Knitting Sleeves as Swatches.

It’s hard for me to say this, but I’m losing my faith in swatches. Yes – that’s crazy talk coming from me! especially because my favorite thing to knit is sweaters and I really (really!) like them to fit. I need to know my stitch and row gauges so my finished piece turns out to be the size I  expect.

Case in point. Meridian. That cute cardigan from the latest Shibui collection that I’m knitting in black. I faithfully knit my swatch – not a huge one, but still a decent 5″ square. I wet blocked it, let it dry flat and then hung it for a day to let the row gauge settle before I measured. It seemed spot on. But I wanted to double check. So I started with a sleeve. I finished it and soaked it…and realized it was way too small (smaller even than the schematic for the next size down). So small Marc wondered if I was knitting a sweater for Charlie (it’s the sleeve in the upper right).

I went up a needle size (which put me at the US8 the pattern suggested – a little surprising since I feel like my knitting has loosened up a bit since last year’s elbow injury) and started my second sleeve. A few rows in, I measured and the width seemed good, but the length was too long. I did some quick calculations and subtracted about 7 rows from the pattern to get everything to work out ok. I finished it and soaked it. The width was fine, but it was short (upper left). yeah, ugh. Turns out my blocked row gauge was smaller than my working gauge.

At this point I decided to take a break from swatching knitting sleeves. I bought yarn and cast on for a new project…without swatching!

This morning, I knit that sleeve again. This time, exactly as written. The piece is still drying, but I’m hopeful (bottom center). I do have the pattern memorized now, so the 4th sleeve should go quickly… and I can only hope that it – and the two fronts and the back! – are on gauge!

Two of my students in yesterday’s class were ready to start Meridian. One had swatched on a size 7, and just like me, her gauge looked spot on. Nonetheless, I suggested they both start with a sleeve as a swatch. on an 8. following the pattern as written. Promise I’ll report back on the results…for all three of us!

I’m sure you’ve anticipated my question – how do you swatch for a sweater?

5 thoughts on “Knitting Sleeves as Swatches.

  1. Ugh. What a pain! If the sweater has a separate sleeve (like . . . not a top-down), I always knit a sleeve as my swatch. (I figure if it works, I'm ahead of the game. Y'know?) With a top-down sweater, I usually just start in — and then adjust (if necessary) when I've knit enough to measure. This tends to work for me, but sometimes it means I end up starting with a small . . . and moving into a medium (or something). It generally works for me, but every once in a while, I have to go back and do a good, old fashioned swatch.

  2. Crazy talk, indeed! Not that you're losing faith in swatches, but after doing everything you're supposed to do when swatching, you end up with a Charlie-sized sleeve and one where your blocked gauge was smaller than your working gauge!? This is why I don't knit sweaters. I wish you and your students good gauge and knitting mojo!

  3. I do swatch and block and end up okay most of the time. Though I know (and have talked with you!) my row gauge tends to be off and I believe I saw that result with Stopover. And Mary – your production is incredible!

Comments are closed.