Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Technique Tuesday: Swatching I

Like I said yesterday I am a big advocate for swatching.  It is really important whether you are designing your own knit item or using a designer's pattern.  Everyone's gauge is different and swatching allows you to see if you need to make any adjustments to the needle size or stitch count. Swatching also lets you get to know the stitch pattern you are going to use and lets you experience your yarn and get to know it before you take on your project.

There are plenty of reasons to swatch and today I am only going to talk about one of those reasons, stitches per inch.  When you knit a swatch you want to make sure that the swatch is about 4 to 5 inches in width and height.  If you are using a pattern there will be a suggested gauge of usually 2 to 4 inches you want to knit about an inch to two inches more than this suggested gauge so that you can get an accurate measurement.  If you are looking to find a certain yarn's stitch per inch look at the ball band, there is usually a suggestion of an amount of stitches to 4 inches or to 10 centimeters,  this is a good place to start.  If a suggested gauge is 20 stitch to 4 inches when you cast on for your swatch you will want to cast on about 30 stitches.

  Here is a basic swatch in a worsted weight yarn on size US 8 needles knit in stockinette.  I cast on about 28 stitches for this swatch.  This gives me plenty of room to measure.

I like to measure from the 2 inch mark on my tape to the 4 inch mark.  Line up your tape so that you have a row of stitches between the two inches on the measuring tape.  Then count the stitches all the way across.  If a stitch is cut in half at the end of the tape it will be added into the stitch count as a 1/2 of a stitch.

Here's a better picture of the stitches I counted.  I got 10 1/2 stitches to 2 inches.  This means that my stitch per inch count is 5.25 stitches for one inch.  The quarter, half and three quarters of a stitch are very important and should be taken into account when trying to figure out your stitches per inch.  This is also why you measure across multiple inches, it makes it easier to find your true gauge. 

Now if you were using a pattern and you had too many stitches per inch you would go up a needle size till you got the right count.  Inversely if you had too few stitches per inch you would go down a needle size till you got the count you were looking for.  It makes a big difference if you are 5 stitches to the inch or 6 stitches. 

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