Tuesday Tip: Swatching in the Round (Speed Swatch)
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 . . .
I COULD BARELY GET THE THING OVER MY HEAD!!
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:
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”
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
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)
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
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.
Step 6: After you finish the swatch, BO, cut the strands and you’re ready to measure unblocked and then remeasure after 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”
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