I knew that

Abby and I are friends, and we regularly discuss a number of knitterly/spinnerly things (sideways?) and since you yourself are likely a knitter and have a knitterly friend or two, it should not come as a surprise that Abby and I regularly discuss the following. (At great length.)



-That swatches lie.

-Why swatches lie.

-The complex reasons that swatches are, essentially liars and can be nothing but liars, most of the time.

-If you understand that swatches lie, why swatch?

-The reasons that she and I both still swatch (mostly) even though we know about and have freely acknowledged the lying.

-The reasons that one of both of us might, understanding the limited, but important value of swatches, not swatch anyway. (Sometimes.)

-The consequences of both swatching and not swatching and how we feel about getting burned by a swatch when we do swatch, having carefully considered the pro’s and con’s of the swatching process.

– The way that the word swatch starts to look misspelled after a very short period of time, causing one to look it up in the Oxford Concise, even though you know that “swatching” and “swatched” aren’t really even words except to knitters, therefore confirming nothing.

Yesterday, in fact, Abby and I had a conversation about swatching that covered all of this ground and more. We spent a lot of time agreeing. We believe that for the purposes of gauge, swatches are, at best “a hint” about what might happen in your knitting. Knitting is complex, and knitted items even more so, and it remains a grave truth that a 10cm bit of knitting will not reveal all there is to know about a sweater knit out of the same yarn on the same needles. A sweater will be heavier, for example, and the weight of the thing has to be considered. Will a whole sweater’s worth of yarn be stretched by that weight and change your gauge? You bet. Will a seam up the side stabilize it and change your gauge? You bet. How about a front knit flat and a sleeve knit in the round? Whammo.

The truth is that swatches don’t really lie. Swatches tell the truth about how that much knitting done on those needles will tell you about that much knitting on those needles, and that’s where it begins and ends. Once you introduce other variables (size, weight, seams, blocking, stretch, fibre) and scale them to the item, that’s a lot of variables. A great example, we agree, is that a baby sweater knit out of alpaca might be reasonably true to the swatch, because that’s not a lot of weight. An adult sweater knit out of the same alpaca on the same needles is going to be a very different thing… in fact, it might even be a dress- rather than a sweater, because dudes… that’s a lot of alpaca. In short, Abby and I feel that swatches have a time and a place, but that knitting a swatch really isn’t going to tell you everything you need to know… and we also agree that the only reliable swatch is a full size swatch, knit and seamed like the sweater… which would make it an actual sweater, which sort of reduces the point of a swatch, if you see my point.

Now Abby and I also agree that despite this, we both still swatch (mostly.) Swatches are like a first date. They can’t tell you everything you need to know about the person, and there are still things you’re going to find out about each other when you’re in a relationship, but it will at least tell you if he chews with his mouth open, spits tobacco or has a terrible allergy to hops that means he can’t even be in the room with beer… or therefore, you.

Swatching can tell you if you are way off on gauge, that the stitch pattern doesn’t show up very well in that colour, or that the yarn halos or fuzzes up so much that there’s no point in even doing a stitch pattern at all because hell, who could see it? If you wash and block your swatch the way you should (and we agree, you really, really should) then you might even find out that the yarn pills more than an aging ex-film star with too much ego and money, or that it bleeds colour faster than my face did when one of my daughters announced that she’d like a tongue piercing.

Swatching gives you really basic details about what might happen in your knitting, but it is not the end all, be all and the fact that it’s not the size and shape of your knitting means that it can be misleading, and that “getting gauge” in a swatch should be regarded as nothing more or than “a good sign”, and that feeling personally betrayed by a swatch when it turns out that it lied is really a waste of time, because that’s the nature of swatches. They’re as honest as ex-husbands with new girlfriends and hair transplants who owe you child support…. on a good day.

Still… we swatch, because the information swatches can give you, if you understand it’s purpose, is valuable and can really help keep you from making really, really big mistakes. Abby and I agreed on that. We agreed that not swatching, particularly for big projects, is begging for a big skein of whoop-ass to be opened up on your knitting, and that if you don’t swatch, you deserve everything you get when you find yourself in a bad knitting relationship that’s sucking up your time, energy, good sense, yarn and will to go on. We agreed on all of this, and we may even have been rather righteous in our statements of the same. I personally may have crossed the line to pompous… and that’s why I feel like I have to tell the truth.

Even though I had this conversation within the last 24 hours, even though I stated all of the above and stand by it and I have practically yelled it from a mountain, written it in several knitting books, taught it in classes, lectured on it publicly and yay, verily, have been a knitter for more than 35 years…

I didn’t swatch because I thought I was too smart for it, and just had to rip out thousands of stitches on a new shawl and got my arse kicked all the way back to the starting line with nothing to show for it.

Damn. Can you hear Abby laughing all the way from Ohio?

211 thoughts on “I knew that

  1. wow, you have opened my eyes! I knew swatches could lie, but kept hoping for the best…. I will treat them with a healthy dose of skepticism from now on!

  2. I rarely swatch but neither do I rip out. It will fit someone…I think. That’s the benefit of having low knitting standards I guess. I just hate to go backwards.

  3. When I started my last sweater by way of the sleeves and therefore a “swatch”, I thought of you. I have no idea how to swatch for a shawl. I feel for your loss. Perhaps this is the suitable sacrifice to The Goddess? I hope the second time is magic for you.

  4. could have been a kickin teacher list that got messed up. but it didn’t. you know you’re going to knit anyways and it was just first base.
    btw, writing my first pattern for a project completed long ago and sitting to re-swatch the yarn just as i read your blog. you can bet i am not gonna skip it now!!!! thanks….but sorry. really.

  5. Gauge for a shawl? A LACE shawl?
    (And are you sure about which of you, daughter or self, was bleeding?)

  6. A shawl is one of the few projects where I do not swatch first, because as long as you get in the general ballpark of weight and drape, how can you go wrong? (Really, I’m asking–how did you go wrong, Stephanie? Is the shawl the size of a napkin or of a queen-size bed? Because unless it’s one of those, how can it be wrong?)

  7. Really, it wasn’t the lack of a swatch. It was purely a holdover from y=1/4+-2 being a line. The universe had to reorder itself, and all should now be better.

  8. You already know my feelings on this (Archives, 10/1/07), but…dude.
    You could’ve at least taken a picture.

  9. Ouch. To be truthful, I probably wouldn’t have swatched for a shawl either since it doesn’t have to fit, per say. I never swatch for a scarf. There, I said it.

  10. Oh my. Thank you for sharing your pain so that we may benefit from your lesson – and what a harsh, hash lesson it is too. Thousands of stitches? I feel faint…But I wonder along with Violet (not having ever made shawl myself) how off was off to necessitate ruthless ripping?

  11. Great. Getting ready to attempt my first adult-sized sweater in many years & the best I can hope for from my swatch is “Hey, you *might* be on the right track. Or not. Do you feel lucky?”
    I can already hear the knitting gods laughing.

  12. Lily Chin always used to say that you should block your swatch, then hang it down from a hanger or something for a good while… unless you only planned to wear your sweater while lying down. So sorry for your loss.

