Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Swatching in the Round



If you ask anyone at Knit Night they'll tell you I am pretty unforgiving about swatching, ask me a question about knitting and I'll ask you if you've done a gauge swatch. I know it can be annoying (sorry ladies!) but if you've knit as many garments from scratch as I have you get up close and personal with the gauge swatch and you tend to want everyone to understand it like you do.  




I'm doing some pretty funny looking swatching for the cardigan that I posted about yesterday. Today I'm swatching in the round. If you've never heard of it or practiced it yourself I'll break it down for you and tell you why it's so important.

 My cardigan is seamless and knit from the top down. This means that the body will be knit flat (even though I am working on a circular needle) but the sleeves will be worked in the round. If you're like me you might get a different gauge when you knit in the round than when you are knitting flat, this usually means that you have a different tension when you purl as opposed to when you knit. So in order to get an accurate gauge swatch you will need to work in the round when you are swatching.


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Swatching Flat

Because the body of my work will be knit flat I want to swatch flat as well as in the round. I've cast on 16 stitches with size 10mm needles and knit for 5 inches (the tiny purple marker on the right marks my 5 inches). 


A few pointers for a regular old swatch:
  • Try to swatch with the needles you will be using for the actual project. What your needles are made of (metal, bamboo, wood, plastic) can change your tension.
  • You'll want a swatch that is wider and longer than 4 inches because you do not want to measure stitches that are on the edge or along the cast on or bound off rows, these stitches are uneven and not true to your natural tension, if you measure them you won't get an accurate reading. 
  • Stitch gauge is normally more important than row gauge so if you can achieve the appropriate number of stitches per inch but can't seem to get gauge with your rows, carry on (paying special attention if instructions are written by number of rows rather than inches). 
  • If you are knitting a garment that requires negative ease (the finished measurements are smaller than your actual body measurements) make sure that you are achieving a fabric that is loose enough to stretch. If you are substituting yarns, you may be able to "get gauge" with a different weight of yarn but if the fabric is dense or tight you'll end up with a coat of armor that won't fit well because of the lack of stretch. 
 
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Swatching in the Round

Because the sleeves of my cardigan are knit in the round, I also want to swatch in the round and make sure that they turn out the circumference that I plan. Without casting on again, and just using my flat swatch and same needle, I begin "working in the round". Because I don't want to knit more than I have to for this swatch, and knowing that I have to knit every round, I carry my yarn behind my work so that I am starting my row at the same end every time without ever turning my work. I end up with something that looks like this:


Here's a little trick I use...

I find it difficult to get even loops across the back of my knitting because I work on circular needles. When I swatch in the round my loops get tighter and tighter pulling the swatch in on the wrong side, this is fine if you want to cut the loops when you're done to properly measure your swatch but since I often unravel my swatches I started placing something behind my work to keep the loops consistent...



{ A sleeve from my cardigan is just the right bulk and width and it worked beautifully }


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The Results

{ Flat : 9 stitches = 4 inches}

{ In the Round : 10 stitches = 4 inches } 

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Why It's Important

Now in my case (working the body flat and the sleeves in the round) a fluctuation in gauge isn't that big of a deal (if you're just knitting for fun and not designing that is), because the worst that can happen is I swatch flat, get perfect gauge resulting in a body that fits exactly as it should with sleeves that are a little tighter than they should be. But take for example my Oatmeal Pullover design. This sweater is super fitted and knit entirely in the round, imagine if you swatched flat and got the same results as I did above (an entire stitch off over 4 inches)...

To put it in perspective, if you were to "get gauge" on your flat swatch and start knitting a size 36 you would lose 3 whole inches by knitting in the round! On a pullover that is already smaller than your body size, this could mean that your finished garment won't fit! And the more stitches you have the bigger the discrepancy, if you were knitting the largest size you would lose 4 inches! Can you afford to have a sweater end up 4 inches smaller than intended when it's supposed to be tight fitting already?

