3 types of swatches – each with it’s own purpose

Swatching is not Optional….



Let’s take a look at 3 types of swatches. You probably are familiar with the first 2 types …..  but keep reading …… you may be surprised by the third. (I was)


TENSION SWATCH – how does the yarn look and feel in your selected stitch pattern, knit at various tensions?


GAUGE SWATCH – A 5″ X 5″ (at a minimum) swatch used for establishing gauge.

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GAUGE SWATCH for matching gauge

I recently had an epiphany about swatching when I’m trying to MATCH gauge.  In the past I’ve knit my gauge swatches as I learned as a machine knitter.   I never use the gauge rulers that came with my machines, but I’ve always knit my swatches according to the “rules”. (DUH)

On my standard machine, I’ve dutifully cast on 60 stitches and knit 60 rows between marked rows .  I marked off 40 stitches and got out my regular ruler, measured and did the math.

Being a total non-math person, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve messed up the calculation of my gauge … even when using a calculator.



[three_fourth_last]THE EPIPHANY: I was hand knitting a HK pattern.  Hand knitting the complicated sections of the pattern was fun, but I decided that knitting a whole lot of stockinette (the boring stuff by hand) was dumb.  So I threaded up my machine and started to knit a swatch.

The gauge I needed to match was 24 sts and 30 rows per 4″.

  •  I cast 60 stitches (so I could easily measure 24 stitches)
  •  I knit a few rows with my main yarn (marking with eyelets the tension gauge)
  •  2 rows of a contrasting color
  •  Knit 30 rows
  •  2 rows of a contrasting color
  •  A few main yarn rows and bound off
  • AT THE SAME TIME I also marked  the stitches that were framing my desired 24 stitches.[/three_fourth_last]

In other words, instead of marking the traditional number of stitches and rows, I broke the “rules” and marked my DESIRED GAUGE  of 24 stitches and 30 rows as I knit the swatch.

I let the swatch rest, then wet blocked it and let it sit overnight.

The next day, I put my handy-dandy 4″ measuring tool down on my swatch.  (see below about my DIY 4″ tool)

As you can see, by the first photo, my stitch gauge was good, but my row gauge needed to be adjusted.  It was easy to see through my tool that I had too many rows to 4″.   I adjusted my mast tension, knit another swatch and VOILA!  I was able to match my gauge EXACTLY — with NO MATH!


Stitch Gauge is close – but the row gauge is off

24 sts x 30 rows = 4″ ! Success!




For my tool, I cut a 4″ x 4″ square of quilters template plastic (readily available at craft stores) to create my Handy-dandy tool. Because it’s see-through, I can see my marked stitches and rows on my swatch.

You could use a square of any material (cardboard, paper, clear plastic of any kind).

We’ve created a to-scale template for you to print. Print the template on paper, a transparency or card stock and try it.  I think you will be amazed at how much easier it is to measure gauge (for both hand and machine knitting).

 Click here to download the template.

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think!








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One thought on “3 types of swatches – each with it’s own purpose

  1. Loretta

    May 25, 2017 at 4:42am

    What a clever idea! Thanks for the tip!

  2. Judith Ederer

    May 25, 2017 at 5:51am

    So clever! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Nancy

    May 25, 2017 at 9:45am

    I can’t believe that changing the mast tension would make that much of a difference in row tension. That was my aha! moment. Thanks.

  4. Kara

    May 26, 2017 at 8:59am

    A few weeks ago, I decided to do several projects and swatched quite a few acrylic yarns. Then I washed and dried, not a lot different from your torture test. I got a much better idea of how they felt and on the average got a little less than 5 % shrinkage.

  5. Ann Woodd

    May 26, 2017 at 4:31pm

    looks good thanks for sharing good to know I am not the only one who isn’t keen on swatches

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