I have compiled a list of things I have learned from knitting swatches over the years. In knitwear, swatches are imperative! In knitting toys or blankets, it isn’t as imperative unless you are knitting to certain dimension requirements. I’m going to discuss why swatches are so important for knitting garments and what they tell you about the fiber you are using.
Tip 1: Only buy 1 skein of your desired yarn.
Never buy more than 1 ball of yarn for a project until you are certain that this is the yarn that will work best with your pattern and lifestyle. The reason why is very simple, if you buy all the yarn for a project and then after knitting a swatch, find out it won’t work for your project, you could be out $60 – $200 with a pile of yarn and no project for it. I’ve done this so many times and this is how you feed the stash. If you are a minimalist or you just don’t believe in wasting money, only buy that one skein. If it isn’t a match made in heaven, chances are that you aren’t out more than $20 and the upside is that there are plenty of one skein projects out there to repurpose the yarn with and since you already knitted a swatch, you will know if that yarn will be suitable for a future project.
Tip 2: Pattern in the round, means a swatch in the round.
If the project you are working on is knitted flat, then knit your swatch flat. If your project is knitted in the round, knit your swatch in the round. I cannot tell you how many times I did not swatch in the round for a project that was supposed to be knitted in the round. Every time I failed to swatch in the round, I ended up with a garment that fit poorly. The reason why you want to swatch in the manner that you are knitting the project in is because your tension is different for a purl stitch versus a knit stitch. Knit stitches tend to have a higher tension than purl stitches do. When you are knitting plain stockinette in the round your stitches will all be tighter than flat stockinette, resulting in a smaller garment, when you are purling reverse stockinette in the round, your stitches will all be looser than flat reverse stockinette, which means a larger garment. Ysolda has an ingenious way to swatch in the round and this is the way that I swatch in the round.