Posts Tagged ‘swatch’

How Can I Swatch with This?

March 14, 2018

I’m not a regular swatch knitter, partly because I generally make things where fit isn’t quite as important (like socks or shawls or baby knits). Indeed, dear friend and Fearless Knitter Cathie — who’s been swatch-free for about 50 years — and I regularly share messages about our swatch aversion.

But since I’ve decided to knit a sweater for myself (two rare occurrences), a swatch was in order. After all, if I’m going to spend hours on something that I intend to wear, I want it to fit. What knitter among us hasn’t finished a project, tried it on, discovered it doesn’t fit properly, and then stuffed it tucked it away in the back of a cupboard?

I started with size 5 (3.75mm) and knit a square, then switched to a size 4 (3.5mm) and knit some more. After washing and drying the swatch, I measured.


The size 4 needles had yielded the 5 stitches per inch that I was looking for, which would have been terrific if the pattern actually called for 5 stitches per inch. Thinking I was all ready to cast on, I reread the pattern and discovered that the correct gauge is 4 stitches per inch.

That might not seem like a big difference, but over 200ish stitches, that’s more than two inches difference — the difference between a lovely summer sweater that fits and one that is banished to a dark drawer for eternity.

So, with Cathie’s shocked voice in my ear from 3,000 miles away, I pulled out what I thought were size 6 (4mm) needles and started another swatch. Here’s where things got a bit wonky. The size 6 swatch looked and measured the same as the size 5.

Since I’d been using a circular needle that wasn’t labeled and which I’d assumed was a size 6 since that’s what the needle gauge told me, I decided to check the gauge itself. I pulled out a size 6 needle from my interchangeable needle kit and double checked the size on my trust KnitPicks needle gauge, and then, because I’m someone who likes to verify results, I checked the needle size using a different gauge.


Who knew that a needle gauge could be miscalibrated? The size 6 needle from my interchangeable kit was too big for the size 6 hole on the KnitPicks gauge but fit smoothly through the Susan Bates gauge.

Now that I’ve got THAT figured out, it’s time to cast on the Sunshine Coast.

How do you feel about swatches?


How Many Balls Does it Take?

May 17, 2010

When you fall in love with a pattern (and who hasn’t?), you may decide that it’d really be much better with a different material than the one called for.  I won’t go into how you know this — you just know.  Perhaps it’d be perfect for that merino blend that’s been hiding in your stash just waiting to be knit into something wonderful.

But the yarn in the pattern is a different weight or size than your precious merino — say 96 yard (50 gram) balls instead of 140 yard skeins.  How do you figure out if your stash of precious merino will be enough?

A tutorial in calculating how much yarn you need. Yes, I said calculating — it’s not rocket science; it’s basic math: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

N.B. This calculation assumes that your chosen yarn (the Precious Merino) knits in the same gauge as the yarn called for in the pattern (the pattern yarn). The ONLY way for you to know this is to knit a gauge swatch and measure.  Don’t eyeball it. Don’t hope it’ll knit up the same gauge. Pull up your big knitter pants and knit a swatch.  Do not skip the swatch.

– Figure out how much yarn, in yards or meters, the pattern calls for.  Let’s say it comes in 140 yard balls, and the pattern calls for 7 balls.

Yards of “pattern yarn” needed = 140 yds/ball x 7 balls = 980 yards

– The pattern calls for 980 yards, so you’ll need 980 yards of your other yarn, the precious merino. (Assuming, of course, that you’ve done your gauge swatch. You have, haven’t you?)

– Your merino is “packaged” differently. Let’s say it comes in 96 yards per 50 gram ball.  To figure out how much you’ll need, you divide the 980 yards needed for the pattern by 96 yards/ball.

980 yards/96  yards per ball = 10.2 balls

– Ta da!  You need 10.2 balls, which really means you need 11 balls.  There is no “rounding down” in knitting, unless you want to have one sleeve end at the elbow and the other at the wrist.  Even though 0.2 balls doesn’t seem like a lot, in this example, it’s about 20 yards, which can mean the difference between finishing and not finishing your project (and not discovering this tragic piece of news until you’re oh-so-very-close to the end).

If you’ve got 11 balls of your precious merino, go for it.  If you’ve got 12, that’s even better.  That extra ball is your insurance policy.

If you’re not knitting from your stash and are going to your Local Knitting Story to buy your yarn, buy 11 balls. (If you’re a very low-risk sort of person, buy 12, just to be safe)  Be sure they’re all from the same dye lot, marked on the label.  Save your receipt; put it someplace where you can find it when you’re all done, just in case you don’t need that extra ball after all.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

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