Nothing is more frustrating than finishing a project only to find out the measurements are all wrong! Knitting a swatch to test your gauge can prevent this!
So what are these two things that can help you knit the perfect size piece each time? Okay, it doesn’t mean it’ll be perfect each time but it greatly increases the chances! I’ve had swatches measure perfectly only have it act differently once I started the project.
Think of the swatch as your test square. Most patterns and skeins of yarn will tell you how many stitches and rows you need to equal a 4″ square. When knitting a swatch it’s important to knit it in the same stitch pattern you’ll be working with. 20 stitches by 15 rows can be very different in garter stitch vs a lace pattern!
Knitting up a swatch can prevent many hours of wasted work and yarn. I use to blow off knitting the swatch because I didn’t understand the concept of gauge or that every knitter works a little different.
So gauge is what you are testing when making a swatch. You want to make sure that you are knitting the same size stitches as the person who wrote the pattern, otherwise, it won’t come out right.
So what do you do if your gauge isn’t matching up? There are three different things that affect gauge:
- The Yarn
- The Needles
- Your Tension
Chances are you aren’t using the exact same brand of yarn that the pattern maker used. If your gauge is too large you may be using too thick of yarn, if you’re coming up short you may be using too thin a yarn. Changing your yarn can help, but you want to make sure that you aren’t forcing a yarn to work. If you can’t bend and fold your swatch you are knitting way too tight; yes I’ve done this and the gloves turned into armor. Same if you are forcing a thin yarn to work, you’ll end up with a piece that’s so thin and holey it might as well be lace.
I tend to knit very tightly, so I normally have to use a size or two larger than suggested. Different size needles are the easiest thing to change to obtain correct gauge. Using wood, plastic, metal, or bamboo doesn’t tend to affect the gauge.
Tension is based on how you hold the yarn and control the flow of yarn from the skein into your work. Changing how you let the yarn go through your fingers is all it takes it change your tension. Here are some different ways to hold your yarn that affect your tension:
This is how I hold my yarn for knitting and crocheting. I tend to knit really tightly so this allows the yarn to flow fairly easily. This is also how my grandmother taught me years ago
This is barely holding the yarn, just enough to keep it in place but without adding any tension.
This is great if you knit way too loosely. Wrap the yarn twice around any finger, most people I’ve see use this method chose their ring finger
Another one good for loose knitters (or crocheters) but it’s not as tight as the double wrapping.
Play around with different ways of holding your yarn until you get something that feels right!
Now, go knit something that is the proper size!