  13. You bet I can. Not just laughing but pointing and calling names and saying “I know you are but what am I?” Because that is the kind of comforting and supportive and sympathetic friend that Abby is. (Also, she gets to continue to be 12 until Edward stops being 11, and I suspect she’s making the most of it.)

  14. I’m a micro-swatcher. “I don’t really need to knit all four inches,” I say, “I can figure out my gauge from two.” Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. I do try to swatch more responsibly in projects where gauge really matters, though, and I definitely agree about washing and blocking!
    My condolences on the shawl… but I too am wondering: how off could you be for a lace shawl? (And, what pattern did you pick??)

  15. I’m on your side, Stephanie! I’ve swatched for a shawl and even scarves. Not for gauge, but to see how the stich pattern looks with the yarn that I’m using. But I’ll be honest, I almost never swatch for gauge. I have been burned before, but I still can’t be bothered with it!

  16. I love it when you work “yay, verily” into your writing. I haven’t the nerve to use it in conversation yet, but I’m sure if you drop the phrase a couple more times it WILL show up on late night TV and then I will be free to dispense my own “yay verily(ies)” at will.
    As always,
    Thank you,

  17. Hmmmm, I remember some book I read about when knitting along, you start thinking of what you will knit next. Then if you rip it all out, guess what, you found more knitting to do. Now who was that celebrated authoress?
    Just think of it as more knitting, at no additional cost, other than the anguish.

  18. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
    Is it any comfort to you that I also ripped out a lace shawl in the past 24 hours?
    Mine was not a swatching issue but just because I am an unskilled hack.
    Here is to wine and chocolate and a new beginning. Right?

  19. Ditto what Violet said. How did it go wrong? I can’t imagine.
    I love knitting lace and part of its charm is that I don’t feel the need to knit a gauge swatch. I figure that blocking will help with the size to some extent and if it’s too small, I can give it to someone else.

  20. As a brand new knitter, with only a few projects under my belt, and having never swatched before, I really, REALLY enjoyed reading this.
    And not just that it’s timely (I spend a few hours the other day on Google trying to figure out why I should make a swatch for the sweater I’m going to start on this week), but that it dispels a lot of the “swatching mystique”, if you will, of what I read.
    Now I will make my swatch and I will know what to look for!

  21. My condolences on the shawl. I hope we’ll get to see pictures of the new version when you’ve recovered from pulling out all those thousands of stitches.
    I think I’ve knit a hundred swatches that came out right on gauge and felt like a waste of time, but whenever I blow it off and go straight to the project, the knitting gods take their revenge…

  22. Ah, so that’s what the noise is!
    I hate swatching, and it always goes that the millions of times I do swatch, I never need it because I can finangle the pattern/yarn/powers that be into doing what I want, and the one time I get cocky and don’t swatch…well I’m in for a skein sized whup ass, as you put it.
    Hang in there. If there is no evidence that you failed then who says you did? I know I’ll keep my mouth quiet 😉

  23. Damm! the truth hurts,and you’ve hit the discussion straight on the head. That said, I don’t use the word swatch, I experiment. Less scary and more open to including the other variables that you mentioned. Lest we forget that its all about opinions anyway, yours, the yarn and the needles.
    Sorry for your loss.

  24. I feel your pain.
    But had you swatched, the swatch would have lied anyway and you very well could have been exactly where you are now – except cursing the lying swatch for being a liar. So at least you saved yourself that particular bit of pain and misery and went straight to the frogging.
    I agree with the person above who asked… dude… where’s the picture? 🙂

  25. Lo siento! I suppose you could just think of your thousands of stitches lost as the swatch. You just made a giant swatch, and then ripped it all out in order to conserve yarn….
    Well, maybe lying to yourself won’t work so well, after all.

  26. I am a religious swatcher and swatch washer. I may have been known to wash a swatch multiple times even. What you say is so true. One of my favorite things about working with a yarn I’ve used in the past is having whole sweaters worth of swatches to measure. And it still might not tell the whole truth.

  27. Okay. My head just exploded. Did you just say swatch and shawl meaning you should have made a swatch for the shawl? Yikes. I never ever swatch for unfitted items like shawls….never thought I needed to! It will be whatever size/length/depth that it will be. And I live with it.
    I might decide I don’t like it anymore (because I didn’t swatch? and the finished size is unexpected?) but then it becomes a gift for a lucky friend or relative. Sadly, I gift far more than I keep….

  28. You know, I’m about to rip out my fifth start on a pair of mittens. What I keep telling myself is that each failed start was a swatch. And therefore it’s okay that it didn’t blossom into a successful mitten project.
    But I’m one of those that don’t swatch shawls, either. Since they don’t have to fit, why worry? It sucks that it turned out it mattered for your shawl.

  29. Ermmmmm…I have to agree with Violet. A shawl? Gauge? Frog? I don’t think I speak knitting today, or possibly the vocabulary has changed. Shawl? Gauge? Frog?

  30. You know, I think I’m going to go swatch for nothing in particular now… just go through the stash and swatch it all for good measure.

  31. last fall i was at a lovely workshop with fiona ellis (thank you martina of The Kniterary in whitby), where she displayed (along with her work) the size of “swatch” she has to whip up for each new project. and i use the word swatch in quotations because what she actually had worked up each time was more like a cross-section of the piece in intricate detail! she reminded us all not to complain the next time we were obliged to work on a 10cm square!

  32. A swatch will give you an inkling….but cannot be relied upon to give you the real facts. When I make a sweater I always make the sleeves first, since that is a bigger swatch where you can check your gauge again. But even if you are at gauge, and you check and remeasure as you go, in the wearing of a sweater your body, movement and gravity will all have their own effects on the eventual shape. The whole process involves a leap of faith….which is what makes it so interesting.

  33. I am a fairly new knitter and haven’t really knitted anything that would require a swatch. Except for the hat that I made my boyfriend for Christmas. It was a surprise and I kind of guessed as to how big his head is. It’s not nearly as big as the hat. Bless his heart, he wears it!

  34. I’m praying that “Abby” is a real person – and not your imaginary “friend” who you speak to about swatching…. we need you to not lose your mind completely. Let’s just say this… if “Abby” was in the room – would we see her too??
    Also – who frogs a shawl?? Just give it to a bigger person – it’s not like a sweater that will have arms drooping off shoulders… it’s a shawl!! So?? They wrap it twice around – who cares?!

  35. Oo, that hurts. But swatching for a shawl? Hmmm…I guess to test how the pattern looks in the yarn, and how the fabric behaves with that needle size, but…
    Still, ouch.

  36. “The truth is that swatches don’t really lie.”
    You are treading on thin ice, girly. All Swatches Lie. The End. Do not defend the swatch!
    I am knitting some cuddly, tv viewing socks for my hubby. I swatched the yarn and came up with 6 stitches per inch. Measured the foot and cast on, confident in my Big Fat Stupid Liar McLiarPants Swatch. After I knit the leg (two legs! in an effort to avoid SSS), I measure my gauge and get 7.75 stitches per inch.
    Why did I even bother swatching for a stupid sock? The swatch, knit straight, does not even bear a passing resemblance to the sock, knit in the round.
    Stupid swatch.
    And not only that, but since I began these socks (the first pair for him), I have spent an inordinant amount of time noticing his feet.I find myself inspecting his store-bought socks for sign of abuse and have begun making comments about how Certain People should trim thier toenails, lest they be deemed Unworthy Of Handknits.

