I remember very well when I decided I wanted to design knitwear. It was close to the holidays so I was gifted quite a few design books, and I was so excited and grateful. I delved right into Stitch ‘N Bitch Superstar Knitting – and by delving I mean that I skipped straight to the second half of the book, which was all about design. And stopped cold.
Once upon a time, you may have hated knitting gauge swatches. But that was before you decided to try your hand at design. Because as a designer, you are going to learn to love to swatch – or you’d better hang up your designer’s hat right now.
I’m not going to lie. Swatching was my least favorite part of knitting, and I regularly skipped it. And, you know, I was (usually) okay if my project came out the wrong size – after all, I love the act of knitting rather than the finished product. So I could still design and not swatch, right?
I skipped ahead to the next section, which it turns out, as author Debbie Stoller says, “is the math-y part of the pattern design process and will requires truckloads of patience and precision.” Oh yeah, and you need the gauge swatch for it, too.
I took a deep breath in and out, nodded to myself a bit, slowly closed the book, and placed all my newly acquired design books on the bookshelf where they sat for nearly a year. Which is exactly how long it took for me to appreciate swatching.
So I’m not sure if you’re a designer, an aspiring designer, or if you’re just a knitter who loves to skip over that pesky gauge swatch section on the pattern, but I thought I would write a bit about how amazing swatching is because sometimes it gets a bum rap.
(And psst – if you’re kind of confused about this whole gauge swatching thing, I made a video you can check out here. I give you the official way to swatch and the lazy way to swatch aka my way.)
- It’s so fast. I know you’re excited to get started on your project, but your gauge swatch will be knit and done in no time. You can do it.
- You’re knitting a super small sample, which saves you a ton of time in the long run. You know either to avoid continuing what you’re doing because it would be a disaster (thanks, gauge swatch!) or you know that you’re on the right track. There’s no wondering if something is going to fit or work out the way it does in your head.
- If you want to substitute yarn (which I do almost all the time) or if you want to know if you can knit that project on a different size needle (aka do you REALLY need to run out to the store for the next size down?), knit yourself a swatch to know for sure. Don’t just wing it.
- If you are designing or even making a few modifications, your gauge swatch is an excellent way to estimate exactly how much yarn you’ll need – and that way you’ll know if you have enough yarn in your stash. Unless you like those frantic last minute runs to the yarn store!
- If you’re not totally sold on a design or a stitch pattern (or even some yarns!), do you really want to start knitting the pattern up only to realize it isn’t going to work out for you? I don’t think so.
You may not be totally convinced just yet, and you may need to think over the concept an entire year like I did before you jump on board the swatching train, but in case you’re a convert like me, leave me your favorite reasons below to gauge swatch!