Techniques in Depth: How to Measure

February 27, 2019

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  • Super helpful — thanks so much. I’m happy and sad in equal measure (!) to be called out on my technique of waving a tape measure over my knitting while it sits curled on my knee. I’m sure I’m not the only knitter in the world who thinks that length and gague can be willed into being just by looking at my knitting and whimpering a little. A tiny computer in your knitting bag is fine — and I’m grateful for that — but when are we going to get magic?

  • After all this fuss and muss about swatching…egad…I think it would be helpful (or at least a soothing salve for my soul) if we all sent in our ideas for what to do with all of these finished and blocked swatches. Being the thrifty/stingy knitter that I am, I don’t want to “waste” several yards of precious yarn to simply lie in a basket somewhere feeling sorry for itself having served its purpose. So, let’s post our ideas here and I nominate Kate to put together a future article apprising us of some of the more promising ideas of what do do with these swatches. What say you all??

    • I have wondered about this too and must admit that my frugality regarding yarn was my long-standing yet flawed defense against swatching. I don’t usually like a “patchworky” kind of look, so I’ve not gone that route for using them. I wondered if it would be useful to keep and catalog these heretofore unusable swatches with a little note attached as to the yarn and needle type and size and use it for future reference. If you tend to use the same yarn, would it, could it, be a swatch already done for another project????

      • I swatch the beginning of a cuff of a sleeve. Knit up a long enough ways to check your gauge, then carry on. If it is right you are on your way.

    • Brilliant!! I have more swatches than I care to mention, and I’d love to put them all to good use!

    • I agree!! I used a couple of swatches to make catnip toys last year. Fold in half, stuff with catnip and sew it up!! Ya know how kitties love to play with yarn

    • Keep them in a notebook with your pattern notes. Add a tag with needle/yarn/gauge details for future info. Or frame them altogether in a shadow box and proudly hang it on the wall.

    • I recently laid out all of my swatches from sweaters I knit over the last few years…mainly to just enjoy them and remember what I had knit from each swatch. But it also gave me a chance to look at the color palette of my knitting. While lovely, functional and what I chose, I definitely need to add some different colors to my wardrobe. So for now I keep them in a pretty basket.

    • I’m a year late to this party but you have inspired me!
      I’m a new knitter but I’ve been a quilter for decades & love quilted “project bags” & little quilted zippered accessory cases out of scrap fabrics! (I hate to waste fabric of any kind it seems.) I’ll have to be sure to sort or mark fiber content of my swatches well but I see lots of swatch based project bags in my future!
      I love some of the Felted Bag patterns I’ve seen. So colorful! ….. & I hate my current in-a-pinch knitting accessory bag. SwatchProject 1!

  • A long, long time ago I got this tip: you can unravel your swatch and use it for seaming, sewing on buttons, etc. It’s a tiny safety net, especially for those yarn-chicken projects. The bigger your swatch, the bigger your net.

    • Brilliant!

    • I do this, too. Usually I leave the swatch with the leftover yarn in my “Leftover yarn” bin, so I will know gauge if I use the leftovers on another project. I love the idea of using it to sew up seams, buttons, etc. Could just put a note with gauge into the leftovers bag.

    • That’s what I do with my swatches – they are yarn that’s available for repairs. I don’t unravel them since usually I don’t need them & they are easier to find knitted up. They are piled on a shelf in my cedar closet, tagged with the yarn info (ideally with a yarn label taped to it), needle size, and what was made with it.

      Someone said that really it’s better to sew a small butterfly of extra yarn & tie it onto a seam, so that it will undergone the same wear and laundering if needed later for repairs. I don’t like having extra stuff hanging on the inside of my sweater so am willing to risk using unworn yarn for repairs to worn sweaters.

    • Yep, my mum always used to do that with hers.

  • Another terrific article. I’ve saved it, and know I will come back to it time and time again. Thank you so very much!

  • Wow, i wish i had this info decades ago. Enjoy all your articles. Thank you.

  • Thanks! Sadly this is why I’m not banging this month. But one day I shall again….

  • Kate, I just used this technique to make sure sweater pieces matched. The pattern did say “knit to 5 inches past marker.” I checked my row gauge post blocking and determined that I would need a few more rows, then knit the fronts of my cardi to those specs. Seaming was a dream. I haven’t seamed a sweater in over ten years, so it wasn’t because of experience. I know that teachers such as yourself may feel like the bearers of bad news with the gauge advice, but it is so worth the little bit of extra time. Not to mention, you get to feel like you know what you’re doing. It’s confidence building, through accurate knitting. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  • How did knitting get so complicated. I am used to doing a swatch but washing and blocking? I think I will stick with socks and scarves.

    • Honestly, the point isn’t to make it more complicated, I promise! It’s such a small and easy thing to make sure your sweater will turn out exactly right. Remember, all you need to do is wash the swatch. If you’re planning to machine wash the garment, just chuck the swatch in the machine, too. It’s all about being able to predict what the fabric will look like through its entire life, not just the first little while.

  • I’ve only recently wised up on row gauge (pre and post wash/block) and it’s a game changer for me. Have been winging it until now and got away with it, but now armed with new info and a bit of maths, my jersey fits have really improved!

  • I’m not sure I should admit to this, but as I hate to see my washed swatch yarn wasted, I don’t cut it off the skein. I drop it into the sink and dry it flat and measure it, with one end like a leash to the skein, then frog it and it starts the project.

    • You are not alone Amy!

  • Helpful per usual

  • Join swatches together in a scarf or afghan & donate to a homeless shelter. They won’t mind if colors or textures don’t quite match! U will be blessed & so will they ~