  37. I have to confess that I have never swatched…. but that is because I have never attempted a project larger than a pair of woolie pants for my two year old. I guess that since I have been knitting for exactly two weeks over one year, it is time to bite the bullet and try something bigger. But where to start????

  38. Well, now you’ve really gone and put the fear of the swatching gods into me. I have never swatched for a shawl (lace) project.
    But, at the same time, I too want to know the details, because it’s also hard for me to imagine it being so badly off!

  39. Swatch was the brand name for an en vogue watch a while back (it may still be … I’m not a watch expert) … my point, however, is that it is a good analogy – time will tell if your knitting is on target (or not), but better to have swatched and lost (then you can blame the swatch) than never to have swatched (then you can only blame yourself – again!)

  40. I totally agree about the word swatch looking misspelled after awhile. I thought I was alone in looking up words because they begin to look misspelled.
    Also isn’t painting that square on your wall with a paint you think you like and discovering it is too something swatching? I think it is (btw my spell check says swatching is misspelled and suggest watching, snatching or swathing).

  41. This is really, really timely for me, as I am just now swatching for my first adult-sized garment that is neither a hat nor a scarf. (I’m going to knit a Mr Greenjeans out of Cascade 220. Not that you asked.)
    I now know that (a) it a good thing that I am swatching, but (b) the swatch will, to some degree or another, lie, and therefore (c) I need to take the information the swatch provides with a grain or two of salt. Perhaps on the rim of a margarita glass?

  42. Been there, done that, will be there again I’m sure! I’ll be reminded of this post and know I’m not alone. 😉

  43. I have never knit a shawl (not because I do not think that they are lovely). If I did, I probably would not swatch, despite knowing better. I would consider a shawl to be a “scarf-like” object where exact gauge is not necessary… but I can already see in my head where this could go tragically wrong.
    I only swatch for sweaters, but I have had some hilarious hijinks with socks because of that particular stance.

  44. I knew it! It’s like tempting the knitting gods — even if you don’t intend to follow the swatch’s gauge, you still swatch anyway, just so your sweater’s finished size doesn’t resemble a circus tent.
    And I’ve learned that swatch’s tell you nothing about how cables will measure, but that if you don’t swatch when doing a cabled sweater, you’ll end up with huge cables, and pulled tight transition switches . . .

  45. No fair! If there’s a way to screw something go, I’m usually the one that discovers it first.
    But really, how do you screw up gauge on a lace shawl? It must’ve taken on gargantuan dimensions. For lace, I’d do a pattern swatch to make sure that my fingers understood what the words were telling me to do but I’d harbor no illusions that it might relate to the final size.
    Then again hon are you sure you should have attempted this after a night of homework? Your brain was already fried.

  46. Abby wouldn’t laugh about this would she?
    She would be weeping bitter tears of sympathy and going to get beer of consolation for you.

  47. If you asked non-knitters to read that post, their minds would spin and they would think we were all crazy!

  48. Two things: I now have a name for what I do, “Micro-Swatch” (thanks juniperjune) and I wonder, just how big was that skein of whoop-ass that opened up all over you?
    Also agreeing with Rachel H…loud and clear.

  49. And I thought it was only my swatches that morphed while I was measuring and therefore leading me to frog many pieces. After 53 years of knitting I have an answer that helps! LOL

  50. I personally learned the ‘and remberest thou to WASH AND BLOCK thine swatch, else it turn and rend thee’ lesson with a lace scarf – well, was supposed to be a scarf – that blocked to the entire length of my apartment. FYI: hot water doesn’t seem to shrink linen. Huh. Who knew?
    But usually I do it to see what the yarn I’ve chosen will do with the pattern I’ve chosen on the needles I’ve chosen. I have yet to figure out how to do the math that will tell me if I’ll have enough to make a sweater…
    I love the swatches for things like gloves that are more “Okay, if it looks odd I’ll start over, but otherwise I’ll consider the whole thing the swatch”; they are the wooly version of having your cake and eating it too. And when the gague actually works, it’s eating the cake and getting no calories whatsoever!

  51. I ripped out another whole sock project, after great debate with myself about the fabric being too loosey-goosey for socks. My friend told me it was fine; I had just eliminated one of my UFO’s! A wonderful way to look at it!

  52. “Full-sized swatches” are exactly why I almost always have to make a pattern two or more times to ‘get it right’–even if I get gauge, there’s almost always something else that wouldn’t have been obvious on a swatch, anyway. It turns out that there’s an error in the pattern, or I don’t like the shoulders or neckline, or the color isn’t so spectacular with that pattern, after all, or…. And seriously, as others have asked–gauge on a shawl?? Too small=scarf; too large=afghan or bedspread! I do have to confess to having a shawl in ‘time-out’ for the last year and a half, because I messed up the lace pattern about eight (verrry long) rows back and can’t bring myself to ‘rip it, rip it’ yet. Want to get revenge on yours by ripping out someone else’s problem child? Randmknitter

  53. Oh, ugh. Sorry to hear about the ripped stitches, but what in the world was wrong with a shawl that you’d need to rip it back out? I mean, were the stitches so loose that your shoulder popped through the holes or what? And Presbytera is right, you could’ve at least taken a picture. 🙂
    (PS – I’m totally available for explaining the graphing issues; that formula is a line because no matter what X is, Y is always the same. I just went through this with my son and got it past his “mom-is-so-clueless” filter.)

  54. Been there, done that, ripped out the Tee shirt. Who knew you had to block knitted lace before you measured the swatch? Knitting in the round, I ran out of yarn before I had reached the armpits. I bought more yarn and kept knitting. It ended up large enough for me and a friend to wear at the same time! So it’s ripped out and waiting for me to swatch again and block the swatch before measuring.

  55. Swatches are lying liars who lie. No big news there. I never swatch, nearly always frog, but that’s okay b/c no one is anxiously awaiting my knitted goodies. Plus, I usually manage to eff something up in addition to the gauge. 🙂
    If I swatched, would I become a better knitter?

  56. Rumours of my imaginariness have been greatly exaggerated. 😉
    Thanks for this, Steph — it really is a laugh riot. And you know I’m laughing WITH you, not AT you. And that I agree there are more reasons than gauge to do a swatch. I once had to swatch a scarf about 8 times in order to find a lace pattern which, at the width I wanted the scarf to be, worked well with the subtle colour shifts in the yarn. It was brutal. Brutal, I tell you — swatching for a scarf.
    I also admit to having done shawl-sized swatches. I really have.

  57. The knitting Muses will get you every time !!!
    I used to (in my innocence) think to myself (never outloud) “My, this project is going along easily. I wll be done in no time.” That is all it took to encourage the Muses to come crashing down and raining on my parade of stitches. After years of this, I have realized that a small sacrificial prayer is in order before I knit a stitch. Sometimes it helps-sometime it doesn’t–that’s the Muses-unpredictably gracious or NOT.

