Knit Bits



Ok, getting something off my chest here. Occasionally I work in the family yarn shop (Yarns to Dye For, see link to the right under Links), and one thing I hear repeatedly is, "OH, I don't knit gauges." Perhaps for some knitters, this is not important, but for others, one little stitch difference in the measurement (usually 4" squares) can throw the whole garment size off. Even if it's half a stitch to the inch off, it will, and often does, come out a totally different size than what is called for in the pattern. So it really doesn't hurt to take a little time to make your swatch and measure your gauge. Sometimes all that's needed to correct your gauge is to go either up or down one size on the needles.

There's another, equally important function of a swatch, aside from measuring gauges, and I'm not so sure many knitters think about it.

I also do repairs, and the problem these days is matching yarn for a repair. Many yarns on the market today get discontinued after a time. Sometimes the brand name sells for years and years, but colors get discontinued and dye lots change. If you ever need to find a particular brand and color from ten years previous to do a repair, it isn't going to be easy. If you really love the garment you are making and plan to get a lot of use out of it, then take the time to knit your swatch. Swatches are your best supply of yarn for any given repair.

The reason for knitting the swatch, as opposed to saving the unknitted yarn, is the texture. The yarn in your garment is knitted as it ages. The swatch should age with the garment. When you wash your garment, wash the swatch with it. If you take it to the dry cleaners, take the swatch with it and have it dry cleaned as well. It's easier to clean a swatch than a ball of yarn. If you ever need to take yarn from the swatch for a repair, steam iron it between two sheets to relax it, let it dry, then it's ready for use.

Make a Swatch Box to keep them in. Any plastic, shoe box sized container will do. Save a wrapper from the yarn used (it has the washing instructions and fiber content), and pin it to the swatch.

Down the road, when you've accumulated swatches for garments you no longer have, you can discover other uses for them. Like crocheting a bunch together for a kid's blanket and donating it to a day care center. What fun!