Sweater Knitting: Swatching

I only ever wrote one post in my sweater knitting series and decided it was time to bring that back and hopefully do more regularly scheduled posts about it since sweater knitting is my favorite and I still has so much more to learn. But today for this Friday I really have more of a question…
How often do you swatch?

I will be the first to admit that I feel like swatching is such a pain, when I’m ready to go I want to get started but it’s a necessary evil. I don’t want to spend all my time knitting a sweater that ultimately doesn’t fit and I’ve had a couple of mishaps early on with ill fitting sweaters becaus I just didn’t pay enough attention to knitting a gauge swatch or two to find the right needle for the project. And creating gauge swatches also lead me to consider using different weights of yarn and needle sizes to achieve gauge but get a different fabric. A perfect example is my Colorblocked Boyfriend Cardigan.
Colorblocked boyfriend sweater
The original pattern had a gauge of 16 x 22 stitches for a 4×4 inch gauge on size 8 needles. I got the same results using dk weight yarn and size 10 needles. It created a lighter fabric with a bit more drape to it which is exactly what I wanted. So do you always make a swatch before you get started on a large project? I’m curious to hear what you all do.

12 Replies to “Sweater Knitting: Swatching”

  1. Swatching is a pain, but I do more of it now that I’ve been burned a few times when I didn’t. I do NOT go to the extent of washing/blocking the swatch, mainly because I’m so “thrifty” (cheap) that I often need to use all of the yarn that I’ve bought and end up raveling the swatch so I can use that yarn, too. I do like to try using variant yarns (sometimes knit a size larger on a finer gauge yarn to make a garment that fits me), and drape is important to me. I’m a small person, so wearing a thick, stiff piece of fabric can make me feel like the tin woodman!

    1. So the picture of the swatch in the post is blocked and it came out completely different after it was blocked which is why I’ve started to make it a mandatory step. I would’ve assumed the knit would be tighter but it relaxed and kind of blossomed after blocking.

  2. I am horrid at it, meaning it’s nonexistent, and definitely have been feelin’ the pain for not doing so. I plan to do betta though when I start a new project! Do you buy extra yarn then?

    1. I’ve been adding an extra skein to what I think I need just to make sure I have enough for blocking (and so as not to run out). If I’m using a yarn I’ve used before in a different color I just swatch with whatever I had leftover in the other color to save myself the yarn.

  3. I always swatch nowadays. It took one sweater ages ago that I was so proud of that ultimately didn’t fit over my head-trapped arms in sleeves and torso of sweater pulled down, and I was stuck. Hilarious but frustrating that I had spent all that time and effort on a finished project that would never fit.

    Fast forward about 14 years, I always swatch. I even do swatches for fun now to see how a yarn knits up and wears. Clara Parks, The Knitter’s Review, wrote a great article on swatching and how to “treat” those swatches. Took a class from Amy Herzog and she couldn’t say enough about hiw important she thinks swatching is.

  4. I swatch almost all of the time, but if a pattern calls for the same gauge and same weight yarn I’ve used on a previous pattern, I just use the same needles and cross my fingers (though of course different yarns that are marked the same weight may not get the same gauge). I do usually swatch to make sure that I like the fabric, though – I recently bought some yarn labeled as aran weight, but when I tried swatching it to get gauge in aran weight patterns, realized it was really more like a worsted because the fabric was coming up much too open. I maybe could have got gauge, but didn’t like the fabric. So it would have been as waste of time to continue.

  5. I don’t very often but it has been to my peril. On my jumper that I’m knitting for my husband, I did though. It would have been too soul destroying if it didn’t fit!

  6. When I make socks, I’m lucky that I can fudge it as I go and things mostly fit. I should swatch hats more – for some reason mine get too big too fast or are juuuuust a little too short. Mittens I don’t swatch either – they are a fast project that are easy to see if it’s going to work or not. I’ve thought about swatching for sweaters by making a pair of mittens in the same yarn because I hate to waste a swatch and I’ve always got people around me with cold hands who appreciate a pair of mittens. Sweaters are few & far between, although my current project I did swatch for when I start it – a year ago. Do you run into having your gauge change over time, or do you just stick with your project till it’s done so it isn’t an issue?

    1. So I never let projects really sit so I haven’t had that problem. But I know that my gauge has loosened slightly Over the last two years. So I reswatch sometimes on yarns I use over and over again just to recheck myself.

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