Fewer gauge swatches: which strategies work for you?

Now, we know that the gauge swatch is our friend. But still, they can be tedious at times, and who can resist taking shortcuts, when they work! So tell us…

What works for you?

My trick: I knit things that don’t require exact gauge :smiley:

Otherwise, I’m more of the ± type, so when I see that it gets too big or too small, I fiddle a bit with it to get it about right size, blocking should do the rest.


I, too, don’t like to swatch but have found that it’s so necessary to get a good result. That doesn’t, however, mean that I have to take it to extremes!

I generally cast on with the needle size recommended for the yarn I’m using. Since I knit a bit loosely I tend to use the smaller size recommended if more than one is listed. (such as Needle Size 7-9 )

After I knit about an inch I check the gauge to tell me if I’m in the ballpark and then I make an adjustment from there. If I’m not on target I change the needle size. If I am, then I knit approximately another inch or so and end off there. For the most part I’ve found that works well enough.

If it’s an intricate involved project where fit is crucial, I’ll do the whole deal. Otherwise the abbreviated method above works for me.

ALSO, since I usually have some yarn left over at the end of a project I knit the swatch by unwrapping yarn from the outside of the skein. Then I can unravel it and rewind it just in case I need it. Since I mostly work from center pull balls, I am then starting the project with yarn that hasn’t been knit once and unravelled.

Hope this helps and happy knitting! :knitting:

Ruthie :hug:

I haven’t knit much that requires a swatch… I don’t do them for hats, mittens…stuff like that. Just sweaters.

Anyway, I have a friend who almost always knits a hat first as her gauge swatch. She can see how the pattern looks if there is one, assess color choices and measure gauge at the same time.

Hi! :waving:

This might be helpful if you tend to start with a sleeve and then adjust needle size from there.

Melissa Morgan-Oaks’ book showing the technique for knitting two socks at a time on one long cable needle works wonderfully for sleeves, leg warmers, mittens, etc. Anything you need to knit two of.

If you’re checking out your gauge on a sleeve, using that technique would give you two sleeves that have been equally knit with the gauge tinkering. Besides, it’s a great way to have two sleeves come out exactly alike without having to count (or mis-count!) the rows!

Ruthie :slight_smile:

I don’t mind swatching. I consider it an opportunity to audition the yarn & the pattern. Does the pattern stand out well in this yarn? Do I like the drape? Do the colors work well together? Does it shrink or stretch after washing? It serves a bigger purpose than stitches per inch.

On blankets, scarfs & wraps, if gauge is off by a few stitches, who cares? Anything that isn’t fitted to the body doesn’t need a swatch to measure st/inch. But may need a swatch to test the pattern & yarn.

I always do a gauge swatch for sweaters. But check again after a few inches. If it is too small, go up a needle size. Too large, drop on size. You don’t have to frog it, just switch needles.

But even with swatching. I have no guarantee the sweater will fit me well. So I compare actual knitted dimensions to my body. I like about 2-3" of ease around the front & back together.

The place I have to frog most often is ribbing. Even with a swatch, it is hard to know if it will be comfortable. I’ve reknit cuffs & sock ribs several times.

I find ribs actually less of a problem, since they stretch easily.

Blue, I like my cuffs snug but not too snug. So I have little room for error. Just a matter of how I like them to fit me. If you like looser cuffs, then it wouldn’t be an issue.

The point of knitting is to get an end product that fits the way you like. And looks good on you. So I tweek patterns alot. Add short row bust shaping, etc.

I don’t swatch to match a pattern gauge, I swatch to figure out [I]my[/I] gauge with the yarn and needles I want to use, so I know how much to adjust the pattern by, or for making up my own. I have to know how many sts to cast on. It’s also useful to see how a pattern stitch works out - or not.

So I cast on about 20 sts or so, figure out what measurement I want something to end up at and then cast on for the item. I measure after 6" to see that it’s coming out right, and also as I go along to make sure it’s going to be the right size.

I will either gather a piece that I’ve already knit that uses the same size needles and like yarn and use that, or take a few minutes to do a swatch. So far, and I know it’s odd, I’ve always been on gauge with my patterns. I don’t expect that to last forever, but it makes me a little more confident in my knitting.

It’s fun to hear such a wide variety of answers. Keep 'em coming!

Jan, I like the hat-as-gauge-swatch idea. EZ recommended that, it’s a nice way to get a circular knit swatch.

I don’t knit much that requires a swatch. I mostly knit socks, shawls, baby blankets, baby clothes, toys. I rarely knit adult sweaters/tops - then I would definitely swatch.

I ,too, haven’t knit too much that requires a swatch. I’m in the midst of my first sweater, for which I did a regular swatch…we’ll see if I did it right!

At one point, I thought I was doing the raglan decreases wrong, and wanted to fix the issue…so I picked up a new ball and swatched that part of it…and found I was right after all…glad I did that and didn’t frog first!!

Otherwise, I do mostly hats, socks and scarves, if the hats/socks don’t fit, I can give them to someone else. I have two pairs of socks that are slightly looser than I like, and one pair tha is cast on a little too snugly…but I’ve figured out yarns and needles that work together for me to get the right fit…as long as I stick with similar sizes of yarn, I’m good to go.

I figure for patterns and drape, I can get started on the project and if I don’t like it I can frog and it’s no worse than having swatched…but if I do like it, I’ve saved time. :slight_smile:

If I decide I enjoy the sweater sorts of projects, I see much more swatching in my future!

Hi! :waving:

When I’ve done swatches for socks I always make notes on the stitch/row results for a particular yarn with a particular size needle.

Since I usually use similar yarns for socks having good notes helps me avoid repeating swatches for yarns I’ve already worked with.

Hope this helps!

Ruthie :knitting:

I hate swatching, so I only ever do it when it is absolutely necessary.
I know what my guage is, based on previous projects, with my favorite yarns and my most-used needles, so I just make an educated guess and go for it.

Oh, and if all else fails, use size 6 needles for anything except socks.

That does bring up a good point. I bet if you asked most knitters, they would say they gravitate to a certain needle size & weight of yarn. Me, I knit almost everything on US6-8. Even socks, I just double the yarn & make boot socks.

After a while of knitting on the same needles, same size & similar yarn, you pretty much know how many stitches per inch you will get. Whether you swatch or not.

I use 7mm for almost everything like shawls or sweaters, sometimes 10 or 10½ or 11, but that’s my ‘medium’ needle size.

I actually like to swatch ! With a new stitch pattern, it is as much for figuring out the pattern as the gauge. I cast on what should be about a 4-4 1/2" wide piece. Then I knit until it is about 5" long or until the"swatch" wraps around (long ways) a pocket size package of tissue. When I am finished with the swatch for gague purposes … I seam the two ends and an inch on each side of the “top” of the “tissue holder”. Easy gift or craft fair donation!!! No one knows how many you had to knit till you got it right!

This makes you a freak, you know? :roflhard:

You are a crafty and clever tissue-holder-making-freak, but a freak nonetheless! :muah:

Debbie, what a cute idea.