  58. Weavers do the same thing; we call it sampling. Many times to weave a 4-6 inch wide version of something that will be 45 inches wide is a waste of time and materials so we add an extra yard of warp to the loom and play with the materials and pattern then. Most of the time it works but at times it does not; then one has a dog-on-the-loom and there is nothing that can be done but cut it off and throw it away.
    Swatching and Sampling are good starts but they give only half-truths. Been there-done that!

  59. Well at least I don’t feel quite so alone with frogging my shawl for the seventh time. Or not as the case may be. I am having a problem getting the increases to include the pattern. I now think I will say the heck with all that and do it the simple way. Partly because the swatches tell me that doing anything else is going to land me in crazyville, and I’m not going.

  60. Oohh-I was wondering what that noise was.I agree that swatching is good for the feel of the yarn,stitch definition,ect.,and that they do fib.But to not swatch is to tempt the Fates and they really scare me…

  61. When such terrible reknitting chasms lie before us, we must comfort ourselves with the following mantra: “I love the process, I love the process, I love the process, I love the process…”

  62. I never swatch for shawls.
    Yeah, that’s right…. NEVER.
    (I start over about 3 times for every shawl, though, so same difference, I guess.)

  63. At least you had the courage to rip it out. Before I had knitting friends, I used to leave misshapen sweaters as they were and try and find a misshapen person within my friends and family to fit it. Now I pull it out. Less offensive to friends and family.

  64. I don’t swatch… but I do rip things out a lot. It doesn’t really bother me to rip an entire sweater out, because I really really like to knit. That said, I’m really honest with myself if something isn’t working, and I go ahead and rip it out, even if I’m completely done. So, this is why I don’t swatch, then I don’t have to deal with all the lying 🙂

  65. How oh how would you swatch for a lace shawl? I have trouble swatching for anything let alone a lace item . When someine tells me a lie I tell my friend that this person is a swatch and luckily she understands me.

  66. So would you suggest knitting at a slightly tighter gauge when you’re making a whole sweater, knowing it will stretch? I’ve wondered about that.

  67. Thanks for the very comprehensive list of the rational, non-emotional reasons why swatches lie. Very helpful. Only thing is, none of the truly excellent reasons you’ve given us explains why the swatch I did according to Hoyle (in the round, washed and blocked) said 7 stitches per inch before I start knitting my sweater and, now that my sweater seems a little small and I’ve gone back to remeasure, says 7.5. Which, I think, proves that malice is a factor. So, why do our swatches hate us? Heck, it’s not like we won’t let them get their tongue pierced.

  68. I am swatching as I read, so that I do the kind of decreases that will not mess up my stitch pattern…one other way swatches are useful, even if they are liars in many other respects. Sorry for your loss…

  69. IIRC, one of Abby’s shawls was essentially a swatch that kept going. Foggy Foggy Dew or Pagoda or something. Poor Stephanie, though. I swear the only reason I haven’t made a sweater for my big self is that I KNOW the swatch is gonna lie and I KNOW something is going to get ripped out and I really don’t want it to become a Jenny-sweater-sized swatch. Peh.
    Also, I wondered what that laughter in the background was. Must’ve been her Abbyness. 🙂

  70. well, you know the saying “you only have to do it right once”- when the shawl is reknitted and looking especially lovely, you will be very glad you ripped it out and did it right once!
    but seriously- if it is a shawl and possibly lace, how is it so far off course? i always think of lace knitting as sort of throwing all rules out the window because we are going to wet it and stretch the bejesus out of it anyway…

  71. Reminds me of a Rob Thomas song, “Everybody’s trusting in their heart like a heart don’t lie.” Substitute “swatch” and I think you still have a hit.

  72. Tell it sister. Swatches either come with angel wings or devil horns, and damned if I can tell in advance which it will be. Here’s another twist I’m sure you will appreciate. I knit, washed and blocked a silk swatch that grew. I took this into account and knit a sweater for my sister. The entire time I was knitting it I said to anyone who would listen, this sweater looks small but I know the fabric will grow. Long story short, the sweater is done & blocked and it is small – like 35″ chest – and will never, ever fit my sister. I’ve committed to knitting her another sweater with different yarn, but really, the swatch lied and I fell for it against my better judgement. Only saving grace here. It fits me (in a slightly negative ease sort-of way). So, I am sorry for you, but at least you listened to your inner voice and stopped before it was too late, and for that I respect you.

  73. so you see, even though the little bitches LIE, we still must swatch or the knitting gods will punish us. We still get kicked by the knitting gods, but we kicked harder if we don’t swatch. Its a law of the knitting universe. I feel your pain. I mean, swatch for a shawl???? does anybody do that?

  74. i wouldn’t really swatch for a shawl either….i do swatch most times though and then when it lies, lie to myself for row after row, inch after inch saying out loud “it’ll be okay, i swatched it”…and in my head “i don’t think this looks right” …..sigh… i wonder if there is drug therapy for those of us who DON’T listen to the voices in our heads….

  75. Dood, I feel your pain. I’m considering making the Beck sweater, and the swatching instructions say that there are X stitches and Y rows over “4 inches of the pattern WHEN STRETCHED”. Holy crap! What’s the rule on stretching here? Knit really tight and then stretch to get to 4 inches? Or knit loose and only have a slight stretch? I guess if I knit the swatch and it’s at 4 inches with no stretch that tells me something. Not much, but something.
    Talk about not wanting to bother with a swatch. Ugh.

  76. Back in the 1950s, you could get a free swatch of fabric at a fabric store to take home, to see whether it would work with whatever you couldn’t bring in to the shop, in different lighting, etc. The employee would cut a piece of fabric about four inches square off the bolt. Several, from different bolts, in fact.
    I don’t think I’ve ever swatched. I did once rip and restart a scarf that was coming out much too wide for how much yarn I had. (Watch the next thing I knit be totally wrong.)

  77. You give good reasons why you should swatch. and good reasons why it isn’t what we think it should be. However, what does
    “that the yarn halos”
    mean? what is Halos??
    and now I know what the sound I heard coming from 200 or so miles east of me was. Laughter!

  78. Aha! Your post on why swatches lie just made lights go on in my head (in a good way.)
    In weaving, I always weave (and wash) a full-width test sample because I know that trying to get away with a narrow sample won’t give accurate results because of the physics of draw-in at the selvedge.
    This is the first time that I’ve considered that scale also plays a role in the duplicitous-ness of knitted swatches. Of course!
    (Who is knitting a sweater that she swatched for several years ago, and is not sure whether that counts as swatching or not…)

  79. I just got tunnel-vision at the idea of someone being so allergic to hops they can’t be in the same room as a beer… what were we talking about again?

  80. so the line is y=1/4 x -2.
    what that really means is there is a straight line that crosses the vertical line at two units below the horizontal line. The line has a slope or steepness of 1/4. this means that for every unit that the line goes up it also goes to the right four units. I hope this helps. Just imagine that the graph paper is a chart for a knitting patter and the line is dividing up two different colors of yarn
    Oh, I am a high school math teacher that has a love affair with all things fibre.

