wool yarn, it will want to repel the water so it needs a little encouragement to become fully submerged. Make sure you don’t agitate or rub the garment as these things could cause felting.

Walk away and leave your sweater soaking for at least 20 minutes. Don’t worry if you forget about it and 20 minutes turns into 5 hours. Not a big deal!

Carefully remove your sweater from the water, making sure that you support the entire sweater as you lift it out. It will be quite heavy, and you don’t want any pieces of the sweater to stretch under the weight of all that water!

Squeeze (don’t wring!) the excess water out. 

There are a couple of ways to get even more water out of your garment, which makes drying time faster and makes blocking a bit easier. You can roll up your sweater in several dry towels and press down on it to soak up the extra water. If you are blocking a small item such as a hat or socks, you can use a salad spinner to spin out the excess water! My personal favorite is the spin cycle on the washing machine. After I soak my sweaters (or any other knitted object or handspun yarn!), I empty the water out of the washing machine, put my sweater back in the now empty machine, and turn on the spin cycle. Only use the spin cycle for 10 seconds. I’ve tried both this and the towel method, and I think the spin cycle is far more effective. It really decreases drying time and I’ve found that there is less chance of your sweater stretching because it isn’t as weighed down with water.

Carefully carry your sweater to the place where it’s going to be blocked. If you have a mixing bowl or colander, put your sweater in there to carry it from point A to B. It’s easier to keep it all contained that way and you won’t have one part of your sweater hanging down and stretching as you walk across the house.

Lay your sweater flat to dry. You can use blocking boards, an empty bed with a towel on it, or a towel on the floor. I use large foam mats that snap together, but for sweater blocking you really don’t need anything fancy.

Block to desired measurements. I try not to fiddle with my wet sweaters too much, but I do measure across the bust to make sure that it’s close to my desired measurements. I also make sure the arms are the same length, and I often pin the cuffs just to make sure the sleeves stay the same length. If you’re knitting a cardigan make sure that each side is the same width and length.

Wait ages for it to dry. Handknit wool sweaters take forever and a day to dry. Especially in the Pacific NW during the winter. Try and be patient and wait for it to be COMPLETELY dry before doing too much with it. If the back seems really wet still, flip it over carefully.

Weave in your ends if you haven’t already! There are many different ways you can weave in your ends and I came across this fantastic post that discusses many techniques and has great pictures.

Wear your sweater proudly! 

We obviously didn’t cover everything that could possibly come up during your sweater knitting process, but I hope I’ve provided you all with some good basics to get your started!

Have you all picked your sweater patterns yet? The official cast-on for the KAL is next Wednesday September 19th! Pop into our Fall KAL thread in the Stash Ravery group and let us know what sweater pattern you’ve chosen! Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions or need advice! We’re happy to help.

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips and Tricks for Sleeves

I feel like I’ve thrown a LOT of information at you over the course of the blog series thus far so I’m hoping this post won’t be quite as overwhelming as the rest and hopefully not as wordy!  There are a few little things about knitting sleeves that I wanted to mention and didn’t want the information to get lost in some of the longer posts about modifying sweaters.

Picking up stitches at the underarm: If you’ve knit mittens, you might know where I’m going with this. Sometimes when you pick up the number of stitches that the pattern specifies (at the underarm of a sweater to begin the sleeves, or for a thumb on a mitten), you end up with a little hole on either side of the picked up stitches. It looks a little like this:

Real sweater WIP complete with little holes under the arm.

There are a couple of ways you can deal with this. The first being to leave a decent sized yarn tail when you pick up your stitches and use the tail to close up the holes. The other thing you can do is pick up a couple of extra stitches and then get rid of them on the next round by using K2TOG (knit two together). You can even knit those stitches together through the back loop to tighten them up a bit more.

