Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Gauge Swatch

My absolute least favorite part about knitting is the Gauge Swatch. I know it’s important on many projects, and it is knitting, which I enjoy, but it takes so much time and in the end, it’s just a little piece of fabric. The annoying part is when I pick the wrong size needle and have to start all over again with the Swatch. At this point, some of you are probably wondering “what is a swatch?” Well a swatch is a small representation of the knitted project. A swatch is usually knitted in the same pattern as the majority of the project. On most projects, there is a small paragraph that reads something like this. Gauge 30 stitches and 36 rows to 4 inches/10CM over the pattern. And there is usually, a sentence that says something like this “TAKE TIME TO CHECK YOUR GAUGE” And yes, the sentence is usually in caps, to show just how important this step is. A knitter, who is making something like a sweater will realize this and probably start the Gauge Swatch before she starts the actual project. This knitter will slave over this swatch; bind off the ends and measure to see if the swatch is the four inch square like the Gauge section shows. At this point, the knitter will either realize that the swatch is the right size, or that a different size of needles is needed. If the swatch is definitely the wrong size, the knitter can either be really optimistic and try washing the swatch as the garment will be washed and blocking it or the knitter can unravel the swatch and try a different size of needle for the swatch. After washing the swatch and measuring it again, the knitter might be very happy that the swatch is the perfect size, or it’s back to knitting another swatch with a different size of needles.

The swatch is actually really useful; it’s usually a good representative of your finished project. It helps knitters get to know their yarn and what it will do when you wash it and stretch it out (blocking). It’s a great way to find out the limits of your yarn. It is also nice to see how the yarn looks with the pattern of your project. Swatches are just a way to prepare for knitting. To be honest, I’ve made things without a swatch and they turned fine (probably just luck), and there were other times when I took the time to make a swatch, and the finished project was not the right size (I probably made an error in measuring or something). So, swatches aren’t a guarantee that the project will be perfect, but they are a small way to look into the future of your project. If you absolutely hate the thought of swatching, there are a couple of options. You could just knit things that don’t have to fit. Things like blankets and scarves don’t really need swatches. Or you could knit using the same yarn and needle size as the pattern calls for, and hope that you knit with the same tension as the designer of the pattern.

Good Luck and I hope you can find a way to have fun with Swatches, if you do, please let me know. And if you can't find anything else to do with your completed swatch, you could always use them as coasters.

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