18 comments:

  1. Very helpful! Thank you so much!
    I have a question about knitting a gauge swatch. If I was to knit a pattern with an all-over pattern should I knit a swatch in the stitch called for in the pattern or just knit it in stockinet? What do you do?
    Thanks!
    Genevieve

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    1. If the pattern provides the gauge over the pattern stitch then you will need to swatch in the pattern stitch. If it were me and both were given (gauge for both the pattern stitch and stockinette stitch) I would probably cheat and just do the stockinette swatch... depending on what I was knitting and how much it mattered.

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  2. Wow, this was an incredibly helpful post! I actually have a few personal projects (i.e. NOT for my Etsy shop, fancy that?!) I've been wanting to tackle lately, but so many of them say to swatch in the round & that just sounded way too time consuming! I love your trick though, I'm definitely going to try that. :D

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  3. What a great tip. I do swatch in the round, but all my carry behind loops are uneven are are really distracting. I'll have to try this on my next swatch!

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  4. this is such an excellent post! xo

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    1. I know this one is near and dear to you Becca because of the Oatmeal Pullover. It's something that isn't really covered often.

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  5. Hrmmm, maybe that is what happened with the sleeves on my Rocky Coast Cardigan, as I did swatch but the sleeves are tiiight (not so much that I can't wear it, but) ....

    I think if I was a regular at your knit-nite you would give me dirty looks - I am not usually a swatcher, LOL! But this is a very helpful post, thanks Jane!

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    1. Lol, you could sit at the end of the table with the other non-swatchers, I can glare at you from a distance, lol. So kidding! I don't judge, it only bugs me when I'm asked for knitting advice that's obviously guage related when the whole swatch process has been totally disregarded... believe me, it happens!

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  6. Great post Jane!! I'll admit that I don't swatch as often as I should, just with yarns that I haven't worked with, and don't swatch in the round solely because I find it extra work. I'll definitely give your trick a try next time!

    Thanks for writing such a helpful post! ♥

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  7. This is a fantastic post! I've been thinking a lot about swatches lately. I always swatch before a project, but I never bind off and cut it from the skein. I just measure and then unravel it. However, I've been considering the implications of not blocking a swatch, but the idea of using up yards of yarn for a permanent swatch (and possibly needing to purchase an extra expensive skein of yarn just to swatch) makes me cringe, so I haven't changed my methods yet.

    Do you ever block your swatches?

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    1. I am the same way :)

      ...I don't block my swatches unless it changes the fabric in a necessary way, lace for example, but most of what I knit can be worn right off the needles (top down + seamless) and isn't really designed to need the blocking.

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    2. Well that makes me feel better! Do you ever find that your finished piece grows significantly after you wash it the first time?

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    3. Yes! I'm very conscious of this though, it helps to support the weight of the sweater when you remove it from the water when wet blocking to the time you lay it flat to dry... don't allow it to stretch lengthwise or it will grow and grow!

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    4. Awesome! It's so helpful to get your perspective. Thank you!

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  8. wow. i know there are lots of people that feel the same way as you but i just don't. i do swatch, but it's tiny. just enough to give me a good start. then i start. try it on after about 2 in. decide if it is going to work. keep going or rip and start over taking out or adding what i "guess" i might need to get what i want. this probably sounds horrible to you. but it works for me. i just hate swatching so much.
    ps. i also undo the swatch as soon as i make it's tiny little self. i know...i am now on your horror list. ahhhh.

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  9. so clever!! this is such a great tutorial on swatching in the round and why it is important. Great post!!

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  10. Oh my goodness, Jane! What a great trick - I always knit in the round but not "in the round" - now I have another excuse to knit more swatches, since they'll take much quicker to do now that I know this little trick of yours!

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  11. I never would knit a swatch in the round until a friend of mine scolded me! It really is great advice. I do love your tip to get even loops. I'm definitely going to try that!

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