  81. I’ve even multi-swatched (the computer says that is not a word, but I beg to differ) I find that while playing around with the yarn and getting used to the feel of it, my tension will loosen up after a while as I get comfortable with the fiber. I’ve even changed needles after doing several inches on a sweater (without frogging it-yikes) if my tension loosens up as I go. I usually find that blocking seems to even out the changeover. I’m always checking my gauge as I knit. Swatching simply gives me a starting point as to the needles to use, but I never totally trust it!

  82. I wonder if I can write a function for that… like a program that can estimate the effects of different variables. That would be interesting.

  83. Until I got to the end I thought this was aimed at me. I thought I was knitting a medium but my sweater is coming out as a small despite my swatch being spot on. Thankfully my thousands of stitches (sock yarn sweater) are staying put because I am going to be bailed out by a gusset and a 230 stitch graft.
    I hope so anyway.

  84. I swatched. I declared it a patch pocket for my sweater. Then I muffed some simple math and cast on twice as many stitches as I needed for the left front of my sweater. I got about a third of the way up before discovering my mistake and deciding that loose though a sweater should be, it shouldn’t be THAT loose. Now it looks too narrow, but my knitting tends to expand from the bottom. (Did I mention I’ve knit three sleeves for this thing? They’re sitting in the knitting basket right now.)

  85. Well, I don’t swatch. I just go and measure after a few inches to see if I’m close. I’m a loose knitter so I just chose a size close, on the small size and so far 5 yrs no problems. Now I’ve done it!

  86. The “lying swatch” is what scares me about sweater knitting. I really don’t want to put in so much effort and end up with a sack.

  87. Your new and improved shawl will be gorgeous! I know it bites right now that you had to rip out a lot of work, but in the end it will be worth it.
    I always forget which projects I’ve swatched for and which I didn’t, which is a problem when I start looking for the swatch to cannibalize the yarn for the project. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen often enough.

  88. See now,I thought it was funny that I instantly knew the Abby to whom you referred, without any other indicators. I myself compromise, and only knit about a 2″ wide X 1″ long bit of tat, just to see if I am in the ballpark for stitches per inch. The rest I leave to the knitting Goddess.

  89. well now I have recently come back to knitting after 20 years or so away and I never did swatches – nor did my mother, grandmother, multifarious aunts, all great knitters and non swatchers. But having splashed out for some 100% organic merino DK to make a sweater for my husband and having taken in that all the wordl’s current great knitters say you should swatch, I swatched. And I was bang on. Both ways. Bang on I tell you. So how is it that I ended up having to buy 2 more balls of wool than the pattern stated? (at least the store still had the same dye batch). Anyway I shan’t be wasting my time swatching in future!

  90. I gently handwashed two swatches and left them to dry on the counter on a clean kitchen towel. They got shifted to the dining room table because of dinner preparations, were further shifted because of table setting, dinner eating and homework doing, vanished completely for a prolonged period and finally reappeared in the kitchen towel drawer, having been machine washed and dried by someone who failed to notice they were there before doing the wash and didn’t know what they were afterwards (not me, clearly).
    Fortunately, the swatches still look great and are the same size.
    Happy accidents sometimes happen. Even in knitting.

  91. save the swatches and you will soon
    have a blanket and pillow tops
    and all kinds of stuff -pockets
    for the front a cardigan

  92. Yea verily I say unto you, if it is a toss-up between a spinal tap and ‘pompous’, I’ll go for ‘pompous’ – anyway I have lots of practice in pomposity. My father (an Anglican minister) had a refined line in pomposity – not one countered by having seven children.
    A spinal tap doesn’t sound entertaining.

  93. Um, I did swatch for a shawl, because, oh, I needed to know what the pattern would look like in that yarn, on those needles, and how many repeats I would need to add to get the size I wanted since I was going to use a yarn that was a smaller size and different fiber than the recommended yarn, and, and, and… I think you hit a nerve here!

  94. Band Aids – my children need to have severed an artery before I give out a Band Aid. *And that includes having a child with cerebral palsy who used to fall over and get a lot of grazes (I noticed that once she started school the School Nurse was a lot more forgiving on the Band Aid front).
    I can never get over the cost of Band Aids – yes, I can admit they are effective. The cheaper Oriental versions have adhesive that lasts about 40 seconds, and there is no redoing the adhesive to have a little peek – most necessary if you are under 12 yo. The high end Band Aids are just amazing and when you need them they really are very good, but my children have always rifled through and used them before some ‘necessary Band Aid event’. Perhaps I should adopt my mother’s approach as a grandmother – use Savlon antiseptic cream – on her weekly visits to her grandchildren it was always requested (she kept it in her handbag) for intervention – just another case of grandmotherly love (or Tender Loving Care), when your the parent if feels more like manipulation.

  95. Aaaaarrrrgh! I’m so sorry. I just discovered my handspun, which I’ve worked into a nearly-finished top-down sweater, has the density of star dust, and hence the finished product is more of the dress variety. Please don’t point out that I knitted it from the top down and could have actually tried it on at any point. I already know.

  96. I just read the last two posts (been a crazy week) and had to laugh at the UPS comment on your sweater. I AM a UPSer and promise you – that sweater looks much better than anything we wear! It’s beautiful and I have loved watching the project from fibre to finished. That and I’m completely amazed by how fast you churn this stuff out… amazing!

  97. I might not be able to hear Abby laughing, but my Number Guy did (accidentally, I am sure) utter a slight snicker.
    Yeah, he’s been married to this knitter for quite a few years now.

  98. Can I just say it’s weird to read my name in your blog post a bunch of times- It’s even spelled the way I spell it (Not Abbey, Abbie, Abbi, or Abi). The weirdest part is I also live in Ohio.

  99. I don’t swatch. I scarf. That way, I feel like I’m doing something productive with my time, and I can try a couple different patterns/yarns and see how they mesh. It’s also larger, so therefore it lies less. (OK the scarves still lie just as much, I just tell myself they don’t.) Sorry about the shawl, didn’t know they could go so awry.

  100. I made a sweater last year. I swatched, tested, everything would be great. Except I didn’t pay attention to the measurements given on the sizes. I just saw the pattern said I was a size medium and I have not been a medium in 20 years so I knitted an XL. Guess what!! Two can fit in my sweater, but by golly I wear it. That was too much work to give up on.

  101. Didn’t you also say that you are a “Process Knitter” so it shouldn’t matter how much time you spend getting it “right”!!!!!!!

  102. Until I started to knit, I thought a swatch was one of those brightly-colored plastic watches I bought as a teenager back in the early 80s. Somehow, those treated me better…

  103. oh my gosh. I am so sorry. But a shawl? It doesn’t have to fit. Would it be so bad if it were a bit big or small?
    Obviously, yes, or you wouldn’t have ripped, but this must be some shawl…
    good luck.

  104. Knew you were going to do the shawl.
    And if it were that certain, why the hell should you swatch?
    Now let’s talk about BLOCKING!

