I honestly don’t know of any knitter that says they love to do a swatch to check his or her gauge. Personally, I prefer to jump right in, but know I cannot if I am making a garment or accessory that must fit properly. Scarves, afghans, dishcloths and anything else that you make that can be an inch or more bigger or smaller than the pattern reads most of the time end up being ok. But try and put on a sweater after weeks (or months) of knitting and realize it is too big or small due to gauge..this doesn’t end well.
First of all, check the pattern for the correct weight/type of yarn. It stands to reason worsted weight will knit up larger than fingering or sock yarn. Next, use the size needle the pattern calls for – unless you are an experienced knitter than knows you knit tighter/looser, But if you are, you already know all of this anyway!
Your pattern will tell you how many stitches and rows per inch you need to get the proper gauge so your finished garment will fit. The mystery KAL I am making now has a gauge of “8 sts and 13 rows = 2” in stockinette stitch. So the swatch I knit has to be at least a few, if not more, stitches and rows than 8 stitches, 13 rows. Personally, I like to make a nice little square of stockinette so that I can measure smack dab in the middle to make sure the stitches aren’t pulled or rolling along the sides as stockinette will do.
So I cast on 20 stitches with size 9 needles and worsted wt yarn that the pattern called for. I knit until I had a perfect square. Sometimes I don’t but this time I figured I’d make 2 of the little purple squares, sew them together and stuff them for a perfect doll sized pillow for my cousin’s little girl. She loves purple. 🙂
Using a contrasting yarn, I make a running stitch up 13 rows (gauge from the pattern), then use 3 more bits of contrasting yarn to run along 8 stitches at the top and bottom of the 13 row mark, then another along the end of the 8 stitches to make a box in the middle that should measure 2 inches. If it does, all is well. If not – back to the swatching board. Lucky for me this one was right on target
If the gauge is too small, I need to use a larger needle, too big I need to use a smaller needle because I don’t want to use a different weight yarn. There are tons of websites that explain gauge much better than I do, just google “knitting gauge” and you’ll get instructions, video and one of them will help you learn how to swatch like a pro. I like this one: http://sheepandstitch.com/what-is-knitting-gauge/
Now that I’ve preached the importance of swatching, I’ll catch you up on works in progress. Donita’s next baby blanket is barely begun, but it won’t take long to complete.
I will be starting the Mystery KAL from Melody’s Makings on Ravelry since my swatch is done. 🙂 And since I am leaving for a few days of vacation I am either going to make the second black sock, which is boring but will be used this winter more than the fancier socks in crazy colors that I would rather knit. Practicality may or may not win out, I’ll let you know when I get back.