Modifying Shaping: We talked about this a bit in our previous post, and I just want to reiterate that you’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if you take the time to shape your sweaters to fit your body. If you’ll be shortening the sleeves or lengthening them, you’ll want to think about if you want to put your decreases (or increases if you’re knitting bottom up!) closer or father apart. Don’t be afraid to change the sleeve length of the pattern! If you prefer 3/4 length sleeves…go for it! Want to change a short-sleeved or 3/4 length sleeve to full length? Add a couple of more decreases and keep knitting!

Working in the Round: I’m going to be completely honest, here. I loathe knitting sleeves on double-pointed needles. This is the number one reason I taught myself Magic Loop (knitting in the round on one long circular needle). I highly recommend doing magic loop for sweater sleeves. I find that with dpns, you end up moving your entire sweater each time you reach the end of your needle. There are plenty of people out there who don’t mind using dpns for sleeves, so give it a try if you really love using dpns! If you’re interested in learning magic loop, we have a couple of great resources at the shop: The Magic Loop Booklet and the Circular Knitting Workshop book.

Consider Knitting Your Sleeves Before Finishing the Body: Never in a million years would I have thought to do this for a top-down sweater, but it makes complete sense. Jasmin from The Knitmore Girls Podcast mentioned that this is how she knits her top-down sweaters, and I think it’s brilliant. Like I mentioned above, when you are knitting sleeves you are constantly rearranging/twisting your sweater. This method has you knitting the sleeves right after the sleeve split, so that instead of an entire sweater sitting on your lap you just have the top portion of the sweater. You might want to knit an inch or two of the body first to make sure that you’re on track with the fit just in case you need to rip back! I haven’t actually tried this yet…but I’m hoping to do it for my next top-down sweater to see if it helps my dislike of sleeve knitting. The only reason I can see NOT to do this would be if you are worried about running out of yarn. In that case, I’d knit the body first and split your remaining yarn in half using a kitchen scale so that your sleeves will be the same length.

I think that’s all for sleeves! Next week we’ll have our final 2 posts in the series and then it will be time to start our sweaters!!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Making Adjustments on the Fly

The biggest appeal of seamless sweater patterns is that you can try them on as you go and make adjustments to fit your body. It’s a little more difficult to do with bottom-up sweaters, but it can certainly be done! Top-down sweaters are perfect for making adjustments as you go!

I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you don’t need to follow the pattern exactly. You’ll be much happier with your finished sweater if the smallest part of the waist lines up with your waist, the hem hits you in a flattering spot, and the sleeves are the correct length.

Let’s use the Bayside Pullover from Coastal Knits as an example. Below is the schematic from the pattern. We’ll start at the top of the sweater and work our way down.

We’re not going to talk about every single measurement and change you can make to your sweater, but I’d like to hit the big ones: Yoke depth, sleeve circumference, chest, waist, and hem.

Yoke Depth: As a fairly short person, I find that the yoke depth on many knitting patterns are a touch longer than I’d like. But some of you taller folks may find that it’s not quite long enough. Take a tape measure and start measuring from the top of your shoulder. Look at where the yoke depth as written will hit you. If you follow the directions, this is where the sleeves will be split off from your sweater. Does it reach where you’d like the underarm of your sweater to begin? Is it going to be saggy in the armpits if you knit that length? Figure out your ideal length. After you’ve done your raglan increases you can keep knitting without increasing until you reach this measurement. You can also “try on” your sweater to figure this part out. It’s a little tricky, but put your sweater on some waste yarn, drape it over your shoulders and pinch the sleeve stitches around your upper arm/shoulder. You can then decide if you’d like to make the yoke a bit longer or split for the sleeves.

Let’s take a minute to look at what your stitches on your needle will look like if you are knitting a top-down sweater:

If you are knitting a cardigan, the front stitches won’t be connected and you might be adding a button band afterwards, so don’t freak out if you try on your cardigan without the button band and it seems too small! The stitch markers mark the raglan increases. There will always be 4, and you will be increasing on BOTH sides of the markers. This will result in a total of 8 stitches being increased during each raglan increase round. 

