Tuesday Tip: Swatching in the Round (Speed Swatch)

Tuesday Tip copy

In past Tuesday Tips we have touched on gauge (as many of you know, one of my favorite topics). We’ve talked about how you can measure when you can’t see your stitches, and how to block your swatch. Today I want to deal with another special gauge situations, knitting in the round

Gauge Swatch in the Round . . . or Speed Swatch!

I remember many years ago as a new(ish) knitter, starting a top down, in the round pullover. I dutifully made my gauge swatch, a nice 6″ x 6″ all stockinette beauty. I did everything right. I counted my stitches and rows unblocked, then I washed and blocked it to see if it changed. I was dead on with my stitch gauge, and my row gauge (very important with top down), was a tiny bit off, but I carefully redid the match on the raglan shaping to make sure I’d end up with the correct armhole depth – phew – done! Not so fast.

I cast on and finished the yoke. Since my gauge had not changed at all when I washed and blocked the swatch I thought I’d give a quick double check before dividing for the front and back, and I did what I call the “pinch test”. I put the whole yoke on scrap yarn so I could slip it over my head and pinch the fabric under the arms to make sure the armhole was deep enough and all was right with the world to divide for front and back. One tiny problem . . .


What could have gone wrong, what happened? I check the stitch gauge on the yoke I just finished and it was completely different then the swatch (swatch = 18 st per 4″, yoke = 21 st per 4″).


Then I realized . . . I had made my gauge swatch flat. That meant knitting a row and purling a row. The pullover was knit in the round, that means just knitting. NO PURL STITCH.

I had been knitting long enough that I knew the purl used up more yarn and therefore eliminating it would mean a tighter gauge.

Allow me to visually illustrate:

Gauge Swatch in the round

A stockinette swatch worked flat. Notice the rowing out (gap where the purl rows are taller)

Gauge Swatch in the round

Swatch in the round. No purl stitch, no rowing out

The reason the western purl is taller, is the yarn takes a different path than the knit and therefore uses more yarn (if you are an Eastern knitter, your knit stitch uses more yarn, and if you’re a combination knitter, your knit and purl uses the same amount of yarn, but there are other challenges. For more information of different knitting methods try my class “Improve Your Knitting:Alternative Methods and Styles

Gauge Swatch in the round

Looking at the knit stitch from behind. Notice yarn travels under needle to over.

Gauge swatch in round

Purl stitch, yarn travels over to under. More yarn used.

So how can you simulate knitting in the round for your swatch? Make a flat i-cord!

Step 1: Cast on to double pointed needles or circualr needles. I like to cast on enough stitches that I have 6″ worth of stockinette (or whatever stitch I’m swatching) + an extra 4 stitches on either side.

Work your first row as follows:

  • K2tbl (knit two stitches through the back loop), P2, work 6″ of stitches for your swatch, p2, k2tbl
1 pull yarn behind

At the end of each RS row . . .

Step 2: After you work a RS row, run your work to the other side of the dpn or circular needle, bringing yarn around to the back. Since you’ve left your yarn ready to work a WS row, you will be looping it loosly around the back of the swatch to work another RS row (eliminating purl to create stockinette)

2 slide swatch

Step 3: To keep your edge nice and neat, hang onto your working yarn for a moment and work the first 2 stitches through the back loop to twist them. Next, work your purl “buffer” stitches

Gauge swatach in round

Gauge swatch in round

Step 4: Continue working in this manner, working RS row, moving swatch to other side of needle, and looping the yarn around the back to work another RS row – NO WS ROWS! There will be a strand running across the back for every row worked.

swatch in the round

Step 6: After you finish the swatch, BO, cut the strands and you’re ready to measure unblocked and then remeasure after blocking

gauge swatch in round

Stockinette swatch blocking

Gauge swatch in the round

Lace swatch blocking

For more information on working in the round (circular, double pointed, magic loop, 2 circs, 2 at a time on magic loop & 2 circs, fixing mistakes in the round, converting flat patterns to in the round and MORE), check out “Circular Knitting Essentials”

Content Circular Knitting

Click here to order DVD or digital download

You may also like


  • Peta February 10, 2016   Reply →

    Hi. I would never have thought of this. Takes people like you to keep me educated. What did we do without the internet? Wander the Earth searching in libraries, hoping for exactly what we want to turn up. Problem with that is you have to know the question to ask. Don’t get me wrong I love the library but the internet is keeping me informed. Thanks again for the information.

  • Ellie Gaines February 13, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you for your instructions on how to properly gauge a circular knitting swatch. I’ve done it this way, but I did not
    cut the strands across the back, since I couldn’t reuse the yarn if necessary. I see the wisdom in this though, so I plan to do this in the future. I will be in your class at Bergamo, Dayton, OH, the later part of April, assuming
    I will be well enough by then. Thanks for accepting the invitation from the Dayton Knitting Guild. Hope you are feeling better. Ellie

  • Georgene Wray February 14, 2016   Reply →

    Patti, thank you for this really useful tip. While I was aware of the fact I did not really know how to achieve a small swatch in the round – simple easy fix but brilliant – you have explained so well.

    Another query – does the material from which the needles are constructed (wood/metal) make a difference to the gauge? Pure logic says no but I have a gut feeling that it does – had to switch needles in a recent project. The knitted fabric felt “different”. Perhaps it is something to do with the weight of the needles. Do you have any thoughts on the subject. Georgie

    • Georgene Wray March 13, 2016   Reply →

      Greetings from ‘down under’- I have purchased the KDaily episode & done some trial knitting with ndls made from wood/metal as suggested – seeing is believing. Wood ndls gave better st definition in this exercise. The original ‘switch’ was by design for needle length – I short cut with sock ndls for a 10st lace edge from which the body sts would be picked up – did not have ndls matching in size & construction material.
      I now know what NOT to do next time – thank you for replying & I am sorry for not getting the spelling of your name correct. I recently enrolled in your Craftsy course – it is refreshing viewing & makes me think a bit more about what I am actually doing even though I have been knitting for many years – habits die hard! Georgie

  • Carlene June 12, 2019   Reply →

    Why not swatch on circulars, move the swatch back and forth knitting each row and not have to cut the yarn. That way you could reuse it in the project?

  • Lee Ann September 7, 2021   Reply →

    This is so helpful! I’m knitting a tee that starts out being knit flat, then changes to in the round. Yikes! Do I swatch using both flat and circular techniques and possibly have to switch needle sizes when starting in the round? Help and Thanks!

Leave a comment