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?

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