  105. I have come to accept that swatches are the knitter’s equivalent of a burnt offering to the goddess, not anything that actually bear any resemblance to anything otherwise useful in the knitting process.
    That being said, I actually did swatch for a lace shawl recently — a wedding shawl I’m knitting for my niece (fortunately, I have till June 2010, so watch it languish in my UFO collection until May 2010!), mostly to see how much it opened up when washed and blocked. That one actually was useful, mostly because I wasn’t actually trying for anything as potentially useful as gauge. Swatching for gauge, of course, creates nothing but sheer fiction.

  106. I feel your pain. Literally. In the form of a Bohus tam that I just spent two weeks knitting for my mother’s 70th birthday which is in a week. It’s the size of a manta ray, and I’m pretty sure that her head is not. Can one felt Bohus?

  107. I got tired of swatches being lying bastards so I started knitting really big ones, like 8″x8″. Most of them are still lying bastards. I think if you look up swatch in a dictionary, one of the definitions should be “lying bastard.”

  108. I have a sweater I won’t wear because my swatch lied (damn cables)… and another that needs frogging because I didn’t swatch my need for attractive short row seams. So I agree that while swatches lie, sometimes the knitter helps a little too!

  109. So, when you type a word that is specific to your topic but not in your dictionary, do you add it to your dictionary or just put up with the squiggles?
    Sorry about the liar swatch, really. Such is life.

  110. I don’t swatch much either. Just start knitting the smallest piece of the pattern. (sleeve, pocket, whatever) When I have a few inches on the needles, I count my gauge.
    I even keep counting gauge as I knit if I HAVE swatched, because this awesome knitting blogger has been telling me for years that those dadburn things LIE !!

  111. Also, a swatch never itches as much as a sweater, or makes you sweat as much, or turns your bra an interesting shade of bronzey-puke.

  112. Swatching, a rough guideline…ever have to ‘increase 12 stitches’ over 287 in the round? you get the calc out to find out how many stitches between each increase? See those numbers AFTER the decimal? That’s why swatches lie. You could never use those estimates in accounting, you’d get fired.

  113. Your daughter didn’t get her tongue pierced did she?!
    I never swatch. I’m getting good at not swatching..from trying and totally failing over and over, so now my projects seem to turn out ok by me guessing. So there’s hope for the other lazy knitters out there. p.s. the word ‘swatch’ should definately get added to the dictionary!

  114. I can totally commiserate…
    I just wrote a post on my blog about the miseries of swatching. It’s called “Swatches Lie Like a Mofo.” (http://electrictree.blogspot.com/2009/02/swatches-lie-like-mofo.html hope it’s not to tacky to put my blog url in your comments! I just want to share my pain!)
    I am a novice knitter, although I have learned a lot in a short time…but my last knitting fiasco made me want to weep…it was my first sweater.
    I don’t know how it makes me feel better to know that accomplishes knitters who have knit hundreds of projects have the same problems. It should make me feel better, but it kinda makes me feel hopeless. HAHA good thing I am a junkie and will just keep on knitting anyway!

  115. I play fast and loose with the swatches but they are EXCELLENT for working out what needle size gets you the fabric you like/want. Hence I am more likely to swatch for a lace project or if I’m substituting yarn, than as an actual guide to size.
    This does lead to some knit and rip escapades at the beginning of large projects, though.

  116. This is so funny that you posted this today. I always, always swatch. And I swear by those swatches. Hundreds of projects can’t be wrong, right! Wrong! And I really will enjoy wearing the beautiful, ever-growing expando-cotton shrug that I knit for my slim daughter… Or, possibly, I may just throw caution (and swatches) to the hot wind, wash it, and dry it.

  117. Oh, no! Was that the yarn you were wondering about? The one I suggested that you knit me a shawl with? I can’t believe that you, of all people, didn’t swatch! I have heard you for years, telling me to swatch. (I don’t, BTW!) And now you don’t! So I don’t get to take this burdensome shawl off your hands. Sigh! Maybe next time.

  118. I’m not fond of swatching and there are times when it is of no use. Small things, like scarves, hats, mittens.
    And I found out the difference between the swatch and the garment many many years ago, which might be why I stopped knitting for about 40 years.
    Now when I swatch, I take the results with a grain of salt. But I usually swatch when I’m winging it – such as knitting a pattern with a completely different kind of yarn, for instance substituting slubby cotton for DK wool. Then I make about a 6″ swatch on the needles the yarn calls for to see if it even approximates the gauge on the ball band and the gauge on the pattern. If it’s close, I cast on and start to knit.
    As a result of this unbridled confidence, I have ripped out 6″ of the back of a summer shell TWICE. And the shell has to be completed in 3 weeks. But I think I’m on the way now.

  119. I have MANY knitterly and spinnerly friends, and the one thing we NEVER talk about is swatching…
    That’s probably why you and Abby are so famous and excellent at what you do, and my friends and I all know each other from the coffee shop.

  120. I have 41,612 stitches waiting to be frogged myself. Swatches lie so very, very much when it comes to knitting 3X sweaters. Part of it is my fault, I really should have spread my work out on a longer cable and measured it sooner, much sooner. But the fact remains, about seven and a half square feet of allover cabling has gone to naught. 😛

  121. I think you should change activities – write out a cowl pattern for example. A knitting break will make the knitting more enjoyable when you go back to it.

  122. Ooo,ooo, was it the peacock shawl you started awhile ago?!?
    ‘Cause I knit that one, and had to leave off the entire last pattern section – before the edging – because 1) I ran out of time (that may have been the most important factor), but ALSO 2) IT WAS GIGANTIC! I was knitting for a bride, and the truncated version hung down below her bustle. Anything more would have tripped her.
    (sock gathering looks very cool. dreaming of attending.)

  123. Statements like this give me hope for myself as a knitter.
    Heard in my head: See? It’s okay, you can still knit your inexpert, imperfect things, because even Stephanie, who’s such an Advanced Knitter that she makes whole sweaters out of wool she personally spun, plied, and then knitted – who’s written multiple books about knitting – even she sometimes knits blindly into a dark alley and has to rip.

  124. “swatching” and “swatched” aren’t really even words except to knitters
    They’re actually words to costume designers and interior decorators as well.

  125. Oooh, frogging angora? Sad face.
    In response to Melissa’s comment just ahead of me, I must quote your words:
    “No, life is a metaphor for knitting!”

  126. This is misplaced, because I don’t twitter, but– buy bandaids in wholesale quantities, at whatever the Canadian equivalent of Costco is. I do, and I don’t even have kids at home any more, just because I’m clumsy, and so is hubby.

  127. I like a lot of what you have written regarding swatches, what they tell, and what they do not. However, I think you are a bit off to write:
    They’re as honest as ex-husbands with new girlfriends and hair transplants who owe you child support…. on a good day.
    I do not believe swatches are intentionally deceptive like that. Then again, you may just hold more ill will toward a swatch’s lies of omissions than the dishonesty of an ex and its resultant troubles.
    Still, it is all quite entertaining, and I cannot seem to capture the lighthearted attitude I want to convey. Additionally, I am quite curious to know more about this shawl.

