A Plea for the Humble Swatch


I know, I know. You don’t wanna swatch. I’ve heard it all before, truly. (I’ve felt it all before! Truly!) But let me take a moment to make a heartfelt plea on behalf of the humble swatch.

There are three things you need to know about swatches.

    1. Swatching is easy. Truly, it is. It takes a small amount of time. (A show, if you’re a tv knitter; a chapter if you read, like I do.) It involves a small number of stitches. It lets you flirt a little with the yarn you’re considering for your project.


    1. Your swatch is a fabric sample. Swatches are your only chance to see whether you’ll like the fabric you’re making that sweater from!And most of us don’t want to spend hours and hours and hours (and hours) knitting an entire sweater, only to find that the yarn / gauge / pattern combo are totally inappropriate. Your swatch is the way to avoid that pain down the road.


  1. It’s more important to know your own gauge than match someone else’s. This is especially true for CustomFit, but is even true for a standardized knitting pattern.If you like the fabric you’re getting, but your gauge is a little off from what’s written, you have options! You can re-work numbers of course, but you can also see whether the stitch counts for one of the other sizes will work for you, at your actual gauge.

    Think about it: As long as your gauge is predictable, you can make the rest work.


“Okay, okay!” you’re saying. “Uncle! I’m ready to swatch!”

“…but don’t really understand how. Don’t laugh!”

I’m not laughing. Swatching gets such a bad rap, it’s a wonder any of us know how to do it.


Here’s what I recommend:

  • Knit a large swatch. And by large, I mean 5 – 6” square. Truly. Consider knitting more than one, at different needle sizes, just to get a feel for how the fabric changes.
  • Wash the swatch the way you’ll wash your sweater. However you’ll treat your sweater, treat the swatch. Truly. Then let it dry overnight.
  • Play around with it. Give your swatch(es) a little love. Feel the way the fabric moves, rub it, crinkle it. Shake it, pet it, and make some opinions. If you have multiple swatches, pick the one you like best.
  • Measure your gauge. The smart way, not the standardized way. Knitting patterns give you swatch information by the 4” / 10 cm increments, but that doesn’t mean you need to measure that way!I recommend marking out the maximum number of stitches and rows you think give you an accurate gauge measurement, then measuring a WHOLE number of stitches and rows precisely. A ruler can help you estimate a fraction of an inch. Nothing can help you estimate a fraction of a stitch.

    Measuring this way will give you the most accurate gauge estimation you’ve ever had.


I hope I’ve convinced you to give swatching a try? It’s an integral part of using CustomFit, and fun to boot.

What’s your favorite swatch or swatch story?

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