Chest Circumference: If you’ve decided that you’d like your sweater to be an in-between size for the chest measurements, you can either do more or less raglan increases to get your desired size. For example, if you wanted a sweater (using the Bayside Pullover from above) that measured 34″, you could follow the directions for the size 32″ and do a few extra sets of increases. Now, you probably want to know how many sets of increases. Well…the gauge for the pattern is 24 sts/4 inches which equals 6 sts/inch. Since you want TWO extra inches you’d want 12 extra stitches. You’ll be adding 4 body stitches during each increase round. See Diagram Above. So, to achieve 12 extra stitches you’ll want to do THREE extra raglan increases on the BODY ONLY.

If you want your sweater to be a little bit SMALLER, just leave out an increase or two using your gauge to figure out how many increases to leave out.

Arm Circumference: The idea of altering the circumference of the upper arms is exactly the same as the chest circumference. If you’d like them a bit larger than the schematic, add an extra increase or two on the SLEEVES ONLY (see diagram above for placement of these stitches) and if you want them smaller leave out an increase or two. Of course, this would be a bit more complicated if you were doing a pattern that had cables or lace and required a specific number of stitches.

If you’d like your entire sweater (sleeves and body) larger/smaller, do more/less increases on both the body and sleeves.

Waist: Ideally you want the smallest part of your sweater to match up with the smallest part of your waist. The best way to achieve this is to measure how far it is from just below your full bust to just before the smallest part of your waist. You’ll need to look at the pattern and decide if the pattern as written will work, or if you want to do your waist decreases closer together or farther apart. Instead of doing decreases every “X” number or rows (this will likely be how the pattern has the decreases written), take the measurement from above and divide it by the number of decreases the pattern calls for. This will tell you how often to do your decreases. Let’s say that you measure and get 6 inches and the pattern has 4 waist decreases…you’ll want to do your decreases 1.5″ apart.  You can also look at the waist measurement and decide if you want to do more or less decreases. Is the waist measurement smaller than you’d like? Skip a decrease. Too big? Do an extra decrease!

Make sure you don’t begin your decreases until you’ve knit far enough to reach your full bust. You don’t want to start getting rid of stitches (and inches) before the fullest part of your bust. If the pattern says to start the waist decreases after you’ve knit an inch from the sleeve split, but your full bust isn’t until 2 inches past…wait until 2 inches.

The waist shaping is where being able to try on your sweater comes in handy:

To try your sweater on, either put it on 2 really long circular needles or thread a piece of waste yarn through all of your stitches and pull your needle out. If you use 2 circular needles make sure that the total circumference will be able to fit over your shoulders…you don’t want to drop stitches while trying on your sweater! Trust me, it’s not fun to have to pick them back up.

After your waist decreases you want to knit straight for a couple of inches to where your waist starts increasing to your hips.

For the hip increases, use the same method as for figuring out the waist decreases. Your waist decreases and hip increases may not be spaced out the same depending on your body type. For example, I typically spread out my decreases farther than patterns call for, but put my hip increases closer together. Measure on your body where you’d like your increases to start and end. Divide this number by the number of increases you want to do to figure out how many inches apart to place them. There is no reason you need to do the same number of waist decreases and hip increases (unless you need a certain number of stitches for a cable or lace pattern). Tailor it to your body measurements. 

For sweaters that don’t have any waist shaping, such as the Rocky Coast Cardigan or the Schoodic Cardigan, you’ll just need to worry about hem length and the sleeves.

Hem Length: The beauty of a hand knit sweater is that you can make it as short or long as you’d like! Something to keep in mind: if you use wool, your sweater will likely grow a little bit. Err on the side of a little short (you can block it longer or add length later) instead of too long. Trying your sweater on is a great way to decide exactly when to bind-off!

