Once you find the right pattern and yarn, you get the itch to get your knitting project started. You may get your knitting needles and your favorite yarn and follow the pattern to the word but it still might not turn like you imagined or the picture you saw? You might wonder why? It is because you missed out on the step of calculating your knitting gauge with a swatch. A gauge swatch also known as tension square and other terms gives you a measure of the stitches. It gives a measure of how much yarn you’ll be needing, how the yarn behaves with the knitting needles and also the look of the finished project.
Knitting a gauge swatch is a small yet significant step that can solve many problems that you might face in your craft projects. So, whether you use circular needles or double pointed needles, make sure to start right. If you are into mindful knitting, we’ll take you through why a gauge swatch is important and how to get the right gauge. If you are unsure about knitting terms, please make sure to understand that the needle gauge is different. It is a knitting accessory that will indicate the right size of your knitting needles and will assist you with all kinds of projects.
Every knitter is unique and has a different style of holding the yarn and making stitches. The pattern designer may have a different tension to make stitches which can differ from yours. Therefore whenever you follow a pattern or even if you design your own, it is always recommended to knit a gauge swatch.
Not knitting a gauge swatch and matching the instructions may have some potential problems including:
When you begin to plan a project, you start with yarn. If you are thinking of a sweater or hat or accessories you’ll want a yarn according to the season. If we have a pattern, we buy yarn exactly the amount and type recommended. If you knit a gauge swatch before starting a project, you will know the exact measure of yarn needed and solve the unintentional leftover or running out of yarn.
Once you knit a swatch you will get the measure if you are knitting more or less stitches per inch than the pattern recommends. If you have more stitches you’ll run out of yarn while if you have less stitches you will have leftovers. Leftovers may look a better option but the amount of yarn you’ll have will be a precious waste.
While knitting a sweater or hat, you cannot play with measurements. You need the exact size and that can be calculated with a gauge swatch. If you start without the project without knitting a gauge swatch, you could end up with either an oversized sweater or one that can’t fit. A pattern while not just mentioning the gauge but also indicating ease (the extra measurements for fit). Negative ease is needed for socks and hats while positive ease works for garments.
In the Knitting pattern the gauge will be instructed as - using a particular yarn with US 8 (5mm) needles, knit a swatch of 18 stitches (S) wide and 24 rows (R) long in garter stitch or stockinette a 4X4 inch square.
It is always recommended to be generous while knitting a gauge swatch, you should go for a 6X6 inch square. So, you need to cast on 18-22 stitches and knit according to the pattern. Once the swatch is ready, it’s important to wash and block the project. After it's dry, get ready with a measuring tape, mark an inch on the gauge swatch you knitted. Measure the number of stitches across the center of the swatch, horizontally, and count the number of stitches that fit into 6 inches, this is your stitch gauge. Also, measure vertically across your swatch and measure the number of rows that fit into 6 inches for the row gauge. If both stitch and row gauge matches the calculations, then you have the right gauge. If you find fewer stitches then you can choose a smaller size of knitting needles and if the stitches are more, get a bigger size needle. For example, if you have used a US 8 size knitting needle go for the smaller size, US 7. If there are more stitches, you need to go for a size-up, like US 9.
So, now you are ready to cast your project. You can leave the gauge swatch as it is easy or rip it and get started. You can follow or begin the practice of mindful knitting with our blog.
Happy mindful knitting!