Swatching for June’s Favorite Cardigan…

IMG_8969Do you swatch, always?

We should sleep 8 hours a night. We should eat our daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. We should floss our teeth every day.

We should knit swatches.

I will make an admission here. I don’t always swatch. And for me, gauge swatches….sometimes lie.

My gauge on the same yarn can vary slightly because of:
– The brand of needles I use,
– The mood I’m in,
– If I’m watching a tense TV show,
– If I’m rushing, or relaxed
– If it’s commute knitting,
– If I’m knitting flat or if I’m knitting in the round,
– If I knit a stockinette piece or a reverse stockinette piece. (This one baffles me still).
– If the last knitting project I was working on was lace…or socks.
– If I’m doing stranded colorwork.

etc., etc., etc.

The point I want to make is — it’s a really good thing that knitted fabric is pretty forgiving. Even if my stitch and row gauge can be off a little, I always knit a swatch if the fabric I want to create is an important feature of a big garment.

For June’s Cardigan, I’m noting that the gauge specified is 20 stitches x 28 rows over 4 inches with US 7 as a recommended needle size. My yarn’s stated gauge is 4.5 stitches/inch with US 7 needles to 4 stitches/inch on US 9 needles.

The yarn has 40% mohair content, which is going to make this yarn very forgiving in terms of gauge. With the garment I want in mind and thinking that my inclination is to be a bit a bit tighter knitter than a looser knitter, I have knit a gauge swatch using US8 needles. I’ve only knit one other Hannah Fettig sweater, so I am unfamiliar with her knitting inclination (there are some designers who I am perfectly on gauge with, and there are some designers who I seem to always knit tighter than, and there are some designers who I seem to always knit looser than…..).

As you have probably already surmised, I’m not trying to “hit” the gauge. I know that I am likely to get a looser gauge than what the pattern calls for, and that there’s some math ahead in my future as I plan this sweater.

The biggest issue for me with this swatch is whether the yarn knit up would muddle the stitch designs that are one of the attractive features of this sweater (remember, my yarn is a bit variegated) and whether the looser gauge and yarn would also interfere with some of the stitch designs. With that in mind, here is the swatch, pre-blocking.

I’ve made a swatch 30 stitches wide, with a 3 stitch garter border. The eyelets right above the garter indicate what needles size I used (just a YO and k2tog 8x)…because while I used to be able to remember these things, I cannot anymore. I knit enough fabric above the eyelets so that the piece was no longer distorted by the eyelets, and I tried the cable pattern and the purl stitch pattern that is on the border of the sweater.

Pre-blocking, I’m already seeing an issue with the diamond stitch pattern. I make mental note of this and am already considering eliminating it. I think the cable looks nice though, and am toying with staying just with a simple cable.

IMG_8965I don’t want to block the piece as hard as I would block, say a lace shawl. (This is another reason why I like to measure the gauge swatch before I wet it) After I thoroughly soak it in (this case) warm water with a bit of wool wash and blotting it dry with a towel, I’m pinning it out, as you can see, just to straighten out the swatch, and have basically smoothed out the wet rectangle. I’m pinning the corners to keep the piece flat.

The Swatch Police will also come out to say — “hey, what about your gauge swatch in the round???”, because the sleeves are knit in the round. And it’s true, my gauge in the round is slightly tighter than my gauge flat. (Lots written on this but here is a good article on why this is usually the case.)

IMG_8968It looks like my stitch gauge will be 4.25 stitches/inch, vs. the pattern’s 5 stitches/inch, or 17% bigger…which is a pretty significant difference. This means that there will be pattern adjustments for size ……which will be the next blog post!

3 comments
  1. Andrea said:

    I SO! agree with you about swatching! Somehow it tells me a little but never enough! Most of the time I just go for it and make adjustments if needed. This does not always work out especially with garments LOL So I am trying to be good with this KAL since I am using the last of my precious Cormo!

    • If you don’t have Amy Herzog’s Fit to Flatter book, I think that is a useful book for ideas on how to make adjustments. The good thing is that I think all of us are shooting for a cuddly (read, loose) cardigan so we don’t have to be really exact about sizing, but I will have to make some major modifications given my gauge is so different. I think your Cormo is going to be absolutely perfect for this and gauge, I’m guessing since your yarn is sort of DK ish, will be perfect. I will try to do the Math & Modifications post in the next few days so we can talk more about the pre-planning and on the fly (believe me, I do a lot of those and anticipate at least some of this on this sweater) adjustments!

      • Andrea said:

        I have the book and have been reading it! It is incredibly enjoyable but makes my head hurt trying to figure out how it all applies. I have printed the pattern and written out the changes….BUT….it’ll be an adventure. (There is a reason why I enjoy knitting shawls you know!!)

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