A few words about bust darts: I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about bust darts as I am about many other aspects of sweater knitting. I’ve done horizontal bust darts in one knitted top so far, and it worked out beautifully. I’ll probably start doing them more often, but I can’t really give good instructions yet! If you have a cup-size larger than a C, it’s worth considering doing bust darts so that the front of your sweater doesn’t ride up. Horizontal bust darts give you a little extra room in the bust area without making the entire sweater larger. The bust darts are done by using short rows across the front of the sweater. Custom Knits 2 (which we have at the shop) has a section on adding bust darts by using short rows. Little Red in the City (also at the shop!), has a great section on shaping and horizontal bust darts. Ysolda tells you how to calculate how many short rows to do and gives tips on figuring out where to place them. Little Red is chock full of other great sweater-knitting information as well.

Come on back on Friday for Tips and Tricks for Sleeves!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-Dyed Yarn

As you know, we’re big fans of hand-dyed yarn here at Stash and they certainly help with that “Wow” factor in our finished projects. Since every skein of hand-dyed yarn is a little bit different, it can be a bit challenging to use in larger projects. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make sure that you’re happy with your finished sweater!

Here’s what you probably don’t want your sweater to look like:

No woman wants a line directly across the chest area! Needless to say, this sweater ended up in the frog pond.

There are a few things that went wrong here. The first being that my skeins didn’t match as closely as they should have. I also alternated the darkest two skeins instead of using all three at once.

So, how can you avoid a sweater with a big, obvious line when you change skeins?

1. When you’re shopping for yarn, choose the skeins that look the most alike. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when they’re twisted in their skeins, so it’s often a good idea to un-skein them and lay them next to each other. Like this:

2. Alternate Skeins while you knit. There are a few different ways to do this that we’ll discuss in just a minute.

3. If you’re knitting a top-down sweater, Save some yarn from the top to use when you go back and knit the sleeves. TRUST ME on this one (I speak from experience). It doesn’t need to be a lot, but I’d suggest phasing the skein you’re using when you split for the sleeves out and putting it aside to be used later. When you get ready to knit the sleeves, pull this skein out and use 1/2 for the top of each sleeve.

4. If you have skeins in your stash that you’re using and one skein is a bit different than the rest, use the different skein for things like trim, button bands, hems, and neckbands.

Alternating Skeins – to alternate skeins, work from two balls of yarn. Switch yarns every 2 rows (you can do 3 or 4 if you’re knitting in the round) by picking up the second strand of yarn from underneath the strand you’re working with. Make sure not to pull too tight when you pick up the new strand. 

If your skeins match really well, you can just alternate as you get close to the end of your ball to transition to the next one. It will look like this on the inside of your knitting:

When you knit a cardigan with button bands (or just front bands/collar) that are knit on afterwards, such as the Calligraphy Cardigan, you can alternate right at the edge of your knitting every 2 rows. Easy peasy.

If you’re knitting a pullover from the top town, alternate starting at the back raglan and after you split for the sleeves, alternate at the side seam. If the sweater is knit from the bottom up, you would alternate at the side seam and then transition to the back raglan.

This isn’t a pullover, but it has a decent shot of the back of the sweater so you can see where to alternate.

For a cardigan that has you knit the front bands as you go, you can either alternate at the sideseam/back raglan as in the previous example or you can alternate where the body meets the front band.

For Sleeves: alternate at the underarm, which will be the beginning of your round for each sleeve.

I know alternating skeins sounds a bit tedious, but it’s really worth it when knitting with hand-dyed yarn. I’ve never been sorry that I’ve alternated skeins, but several times that I haven’t I’ve regretted it (see: frogged sweater at the top of the post!).

Let us know if we can help you pick out well matching skeins at the shop or help you decide the best place to alternate skeins!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Deciphering Your Swatch and Choosing a Sweater Size

Before we talk about the washed swatch, let’s talk about choosing the right size for your sweater. The first thing you’re going to want to do is take your measurements. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on taking measurements, but there are some fantastic resources out there. Amy Herzog has a great post in the Fit to Flatter series about taking your measurements. There’s even a printable PDF to keep track of all the information you collect. If you have Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague, you can take a look there for tips on taking measurements and she also provides a sheet to record all of your numbers.