  128. i hate boring swatches.. but i love fancy ones.. if i have to swatch for gauge, and it’s ss, then i do one that will cover my thumbnail and measure by squinting… if it’s for an alice starmore jacket, and it’s all troublesome and fancy, then i love the whole darned process.
    right now i have a shawl pattern coming that has me weak at the knees. i ordered cashmere, and i’ll swatch that.. plus maybe some zephyr for good measure.
    because.. it’s exciting. i expect no useful information to come from the experience besides: damn.. that’s as beautiful as i had hoped.

  129. I can’t believe that you just got all post-modern with the swatch thing.
    What’s next? Lace to be knit while Cyborgs and Simians?

  130. Admittedly, I don’t swatch.
    I cheat and start with a sleeve.
    Less painful to rip….

  131. So, what you are really telling us then (feel free to correct me at any time) is that the only reason we swatch is because it’s the only tool we have that might give us a clue about what we are knitting before spending hours knitting it.(Dang! I wish I could italicize when writing a comment, please just consider the might and before italicized!) Damn that’s cold! Here I actually did a swatch and you’re telling me it might be worthless because swatches lie. So what’s a knitter to do? How do we know if we are on the right knitterly path? It’s a good thing that you are so candid with us about your own tragic visits to the Frog Pond. If you weren’t so honest about it, I know several knitters who might have given up entirely! Those of us who are really slow knitters (I’m the World’s Slowest Knitter! Official title there LOL!) might have been lost to total despair, especially since I hate swatching! Sigh! So thanks for your honesty. All those stitches weren’t in vain. I mean, if The Yarn Harlot, New York Times Best Selling Author and Knitter Extraordinaire rips out thousands of lace stitches, then I guess it’s ok for me to swim in the Frog Pond too. I have to tell you though, so far the only swatches that don’t/haven’t lied to me are weaving swatches! Yet!

  132. OK. It’s true about swatches, but it’s much more interesting what Abby thinks about “Fiber always goes into a drum carder sideways“. Because I can‘t imagine You haven‘t spoken with her about that.

  133. ugh, i’m sorry about the massive frogging.
    right now, i’m knitting on size US 19 needles and i feel like some weird sort of clown or knitter-freak because a week ago, i was knitting socks on 2.5 mm needles. i was sitting at Stitch-n-Bitch last night and feeling like a complete dork with needles the size of turkey basters.
    and yet, heck, this sweater’s going really fast, even though i had to frog the first sleeve because the swatch lied…

  134. Well, sometimes I swatch. When I do I learn what I already know – that I am a loose knitter (and probably a loose woman, or I was, in my day – quite a swatch eh?) and that I should be using needles the next size down. That’s what I always learn. So each time I think – I’d better swatch. And, Maybe I do. And I learn it again. Never washed a swatch however. But since I don’t ….quite…finish my sweaters either, I never know for sure. I have very severe and prolonged startitus. That February Lady, though. That would be one to enjoy spinning for and finishing!

  135. Awww, you’re just saying that to make all us mere knitting mortals feel better aren’t ya?
    I usually find myself in agreement with Abby. Come to think of it, I usually find myself agreeing with you too (except maybe for the turning on the heater thing.) So I’m not surprised to find myself laughing and nodding my head at today’s swatch rant. I know that I swatch not so much for gauge cuz I can usually guestimate that as close as a swatch. I do it because of all the times when I have swatched, got gauge but realized that that yarn in that stitch pattern or colour or whatever… looked like ASS! You know that one – you have a lovely lovely pattern, you have a lovely lovely yarn. But you put them together and you’ve got a 10×10 cm piece of garbage that looks like the cat threw up? That’s my favourite reason to swatch.
    And still I agree with you because I’m sitting here wearing the lovely handknit merino cardigan that growwwwwwws in the wearing. I’m sure that by fall it will be a dress.

  136. Well, I am thinking of giving up on swatches. I will make a small offering to the knitting goddesses before casting on instead. Every swatch I have knitted has lied (even when done in the round) and I find I generally get something very close to the ballband tension anyway, soooo…what the hell. I’ll swatch oddball skeins with no tension info, or to see how it acts/ looks/ washes/ blocks but for gauge? Nah. My mother never knit a tension square in her life and her sweaters rarely saw a pattern – she knit by eye and experience and was willing to rip if it went pear-shaped…which was rare. So I’ve decided I have inherited this skill 🙂 Fearless Knitting? I haz it (oh dear I can hear the whoopass heading my way)

  137. I agree- I make swatches and sometimes they just lie like crazy. Made one for my husband’s Christmas sweater. Proceeded to knit said sweater until almost the neck. Tried sweater on husband, looked like he was wearing a sweater made for a 14 year old girl and not a 6 foot tall 60 year old man. Ripped out the entire sweater and went with needles 2 sizes larger, just to be safe. Made swatch for daughter’s alpaca sweater. When the sweater was done, it practically came to her knees. Had to throw it in the dryer to shrink it enough for her to actually wear it. Both swatches were true and came out just right, but the finished product bore no resemblance to the results of the swatch-ing.

  138. Only knitters can sit around talk swatches! In fact, I was at a wine and cheese (nobody actually knitted that night) and there we were all talking swatches. Great conversation!

  139. Why do you need to you swatch for a shawl? Can’t you just keep knitting till it’s big enough?

  140. Fie! Back in the day, I might make a swatch, but nevermore. Nevermore! And I have several very well-fitting sweaters! What’s the point? Sometimes I spend a lot of time ripping out two or three inches of hem, but that happens whether I swatch or not. Truth to tell, tho, my actual body seems to vary quite a lot in size from season to season for no serious reason, so something that is too big in August will be nice and comfy by February 😀 It also helps that I continually wildly overestimate the amount of yarn I will need for any given project, and so I am rarely in danger of running out of yarn, even handspun.
    …Why am I feeling an overwhelming urge to find an enormous piece of wood and rap until my knuckles bleed?

  141. Darn swatching! Hey….. did you two discuss that gorgeous little cowl that she is test knitting? Any ideas on when that beauty will be available? I am obsessing over it…. You know how us knitters are good at obsessing….

  142. Oh, dear….I just cast on a sweater for my husband using alpaca. The swatch I did turned out a perfect gauge. Now I’m worried that I may be in for an unpleasant surprise 🙁

  143. Hmmm. So one could call the six inches I have done on a vest a swatch since I have now decided I would be happier with that yarn made into a February Lady Sweater?
    I like the fabric I’m getting, the gauge is good, and the yarn required is the same. I just think I’d like the FLS instead.

  144. Brilliant post! (Okay, they’re all brilliant. This one really helped me.) Thanks!

  145. I swatched. I got ten stitches per two inches, which works out to 20 inches per four inches, which was the gauge of the project (a hat). I cast on and I started knitting. After two rows I saw that what was coming out was a sock, not a hat. Did the swatch lie or did the pattern lie? Whichever, I now feel free to take the “gauge” as a mere suggestion. Knit on!

  146. Ya know, I don’t think I have ever actually knit a swatch. At least not on purpose. I will occasionally play around with a stitch pattern to see if I like it, but it’s never to check the gauge, just to check the look of the thing. And whether I like knitting that particular pattern. (that’s the important bit really) I am about as “process” knitter as you can get and will rip things out fourteen times until it’s just right instead.

