Why Knitters Need to Swatch and Get Gauge

Miss Babs yarn swatch remnants

I’ve been seriously knitting (as much as possible) for a couple of years now. I still consider myself a newbie to the knitting world. The more I knit, the more I realize I still have a lot to learn. (Photo at top: Miss Babs sends along this little bits of yarn to try out whenever I place an order, which I think is so cool!)

I want to say that I am a beginner in many ways. Swatching and getting gauge is still something I need to work on. I am searching for information on these subjects myself. This page is full of good links to help me as much as any reader.

Swatching is Not a Waste of Time

When I first began to read about swatching I thought it was going to be a tremendous waste of time. And then I would just have to unravel the swatch before I began knitting the item. What was this gauge thing and how off could I be? Plus, I really didn’t understand how to make a swatch.

This Very Pink Knits video was very helpful in making me understand more about making swatches.

Tie Knots For Needle Size Used When Swatching

In the Very Pink Knits video above, around 7:15, she will show you this handy trick to remember needle size used when swatching. Leave a long tail and tie one knot for each size. In my swatch samples below you can see I have 5 and 7 knots tied which means the dark green swatch was knit in a size 5 (US) and the lighter was knit with a size 7.

knots for needle size used in a swatch
Knots in the tail represent needle size used

I was thinking about swatching incorrectly. Each swatch can be kept as a reference to go back to and use when knitting something in the future. A swatch, made correctly, can be stored with other swatches to build an inventory over time. Of course labeling each one is important to remember the yarn used, needle size, etc.

using tags to save swatches
Tags can be used to save swatch info, but must be attached to each swatch

Gauge is found by counting stitches across and also rows (up and down). Rows aren’t as important for scarves or items that can be a bit longer or shorter without a problem.

Changing needle size will help with gauge. Most times I need to go up a needle size to get gauge. This means I knit tightly and get more stitches in my 4 inch swatch count than there should be. When I go up to a bigger needle my stitches are bigger so there are fewer within the measurement. The type of yarn can also be a factor.

As you can imagine, not all knitwear designers knit the same, and they probably don’t knit the same way you do. And if you change yarn type – that matters too! This is why gauge is important to figure out before knitting something like a sweater. Pattern designers will give you the recommended gauge and you keep trying to knit swatches until you get that gauge – or very close to it.

Convert suggested needle sizes using this excellent chart (link below) which lists US, metric, and UK / Canadian sizes.

Knitting Needle Conversion Chart


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