EASE:

Now that you have your measurements, you’ll need to decide how much ease you’d like in your sweater. There are three types of ease: Positive, Negative, and Zero. Positive Ease means that your finished sweater measurements are larger than your body measurements. Negative Ease is when your sweater measurements are smaller than your body measurements and Zero Ease means that your sweater and your body measurements are the same.

Take out a favorite store-bought sweater and take it’s measurements. This is usually a good place to start to figure out how much ease you’d like. I think one of the biggest mistakes that new sweater knitters make is choosing a size that is too large. I like to use my high bust measurement instead of full bust to choose my size. This will give you a good fit through top of the sweater, a bit of negative ease at full bust, and a good fit through the waist. Of course, not everyone is comfortable with a close fitting sweater and it really depends on your comfort level, the pattern, and the yarn.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

This sweater was knit with zero ease at the full bust. I knew I’d want to wear a t-shirt underneath it, and I didn’t want the cables to pull at the bust.

This sweater was knit with about 2 inches of negative ease at the full bust (so zero ease at high bust). It was knit in a bulky yarn, and let’s be honest- none of us want to look more bulky, right?!

Choosing a Size from the Pattern:

After you’ve decided how much ease you’d like in your sweater, take a look at the pattern schematic. This will tell you the Finished Measurements of the sweater. Is there a size that is close to what you’d like for your finished sweater? Don’t get too caught up in inspecting every single measurement right off the bat. Focus on the finished chest measurement. You can make some really easy changes later on to adjust the sleeves, waist, and hem if you’d like them to be different than the pattern measurements.

Now…measure the gauge on your washed swatch. Don’t worry too much about row gauge, focus on the stitches per inch.

If your gauge matches the pattern gauge, great! You can cast-on for your sweater !

If not, you can do 1 of 2 things. You can either do another swatch with a different sized needle to try and get an exact match or you can do a little math and do the sweater with the needle size that you swatched with.

Why is gauge so important? For smaller projects, being off by a stitch or two over 4 inches doesn’t always matter too much. However, when you’re talking about hundreds of stitches for the circumference of a sweater, those stitches add up fast. If the pattern gauge is 20 sts/4 inches and you are getting 18 sts/4 inches your sweater will be 22% larger if you don’t adjust for the difference. So, if you wanted your sweater to be 34″ it would actually end up being 41″! Take the time to adjust your gauge or do the math! 

Doing the Math:

You only want to go this route if you’re not too far off on your gauge. One or two stitches over 4 inches is fine…but if you are way off, go back and swatch again. Take a deep breath, this isn’t as complicated as it seems and I’d be more than happy to help you figure out the math over in our Ravelry Group (or at the shop!) if you aren’t sure about it.

Let’s use the Featherweight Cardigan as an example. The gauge in the pattern is 24 sts/4 inches. Say your gauge is 22 sts/4 inches. Less stitches per inch mean that your sweater will be larger than the schematic measurements. 

Take the PATTERN gauge divided by YOUR gauge and multiply that number by the finished measurement that is closest to the size you want.

If you want to make the 38.75″ size… 24/22= 1.09 & 1.09 x 35.25 = 38.42, which is pretty darn close to 38.75″.

Now, if your gauge has MORE stitches/inch, it will mean a smaller finished sweater. If your gauge (for the same pattern) is 26 sts/4 inches, this is what the math would look like using the closest larger size.

If you want to make the 38.75″ size….24/26= .92 & .92 x 42 = 38.64, again pretty close to your ideal size! 

I know it can be really tough to wrap your brain around all that math, so don’t feel like you have to “make it work”…keep swatching until you get the correct gauge!

What to do if you are between sizes: If your ideal size is in-between the available sizes, don’t be discouraged! You can use the same math above to knit the sweater at a different gauge, or you can make some adjustments as you are knitting to achieve an in-between size. Most of Hannah Fettig’s patterns are raglan style top-down sweaters. It’s incredibly easy to just leave out a set or two of increases to achieve a smaller size or add a set or two of increases to achieve a larger size. We’ll talk more about this during the “Making adjustments on the fly” segment of the blog series!

