Yes, I swatch. Always. In some way or form, I swatch. Oh, there was a day when I never swatched, and I couldn't figure out why my sweaters never fit. Many years later, I know there are a myriad of different reasons why my sweaters didn't fit well, one of the top reasons is gauge. After picking out the pattern you want to knit and the yarn you want to knit your sweater out of, one of the most important things you can do is swatch.
I know we are all anxious to immediately cast on the moment you finally get your yarn wound and needles in hand, but please take time to do a gauge swatch and do it large enough that you can actually measure it.
As much as I hate to take the time, once I am finished with my gauge swatch, I dunk it in some water and let it fully soaked, ring it out a bit and put it out on the table to dry. Sometimes, I'll help it along with a fan or now that it is winter, it gets a nice drying in front of the heat register. An hour or so and it is dry and ready to be measured.
If I am knitting my gauge swatch in stockinette, you can see from the closeup above and the picture below that I surround my stockinette with garter both at the top and bottom but at the sides as well. This insures that the stockinette I am measuring is nice and flat and I don't have to worry about the edges curling under and having to fight them to count the stitches.
A gauge swatch is helpful in determining if your sweater is going to fit, but it also can be a great tool to see if the colors are going to look good together. These particular swatches were for shawls that were done in garter so quite naturally, I knitted the swatches in garter is well.
This most important gauge swatch is for Tangerine Rose, A Knit Swirl Sweater. You can tell from the picture the stitch patterning has a penchant for squishing together, so it would be really beneficial to make sure that the gauge swatch comes pretty close to where the pattern says it should be.
There is so much knitting to this sweater that YOU really don't want it to not fit when it is finally done.
Most times, I make large swatches, I like being able to get a real feel for the fabric that I have created, play with it, wad it up, hold it up to the light, see if it is going to be flimsy, is it going to stretch out too much when I wear it? And in the case of this Madelinetosh, how is the pooling going to behave? Am I going to have to alternate skeins while knitting? (Ugh!)
This particular swatch, I deviated from my norm and just knit a much smaller swatch than I normally do. What I really was going for here is to decide whether I wanted to knit something from the yarn in plain stockinette, Featherweight, or if I wanted to knit Uma using a bit of a stitch pattern to it. This Madelinetosh yarn is a single and my past experiences with singles is they sometimes like to pill, so I was experimenting with knitting it with a stitch pattern, which I know helps cut down on the pilling or at least the appearances of pilling.
I never can quite understand why a pattern indicates to do a gauge swatch in stockinette only. I just don't get how I could ever expect that it would fit. I do appreciate a pattern so much more when they give the gauge measurements in pattern too.
This swatch was a bit of playing around. It helped me to see the gauge of a yarn I absolutely love, Wistful, from Briar Rose Fibers (it has Alpaca in it). I have several sweater quantities in it so it is giving me the basis for all future projects out of it. I won't swatch each time, I will just use the numbers I have for this swatch. I, also used it to play around with a lace pattern to see if it could be seen in the yarn. I used rows of garter throughout the swatch to separate what I was doing to give me a clear field for measuring and deciding if I liked what was happening.
I know that swatching may seem like a waste of precious knitting time, and it uses up yarn (buy an extra ball for your project), but I am glad I do take the extra time with my swatches and don't knit a small little bit, measure it and immediately rip it out and call it on gauge. I know there are knitters out there who never swatch "because I always get gauge" and I say REALLY? Who are you? And you probably can eat whatever you want too, don't you?!
Now, if you want to learn more about gauge, I heartily endorse buying Sarah Peasley's Class, Getting Gauge, over on Craftsy. I bought it because I know Sarah and wanted to see it, and I'm glad I did. I learned a couple of things that I will use in my future swatches.
Have a great knitting weekend and swatch it!