The Yarnologue

Thoughts on Swatching

This morning WEBS shared a tip on their blog about photocopying your swatch on graph paper so you don’t have to carry the physical swatch around.

The post has a picture showing the end result. It’s a pretty neat graphic that you can see on their website.

I thought it was a clever idea and immediately shared it on our own Facebook wall.

I don’t see the point in this and EVERY knitting related page I am a fan of is re-posting it!–Jennifer

It was interesting to see the responses from our fans who said they don’t get it.

Other people expressed the opinion that it seems unnecessary because they just write the information from their swatch down.

Maybe it’s an inside joke.–Leslie

The WEBS post gave only the briefest explanation about why their knitter photocopied her swatches, which might be contributing to the confusion.

Let me share some of my thoughts about the tip. Maybe you won’t agree, but it might also provide information you’ll find useful later on.

Swatching is the bane of many stitchers’ lives, but it is often a necessary first step if you want your project to come out correctly. Granted, if you are knitting or crocheting something that doesn’t need to fit, such as a scarf or a dishcloth, then you probably don’t need to swatch. But you’ve heard about, or even experienced, the sweater that took a month or more to make only to end up too big or too small for the intended recipient.

Tank top swatch

I had to go down a needle size to get the correct gauge for my Debbie Bliss Simple Tank.

For instance, by swatching I learned that I had to go down a needle size from the one recommended in the Simple Tank pattern from the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Debbie Bliss magazine. If I hadn’t checked, my top would have ended up much too big.

Swatching could have helped avoid that. If your gauge matches the gauge in the pattern you have a much better chance of the finished project working out properly.

Swatches Are Your Stitching History

Now many stitchers (me included, if the truth is told) knit or crochet enough of a swatch with enough different sizes of hook or needles until they get the pattern gauge, then rip out that swatch and use it in the project. The organized ones might write down the information so the next time they use that yarn they won’t have to do as much swatching. The disorganized ones either try to remember or start from scratch.

Some people are fine with written notes, others need that extra memory jog of the actual swatch.

Those stitchers buy an extra ball of yarn for the express purpose of preserving their swatch in a journal. They’ll write notes on the journal page, or pin notes to the swatch, so the next time they use that yarn they have a record. They might keep a long, scarf like swatch of all the different size needles they used. Or they might wash and block the swatch, which gives a more accurate gauge but makes it hard to reuse the yarn.

Cosimo Scarf Swatch

Swatching the Cosimo Scarf helped me learn the pattern

Of course, in this modern era, you can also make notes about the swatch on your Ravelry project page, but stitches are tactile people and having a physical record in nice.

In either case, keeping a record of your experience with a certian yarn will allow you to start your project faster the next time you use it.

Project TBD

Now, that is all assuming you bought a pattern and the yarn it calls for. In that case you are attempting to get the gauge in the pattern so you can get on to making your project.

But what about the independent yarn in your stash? You know, that pretty, pretty yarn that you just had to buy even though you didn’t know what you were going to make with it.

When it comes time to use it you have some decisions to make.

Rinihue crochet

Swatching Rinihue in single and double crocheted allowed me to see which I preferred.

Some people transport the yarn back to their local yarn store to begin the pattern hunt. That can be a lot of bulky stuff to carry around, especially if you are searching for multiple projects. Or what about those times you’re at your LYS, find a beautiful pattern, but can’t remember if you have yarn at home that will work?

This is the situation where the WEBS tip really comes into play.

When you first buy that pretty, must-own yarn go home and swatch with it. Use a few different size hooks or needles until you hit on a fabric that you find pleasant. Then write down what you did.

Now at this point you can either pop the swatch into your journal, write notes on a 3×5 index card, or use the WEBS tip and make a photocopy of the swatch then write the notes in the margin.

In the first method of the journal you’ll have a bulky item to bring to the LYS. In the other two methods you have a might lighter record to transport. You can even leave them in the car so that if you make an unplanned stop at the yarn store you have the information you need on hand.

A few sheets of paper are also easier to pack when you go on a trip. You never know when you’ll encounter a new yarn store and if you have some notes on hand it will make shopping easier.

How do you manage your swatches? Do you save them or reuse them?

The multi-colored red yarn in my crochet swatch is Araucania Rinihue, a 80%Wool, 20% Silk blend with approximately 208 yards per 100g.
The grey lace swatch is Louisa Harding Nerissa, a 100% Cotton yarn with approximately 98 yards per 50g. You can download the free Cosimo scarf pattern from our website.


  1. Super useful. Thanks!

  2. Marjorie Lyon

    July 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    OK, I understand photocopying the swatch, perhaps with a ruler included, and in color. But why graph paper?

  3. KnittingFever

    July 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    If you do it on knitting graph paper it will make the gauge easier to count or to plot out a design.
    Remember, on regular graph paper the blocks are square but knitting stitches aren’t. You have to make sure you’re using knitting graph paper or your calculations will be off.

  4. There was a comment on the WEBS page about this thread–someone suggested that you use a quilter’s rule over the swatch to photocopy (good is you don’t have graph paper). You accomplish the same end result and it is easier to count your stitches. When I try to count my actual stitches for some reason my eyes cross and I miss a stitch, with the photocopy I can follow the stitches more easily.

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