And I know I’m not the only one. It’s not a waste of time but it seems like a waste of time. Those little squares of knitting, which are washed and blocked, seem like a waste of yarn, but they’re not.
Despite all my reasoning, I cannot make my brain enjoy swatching.
Gauge – What Is It?
When you go to knit something, you want it to turn out to be the right size. And different things impact the size your item will become – the yarn, the needles, the knitting tension… Every knitter is different so every knitter will knit the same item in a different size, if not for gauge.
Every pattern has a knitting gauge to ensure that everyone will knit the same size. The gauge description will read something like this: 20 stitches x 30 rows = 4” square. And so it’s your job to figure out if the yarn, combined with the suggested needle size (or a different size) and your knitting tension, will yield 4 inches for that amount of knitting. This 4 inch square is your gauge swatch.
This usually means you have to try out various needles to find out which one will give you the right gauge. So, for a pattern such as a garment, when gauge is paramount (so the garment fits), you will most likely knit several gauge swatches.
Sure, a 4 inch square does not seem like a lot of knitting. But I resent it. Always. To make matters worse, to truly get the correct gauge in that little square, you must wash it and block it…and allow it to dry. Then, you measure to see how many inches that little square is, praying it’s 4 inches.
Most knitters, myself included, will only do a swatch for a fitted garment. I do not do them for shawls unless it’s a very nice shawl. But I always do them for socks – though I guiltily admit that I never wash or block these. For socks, I know, in general, how many stitches are required and what needle to use. I just tweek it a bit, depending on the yarn.
And I still take shortcuts with swatches…. You’re supposed to knit an area bigger than that 20 x 30. I usually just do a 20 x 30. I’m such a rebel. No, I’m lazy. No, I hate swatching!
So, yes, I know that knitting a gauge swatch is not a waste of time. But it feels like it. When you pick out a project, you want to cast on and knit, knit, knit! You do not want to have to knit and block a little square of, therefore, wasted yarn.
But swatching is part of the knitting process so I need to learn to embrace it. I may be doing more garments in the future, which is shocking, I know.