Swatch that sweater – Cassis KAL
In order to encourage you to swatch for your Cassis sweater and this knit-a-long, I have decided that the act of swatching will be the official KAL cast on action. If you have already done so, then you get a virtual gold star.
If you haven’t read the introductory post to this KAL, you may want to do so before proceeding with this post, First KAL of 2014 -It’s a Sweater. It will make more sense overall.
If you don’t know what on earth a swatch is, it is when you knit up a square of fabric out of your chosen project yarn. Nearly all patterns will have a place that says the Gauge (or Tension) is X number of stitches by Y number of rows over 4 inches (10 cm) in some type of stitch (or X stitches per in and Y rows per inch in given stitch type). For the Cassis, the swatch is knit in stockinette stitches but often gauge is measured over the dominant design feature such as a cable or lace pattern. So double check the pattern.
Standard practice to measure over 4 inches / 10 cm. So that means that a little 2 inch x 2 inch square isn’t really sufficient. Knit that swatch big, at least 5 x 5 inches. If you are wondering what those holes are in my swatch, I put eyelets (yo, k2tog) equal to my needle size (US sizes). I learned that from Jamie H. (telogirl2003 on Ravelry).
Measure your swatch and count the number of stitches in the 4 inches. Do this in several places to double check. Then do the same for your rows. Now record this information and find your stitches and rows in 1 inch. Wash, dry and block your swatch as you will the actual project and take the measurements all over. This is the gauge you need for your work.
If your numbers vary from the given pattern information, you have a few decisions to make. The first is to decide if you need to try another swatch with a different needle size. If you need more stitches per inch, go down a needle size, for less, go up a size. If you can just tell that you are so far off that changing needle sizes won’t help, then you need to reconsider your yarn choice. If you like the fabric and your gauge is nearly correct, you may need to rework some of the pattern numbers. The beauty of a top down seamless sweater like Cassis is you can try on your sweater as you go. That makes slight adjustments as you knit possible. But it won’t fix a major difference between your gauge and the patterns without you doing some math work.
Here is why gauge matters. If your pattern has a gauge of 4 stitches per inch and you knit up 4.5 stitches per inch, that means every 4 inches you have 2 extra stitches (16 stitches/4 inches vs. 18 stitches/4 inches). Say you cast on 64 stitches and knit for awhile….
- At pattern gauge – 16 stitches in 4 inches, you should have 16 inches width-wise. 64 stitches / 4 stitches per inch = 16 inches
- At your gauge – 18 stitches in 4 inches, you should have ~14.2 inches width-wise, 64 stitches / 4.5 stitches per inch = 14.2222 inches
So you have nearly two inches difference between the two. Two inches difference in a hat is the difference between a child’s head and an adult. Over a greater number of stitches in a sweater, that two inches differences adds up and you end up with a sweater that doesn’t fit you.
So cast on that swatch and let’s knit a sweater this February. The end date for the KAL is actually March 15th. We have the Super Bowl and the Olympics to watch, plenty of good TV knitting time. Of course, as cold as it has been in the US and Canada, we haven’t been getting out much as usual. But it is good for knitting.
Just want to share with you my Cassis Sweater’s yarn, our exclusive hand dyed worsted yarn, PDS Worsted in Fireweed…I am in love! Just in time for Valentine’s Day which I also really enjoy!
Remember, if you are knitting with hand dyed yarns, you really should alternate skeins for best effect. But I will go on and on about that another day.
Tell us what you think about swatching. Do you have any stories to tell? Join us over on Ravelry in the KAL thread or here in the comments.
Happy Swatching and Knitting!