Do You Swatch Before You Knit?

The answer to the question “Do you swatch before you knit?” is, for myself, yes and no. I will sometimes swatch for a sweater for gauge. I will also swatch for a project if the yarn is new to me and I want to get an idea of it’s properties. When I am working on design ideas though, knitting up samples of stitch patterns is essential. I want to get familiar with the pattern; see how it looks and feels with the yarn and needles I may be using; and to work out the chart.

I am a firm convert to knitting stitch patterns with charts. Written directions are fine for verifying a charts when there is part that is confusing. Knitting from them (written directions) though is an exercise in frustration for me. I always chart lace, cables, etc. before knitting a stitch pattern if it is not already done by someone else.

Here are a few interesting stitch patterns I am working with at the moment. I charted both of them first and then started knitting some samples. I worked up both stitch patterns in two different yarn bases. The red samples are in my Classic Merino Superwash Sport in Garnet. The fingering weight samples are in my Classic Merino Bamboo in Sea Oat. I used US 5 needles on the sport samples and US 3 for the fingering weight ones.

I took both of these pictures before I blocked them. I wanted to have a record of the texture because I planned to block them as for a shawl. My initial idea was to design an asymmetrical triangle using both of the elements. After working up all four of the samples I am not sure if that is still the plan. I like both but they might end up being used in two separate designs. I also can’t decide between the bases. It’s early in the process so anything goes at this point.

I mean, just look at the post blocking pictures! It’s hard to choose between the slightly chunky texture of the sport weight and the light, silky drape of the fingering weight Merino Bamboo. I will be moving on to the next phase of swatching with the shaping and see how that works. At the same time I can determine whether combining these two elements will be a good idea or not. I share those results in my next post.

I’ll leave you with a few photos of my new pizza stone and the pizzas we made for New Year’s Eve.

16 thoughts on “Do You Swatch Before You Knit?

  1. I always swatch for sweaters but never anything else. It has come back to bite me in the ass, most recently with a big shawl project, but I probably will never change my habits, haha! I’m the opposite when it comes to charts though–I keep having to glance between the chart and the key, and for some reason it’s much easier for me to follow the written directions. That’s why I love designers who include both! The design on the larger bamboo swatch is stunning. Can’t wait to see what you do with it!

    1. I hear you on swatches being liars. It does happen to me, too, when I am using it for gauge. I know I seem to be in the minority when it comes to charts. I can’t wait to see what I come with too, LOL.

  2. Yum, that pizza looks delicious. I am a chart knitter. I get lost in written instructions.

    1. Thank you it WAS delicious. Honestly my own homemade pizza is my favorite! Yay! Another chart knitter! I knew I wasn’t completely alone out here. 😁

  3. I swatch for sweaters but I’m convinced swatches lie. This is probably due to not swatching large enough but I really don’t want to spend a week making a 10″ x 10″ swatch. I’ve also learned measuring gauge on needles lies versus measuring gauge on barber (silicone) cords. I’m a visual learner so charts work for me. I can’t do written instructions except as a back-up if I’ve forgotten what a symbol stands for.

    1. I hear you on swatches and have many times experienced the same. Therefore I am skeptical on what they tell me concerning gauge but do rely on what they tell me about the fabric. It’s cool to see a few chart knitters out there too. I encounter so many knitters at festivals who don’t utilize them that I assume I’m in a minority but maybe less so than I thought. 🙂

  4. I swatch when I think it might make a difference – and even though I did a swatch for my cousin’s wool/silk blend sweater, it failed to tell me how much it would stretch when washed – at least it didn’t show up on the 6″ square I knit! He wears it anyway, even though it’s a bit big and a little saggy. But things like socks, knitting the toe tells me gauge, and I usually start with finer needles and go up a size as I go up the sock.

    1. Yep, that can be an issue. Even if you wash and block/dry the swatch as you will the garment, it’s still not exactly the same since it’s smaller. I guess.

  5. Oh, yes – charts. I applaud designers who use both words and charts, but especially lace I find it much easier to see where I’m going with charts, and I always prefer them for cables as well. So easy to put my magnet bar across above the row I’m currently working, and at a glance see if it makes sense in terms of how it’s supposed to flow. I did a hat once (from an Interweave pattern with only words) and it came out beautifully – but not at all like the photo example!

    1. Yes, I use an app on my tablet or phone. It’s great because you can make counters as needed and highlight the rows you’re on. You can also add notes and stuff if necessary.

      1. What app is that?

      2. It’s called Row Counter. Highly recommend!

      3. Downloading it now!

  6. you’re so funny – I rarely ever swatch, and I can’t follow a chart to save my ass – I need words or I get hopelessly lost. :)

    1. 😄 I hear ya

  7. […] There is a theme going on with all three of the patterns I picked out. They all have slipped stitches and begin on the wrong side. I like the idea of that but it is a bit of a bugger to chart. I wonder at this point if it is worth pursuing or am I headed back to the drawing board? I have already invested quite a lot of time to get to this point and I am still not sure if I love it. I have two other rough ideas I want to explore. One will be the bottom stitch pattern from the above picture with a cable element. The other is the lace pattern from my last post. […]

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