  147. That is why we LOVE you so much–because you are just like us—you are not perfect–you frog and then you move on! :):):):)

  148. Stephanie, this is why I mostly knit flat, rectangular items that can be adjusted easily – aka, scarves, and shawls that are not lace, blankets (if its too small, it becomes a baby blanket, if it is too large, a giant’s blanket). I am way too intimidated by 3-dimentional items to even give it a try (except for socks, since I learned them toe up and I can increase until it fits and decrease until it fits and knit until it is long enough all of which generally does not require swatching). But I TOTALLY feel your pain. Totally.

  149. What do you recommend for sock-swatching? I mean, what do you, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, actually do so you know which needle size will give a nice fabric, and how many stitches to cast on so it will fit the typical human foot?
    I can make myself knit flat back and forth swatches, but in the round???? That’s lots more stitches! But gauge really differs when knitting around (all knit st) than back and forth (knit and purl). I may as well just knit the sock, except that it starts with ribbing, and I hate ribbing! I don’t want to pull out ribbing to change the number of stitches in the sock!

  150. I don’t swatch. I’ve never swatched and you can’t make me! I’m more concerned with the connection to relationships. Four guys I’ve lived with over the years since I turned 17. How should I have swatched them? Nah! I wouldn’t give up a minute. So I made my last way too big for the intended person’s head? I’ll either felt it a bit – haphazardly you understand – or find someone with a big head who wants a gorgeous hat. Also – I can’t swatch because I don’t use patterns. I just invent them as I go and if I get bored I change stuff. I know it isn’t the same as if I were knitting sweaters (I’ve knit two and they were perfecto – followed a pattern and all…)or socks or mitts – all frightening stuff best left to others but I just don’t. And this is what else I have to say now that I’m on about it – I have never ripped anything out unless it is right down to the balls. (hmmm…) And that isn’t a prideful statement. I would’ve liked to sometimes but I’m terrified to – if something is going wrong I have to either abandon the whole thing or make like it is just the way I wanted it as in “oh – yes I meant this artful awray of holes or VENTS as I like to call them…”

  151. I don’t swatch, I hate it.
    That said, I’ve paid the price many times for not swatching, and have been where you you more times than I’d like to admit.
    But it’ll never convince me that I need to swatch.

  152. I do not now, nor have I ever swatched. I don’t have the patience for it. When I find a pattern that I love, and the yarn that I love goes with it, I can’t wait to see what a stupid swatch will tell me. Besides, its a waste of good yarn. Somebody on Ravelry said the knit the sleeve as a swatch. That could be a good thing, since I hate knitting sleeves, and always leave them til the very end, but I generally knit both at the same time, to avoid that whole one-sleeve-longer-than-the-other thing, so that doesn’t really work for me.
    I also knit exactly the same every time. I’ve always knit true to gauge (i know this because after I’ve finished many garments, I’ve used one to check the gauge, and voila!). I would think that if you knit loosely, and you know you knit loosely, you’d know the appropriate adjustments to make, wouldn’t you.
    And one more thing against gauge – I rarely, if ever use the yarn recommended in the pattern. Because, mostly, I can’t afford $200 worth of yarn to knit a sweater, and if I could, why would I waste part of that precious on a swatch that won’t be right anyway?

  153. I’m knitting a sweater for my son. He wears a Men’s size medium, so it’s a lot of knitting. He’s also 12 and still growing, so it’s a race to see which happens first – the sweater or a growth spurt.
    I swatched. I swatched a good size swatch and measured for gauge. Got it. Figured out how many stitches to cast on to go around him with lots of ease, divided by 2 for flat front and back, added almost 2 inches worth of stitches for seaming, and knit away in a cabled lattice pattern. Got front and backs done and tried it on him.
    It’s too narrow. It fits him like a glove and gives him a nipped waist.
    Swatches lie big time.

  154. Swatches lie like the dirty dogs they are!
    Me and my two kntting buds are starting a knit-a-long for a sweater. All three of us did swatches. We are pretty sure all three swatches lied….to our faces. Either that or its the pattern, Vienne. Oh well, modify modify, modify.
    Your Feb Lady sweater looks awesome, btw.

  155. Seems to me like you just made a larger swatch – that provides a more accurate measure of the end result. My theory is, if you treat the first 5 inches as your swatch (and are willing to unravel) then you get a pretty good sense of how things will go. It’s the “willing to unravel part” that is the key.

  156. I have never swatched.
    I have completed whole sweaters seamed them and all and then ripped them completely the f*ck out.
    But I don’t want to swatch. Ever.

  157. another reason to swatch – so you don’t have to cast on hundreds of stitches and then find you hate knitting the pattern. (Not that I’ve done that or anything…)

  158. Okay. My first (and so far only) lace shawl took me three months or so to knit. I am a fairly beginning knitter and did not swatch. I also used a laceweight yarn, not fingering weight, and changed the needle size because I thought the smaller needles would better match the new, finer yarn. Happily knitting lace for three months. First lace project, so it seems complicated, although you could probably do it in your sleep. Anyway. Read that swatches don’t matter for shawls, because how can a shawl not fit? Even added an extra repeat to make sure it would be wide enough. Did I mention this took three months of my life?
    And everyone knows lace stretches when you block it, right? Well. Imagine my surprise when my lace shawl, *after blocking*, is about the size of a kerchief. Seriously. I knit a bloody shawl that only a teddy bear could wear.
    Three months and the smallest lace alpaca shawl in the world to show for it. Unbelievable.
    I swatch now.

  159. And that is why I RUN LIKE CRAZY from any project that starts with “cast on XX hundred and XX stitches.”
    If I absolutely MUST do so, I’ll place a marker after every 50 stitches, and knit the first row back plain so I can count it. Charted lace has never suffered from the extra row.

  160. “we also agree that the only reliable swatch is a full size swatch, knit and seamed like the sweater… which would make it an actual sweater, which sort of reduces the point of a swatch, if you see my point.”
    This is now my favorite and definitive commentary on swatches, and I hereby nominate it for inclusion in the next calendar you produce, just so I can tear off that page and post it forever in my knitting area.

  161. You sound worn out from all of the work organizing the Sock Summit–good thing it sounds like it’s going to be great!

  162. I frogged thousands of stitches this weekend because *despite being careful not to twist* when joining in the round, I twisted. And then I took >10 rows to realize I had twisted. And then I ripped it all out, so I still don’t know if my swatch lied or not.

  163. My swatch totally lied. It told me that the sweater I measured before starting knitting for my boyfriend in the spring would fit him at the end of winter. That had nothing to do with me putting the pocket on the back, however….

  164. Ken,
    Happy Birthday! Sounds like I need to thank you as much as I do Stephanie for adding good laughs to my weeks, plus worthwhile ideas to consider. May you have many more years to come!

  165. I saw Stephanie’s comment from 2004(!)about the Penguin File De Laine yarn, beige/gray varigated. I have about 5 skeins of that yarn and would like some more. Is anybody out there who wants to sell theirs?

  166. As I read your post, I sucked in my breath. “The knitting Gods are going to smite her,” I thought. Then I saw, yep, they did. This is what happens when you misbehave.

Comments are closed.