Swatch is not a four-letter word
I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the road when it comes to swatching. I’ve had enough trouble over the years with finished products that don’t fit as intended that I respect the swatch, but I also dread the time and effort it takes to swatch. When I decide I want to knit something, I want to knit it – not knit a square, wash it, wait for it to dry, then knit again. Add to this the fact that most of what I knit is done in the round, which requires a different sort of swatch (an even more annoying one, in my book), and I dread swatching.
I rarely swatch properly for baby items, as I figure as long as I err on the side of being too big rather than too small, it will fit someone at some point. In the case of this sweater (Devan from Knitty), however, it became a problem – the fit of the sleeves into the armholes depends on row gauge and stitch gauge matching in a specific way, a way in which my gauge definitely did not. This sweater has been sitting in a drawer for a couple of years now while I decide what I want to do to fix it.
Now, I think about what I am knitting, and whether both row gauge and stitch gauge matter – whether I need to wash and block a swatch, or whether it’s enough to just measure as I go. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what my gauge will be with my most-often-used combinations of needle size and yarn, so I can make an educated guess of what size to cast on for.
I use this method most often for toe-up socks – by the time I have knit the toe and the first inch or so of the pattern, I’ve got a good bit of stockinette on the sole of the foot to check my gauge with, without spending any more time than I would have on a swatch. This is what I’ve done with my most recent project, Switcheroo Socks from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. (I’m using Yarn Love‘s Marianne Dashwood in Mermaid – the color in this photo is a bit off!) Just a couple of inches into the sock, I was able to accurately measure both my row and my stitch gauge, and feel confident that the finished product will be the right size.
So – how do you swatch? What techniques do you use to make the process easier?