Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Do I really need to swatch?

On the Ravelry Knitting at Large board, a participant asks the most-asked knitting question ever: do I really need to swatch? The admittedly novice knitter hates wasting her time making little squares that are good for absolutely nothing.

I understand her pain and countless knitters over the centuries have shared her sentiment. But I have to disagree. Those little squares make the difference between a sweater that fits and one that doesn't.

Webs, the world's favorite yarn store, yesterday posted a photograph that paints a thousand words. Using exactly the same yarn, stitch count, and needle size, two women knitted swatches - and got completely different gauges. If their cardigan pattern calls for a gauge of 4.5 inches, they'd both be wrong! And end up with sweaters that don't fit.

So yes, Virginia, if you want to make a sweater that matches a pattern, you must swatch. You will indeed end up with a bunch of little squares, but when you're done, you can turn them into Christmas ornaments. Here's an Interweave pattern that shows how.


  1. A local yarn store here asked for swatches to sew together to use for a yarn bombing for an upcoming arts festival.

  2. I learned the hard way about swatching when I spent hours on sweaters that don't fit.

  3. Yeah, swatching is important. Working at a yarn store, I can't tell you how many times someone's come in and said XYZ pattern is wrong. My sleeves/sweater/dress/hat/gloves/etc. are too big/small/wide/tall. And we ask, "did you swatch?" and they say, "no." And we ask, "are you getting gauge?" and they say, "I don't know/I didn't think it was important."

    *headdesk* I always tell someone, swatching is only important if you care that it fits when you are done.

  4. "...swatching is only important if you care that it fits when you are done."

    AMEN to that... scarves, cowls, you can get away with out swatching, but any time fit is an issue, swatch bock measure and swatch

    thanks for reiterating this extremely important issue, Julie


  5. I use the same brand all the time because I know the outcome...lazy me.
    However...emotions have so much to do with my knitting. Depending how I feel my tension can loosen up considerably. If I knit and watch Downton Abbey on one evening and then a Jason Bourne movie the next night, there will be a difference in tension in the same section of a sweater! SO swatches can't be a true guide. I have to measure gauge throughout the st st portions of a sweater... often.
    My swatches and gauge are so deceiving.

  6. Excellent point, Teresa. More than once I've had to unravel a sweater because my gauge is way off. Better to check as you go then be disappointed at the end.

  7. Those Christmas ornaments are awesome! I always tell myself I'm going to make a blanket from my swatches, but I invariably lose them before I collect enough to assemble.