Why we swatch

Why We Swatch (hint . . . it’s not what you think)

Over the years I’ve written a lot about gauge (you can read them all here). From how to swatch for an in the round project, to special cast ons for gauge swatch to secrets of stitch gauge, row gauge and even secrets to measuring hard to see stitches. But today I want to talk about the real truth beyond gauge, the real reason we should be casting on . . .

Why We Swatch

1) To make a fabric sample

Why We Swatch

Once you learn the math of gauge and how to make adjustments, you know the most important thing you can do is to swatch for fabric. We love yarn so much that we can get distracted by color, softness, and often forget that interlocking loops of yarn build a fabric. If the fabric right for your garment?

2) Stitch Transition

A sweater might give the gauge just in stockinette, but it might have a pattern on the hem or cuff. I like to do a stitch transition swatch so I can see how both stitch patterns look. Sometimes I will use a different needle size for the trim to get the look I want.

3) To practice tricky techniques

Swatching doesn’t have to end when we cast on for our project. In the Tortola KAL / Sweater class students kept a practice swatch going through the whole sweater and used it to practice each technique that came along. A great way to not rip out your real project!

4) To get width of cable or lace panels

I always swatch each cable in a design so I can see how wide they should be. Even if the gauge in the pattern is in stockinette, if there’s a cable panel I like to see who wide it should be when blocked. It’s also a great way to practice your cables.

5) To Make Decisions

A swatch can be used to do little tests of different pattern elements. Sometimes a pattern might say “increase one stitch each side”, but what type of increase and where do you put it. You can also use a swatch to test out things you want to change about a pattern. You might want to test our a different buttonhole or a raglan increase. Make mini swatches to make better knitting decisions.

We love to knit

You have to knit to make a swatch

Learn to love swatching – it IS knitting 🙂



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  • Andrea Miller April 24, 2017   Reply →

    “We love to knit

    You have to knit to make a swatch

    Learn to love swatching – it IS knitting ”

    Testify. I cannot imagine knitting now without a swatch.

  • Pat Enterkin April 24, 2017   Reply →

    These are the most beautiful swatches I have ever seen.
    The variety of the work is awesome. Thanks for showing these.

  • Jodie May 7, 2018   Reply →

    Hi Patty

    Thanks so much for this very helpful article. Our readers will enjoy it. We’ve shared it in our latest craft inspiration roundup https://craftylikegranny.com/take-time-to-do-what-makes-your-soul-happy/ Cheers Jodie 🙂

  • Aly DeMarco June 6, 2020   Reply →

    Incredible — and so happy I am a process knitter — Swatching is great fun — helps you to understand the yarn like “paint” and the needles as though they were brushes.

  • Roz Curry December 22, 2021   Reply →

    All of those swatches can be saved over the years and, eventually, made into an afghan. Consider it a “history of knitting” piece of art.

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