Tag Archives: swatching

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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Summer CKAL: Ready, set, go!

Summer CKAL begins today!

Are you ready?!  Have you swatched yet?

The start of my swatch, done in the round

Back of the swatch where the yarn is carried across and will eventually be cut before measuring gauge.

Today is the day we cast on for our Spring Garden Tees or Sea Breeze Tops, and in roughly 8 weeks (by the end of July) we, or the little girls in our lives, should have a lovely hand knit top to wear to the Farmer’s Market, or the park, or even eating ice cream!  (Because it WILL be warm enough by then.)

I’ve been checking out all the FO’s on Ravelry for our two tops.

The Spring Garden Tee adult version has some fantastic modification inspiration:

Sea Breeze Top mods that I love:

So what do you all think?  Going to knit the pattern as written, or add your own personal style?

Just to remind everyone, there is a thread for the CKAL on Ravelry called Summer KAL.  This is where we can share our projects, ask questions, help each other, and offer encouragement.  Jump in and join the fun!

– Cinnamon

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