I know this post is very wordy and probably confusing after a first read through. Take it in small chunks or come ask questions in the ravelry group! We really want you to have a successful sweater knitting experience!

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Swatching

Most knitters have strong opinions on today’s subject: Swatching. They love it, they hate it, some always swatch, some never.

I think you’d find that most knitters fall into one of three categories:

1) The Serial Swatchers: these folks swatch for every project they knit no matter how large or small. They probably have a whole basket full of pretty swatches at home.

2) The “It Depends on the Project” Swatchers: these are knitters who swatch for certain projects, but not others. I definitely fall into this category. I ALWAYS swatch for sweaters, but rarely for small accessory projects (this has, of course, come back to bite me in the you know what on more than one occasion. ahem).

3) The Non-Swatchers: the category of knitters who NEVER swatch. For anything. Some people like to throw caution to the wind and just take their chances.

For sweater knitting, my personal rule is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS (did I say always?) swatch. Presumably, you’re investing a large amount of time and money into a hand knit sweater and you want it to fit. Sure, there are other things you’re going to want to consider and choose to ensure you get the right fit, but gauge is the first step.

I’m going to take you through the process I use when swatching. It’s not the only way, but it’s what works for me!

Look at your pattern. Somewhere on the first page or two there will be a section that gives the materials, gauge and suggested needle size(s). Read the gauge CAREFULLY. Is the gauge in stockinette stitch? Is it in some other stitch pattern? You’ll want to knit your swatch in whatever stitch the pattern specifies. For example, if you’re knitting the Rocky Coast Cardigan you’ll want to swatch in the cable pattern.

Choose how you’re going to knit your swatch. Is the sweater mostly knit in the round or is it knit flat? If the pattern is knit in the round, you should swatch in the round. Unless you’re 100% sure that your gauge is the same flat as it is in the round, it’s really essential that you swatch in the round.

Let’s take a minute and talk about swatching in the round.

The swatch on the left was knit “flat” (stay with me here, I’ll explain in a second) and the one on the right was knit as a small circumference using magic loop. The problem with the one on the right is that it’s really too small around to effectively measure gauge over 4 inches. You could just make it larger, but you’d use a LOT more yarn in order to make it a full 8 or 9 inches around and it would take longer. So…there’s a trick you can use to swatch in the round, but have it be a flat swatch! First: Using a circular needle (preferably the one you’re going to use for your sweater) cast-on enough stitches for 5″ or so (so, if your gauge is 20 sts/4inches, CO at least 25 sts). Knit to the end of the first row. When you reach the end, slide your knitting to the other end of the circular needle…do not turn your work. Your working yarn will now be at the wrong end (the left). Pull a length of yarn behind your knitting (leave enough so your swatch will sit flat) and knit another row. Continue in this manner until your swatch measures 5″ tall!

Choose the needles you’re most likely to use for your sweater. Many knitters achieve different gauge on different types of needles. If you’re planning on knitting with bamboo, swatch with bamboo. If you’re going to use your Addi interchangeables, swatch with those.

Are you a tight knitter or loose knitter? If you’re typically a tight knitter, you may want to swatch with a size up from what the pattern suggests. Loose knitter? Start with a size down. The needle recommendation in the pattern is just that. A recommendation. Try not to get caught up in using the same needle size as the designer.

Cast on for your swatch! Like I mentioned above, make sure you cast-on some extra stitches so that you have about 5 inches of fabric (or even more, if you’d like) to work with. You want to be able to comfortably measure your gauge without using the stitches on the edges. I also like to do a garter stitch border on my stockinette swatches (do 3 or 4 rows of garter stitch at the top and bottom as well as 3 stitches of garter stitch on each side) so that they lay flat, which makes it easier to measure your gauge. So, if your pattern gauge is 20 sts over 4 inches, cast on 30. You’ll have a few extra for measuring ease and 6 stitches for a garter stitch edge (3 on each side).

