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Gauge Swatches for Knit & Crochet

If you're new to knitting or crochet you may have seen a gauge swatch on a pattern and not known what it was for; in this post we will take you through how to swatch and why it is important.

Why should you swatch?

Not everyone does swatch and swatching for every piece is becoming pretty uncommon in the yarn craft world, so why should you?

Every person has a different natural tension, some people are loose, some are tight, and your own tension can change depending on your mood and what you're making. When designers write patterns they use their own tension as a baseline but since you won't have the same tension as them it's important to work out how you will need to adapt the instructions to suit your own tension.

Most patterns will come with a recommended hook or needle size and a recommended yarn. Most of the time you won't be using the same yarn as the designer so even if the yarns are both a double knit it's best to check they behave in the same way.

The two big reasons for swatching are sizing and materials.

If you have a wildly different tension to the pattern designer you may need a lot more or a lot less yarn to complete the same project, no one wants to get near the end of a project only to find out you don't have enough yarn left; so swatch before you start. If your tension isn't close to the gauge size we'd recommend picking up an extra ball of yarn just in case, no one likes to lose yarn chicken!

Sizing has to be the most important reason to swatch and it is super important for wearable pieces. If your scarf is a little short or a teddy a bit mis-shapen it isn't the end of the world. But if the jumper you spent £50 on yarn and a month knitting doesn't fit you it's heartbreaking.

Swatching takes very little time in the long run, maybe half an hour at most. It's much better to take that extra time to check your tension so you can change your hook or needles now rather than many hours into the project. Set yourself up for success!

If we've managed to convince you to swatch you might be wondering where to start.

In every pattern you should see the swatch dimensions near the top, probably next to the equipment. It should give you the tension of the pattern designer. The standard swatch is 10cmx10cm but they can be bigger or smaller. It will tell you how many stitches by rows/rounds the designer took to reach 10cm. Each pattern will tell you what stitch to swatch in as you usually swatch in the most used stitch for the pattern. You should also use the hook and yarn you are intending to use for the project.

Gauge: 10cmx10cm= 15 stitches 12 rows hdc unblocked

This is the tension swatch for our Lilac Haze Scarf. If you wanted to gauge your own tension against it there are two ways you could go about it.

First you could stitch 10cm squared in half double crochet, measuring until your reached the desired length. You would then count your stitches and rows and check them against the given tension.

Or you could crochet 15 stitches by 12 rows in half double crochet and then measure to see how close to 10x10cm you are.

This swatch is unblocked which means you shouldn't stretch it out to reach gauge, if a tension gauge asks you to block your swatch you should wet it and pin it out before counting the stitches.

Now that you have stitched and measured your swatch what do you do?

If you have more stitches than the gauge given your tension is tighter than the designer's. Increase your hook/needle size and swatch again. Keep swatching, measuring and increasing the size until you reach gauge close to the measurements given.

If you have fewer stitches that in the swatch measurements your tension is looser than the pattern designers. Use a smaller hool and swatch again. Like above keep repeating the steps, swatch, measure, change hook size until you get close to the recommended gauge.

This can take a bit of time but it's better than having to frog an almost completed jumper!

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