Continue your swatch for at least 5 inches. Bind off.

Measure your gauge. I like to measure my gauge before and after blocking so that you know what to expect when you’re actually working on your sweater.  Use a ruler, stitch counting frame (we have these at the shop!), tape measure or other gauge measuring tool. Count the number of stitches you have over 4 inches as well as the number of rows. Write these numbers down.

Each little “V” represents ONE stitch. For row gauge, flip your measuring device 90 degrees so it runs parallel to one row of stitches.

Think about how you’re going to wash your finished garment? Will you soak it and lay it flat to dry? Is it machine washable? Will you be putting it in the dryer?

Wash your swatch. I usually just soak mine with a little bit of wool wash and room temperature water for 20 minutes in a mixing bowl. You can use your sink or whatever you have handy. If you’re going to machine wash your finished sweater, toss that swatch in the washing machine. Squeeze the water out of your swatch…you can take up the excess water with a towel if it’s really dripping.

Dry your swatch. If you’ll be laying your sweater flat to dry, do the same with your swatch. I usually pin the corners very lightly just to help it keep it’s shape and prevent it from rolling. Machine drying your sweater? Throw that swatch in the dryer.

Next Wednesday we’ll talk about measuring your gauge on your finished swatch and what to do if it doesn’t match the pattern gauge!

Before I go….a couple more swatching tips and tricks:

  • If you want to swatch with more than one size needle, go ahead and do it all on one swatch! Put a garter stitch ridge when you switch needle sizes. (see photo above).
  • Want to swatch with multiple needles but don’t want to lose track of what size needle you used? Make eyelet holes that correspond to your needle size. For example, if you’re using a US size 6, make 6 eyelets by doing [YO (yarn-over) K2TOG (knit 2 together)] 6 times:

  • Use Ravelry to keep track of what needle size and brand of needles you’re using to swatch. That way if you swatch and then move onto another project for a while, you can go look up exactly what you used when you come back to start the sweater.

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting: Hannah Fettig Sweater KAL

It’s time to start thinking about our next Knit-A-Long, and what says Fall better than a cozy wool sweater?! Instead of choosing one pattern to knit, we’ve decided to highlight designer Hannah Fettig (aka Knitbot). Hannah Fettig is known for her classic sweater designs that are knit in one piece (no seaming!), which is ideal for first-time and veteran sweater knitters alike.

All photos from Hannah Fettig’s pattern pages on ravlery

This KAL is going to have some extra goodies including a series of blog posts with advice on everything sweater knitting! Beginning August 20th, we’ll have 2 blog posts per week to guide you through the sweater knitting process. Be on the lookout for the following blog posts:

  • Choosing a Pattern and Yarn
  • Swatching
  • Deciphering Your Swatch and Choosing a Sweater Size
  • Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-dyed Yarn
  • Making Adjustments on the Fly
  • Tips and Tricks for Sleeves
  • Seaming – hardly any of Hannah Fettig’s patterns require seaming, but we’ll discuss it anyway!
  • Blocking

Think of these blog posts as a free knitting class on making a well-fitting sweater that you love.

A little leery of making your first sweater? Fear not, Hannah’s patterns are easy to follow and there’s surely something for everyone in her collection of patterns. The Stash Enhancers will be happy to help you pick a pattern that will match your skill level. There are even several pint-sized versions of her designs, most notably the Coastal Kids patterns, for the little ones in your life.

The Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL will run from Wednesday September 19th-Wednesday December 12th to give you plenty of time to complete your sweater! The entire blog post series will be finished the week before the kick-off, so you’ll have the resources you need to cast-on right away!

KAL participants will receive 15% off yarn purchased for the knit-a-long between August 22nd and September 19th! Stop on in, browse through the Hannah Fettig patterns, and choose some gorgeous yarn to inspire your fall knitting!

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Filed under Books/Patterns, Knit Alongs, Knitting, LYS, Stash Knitting, Tutorials, Uncategorized, Yarn