In a desperate attempt to convert even the most ardent non-swatchers amongst you. (What is a swatch?) I get it, you just want to get started already! Here are some alternatives to swatching that allow you to make a start but still garner the critical information you need from a swatch; namely the tension and how the fabric behaves.
I present my minimum fuss tips for swatching.
Example 1: The shawl
(as pictured above) This is the start of a massive shawl. (Dissent by Lisa Mutch that I am knitting for the Crafts from the Cwtch make-a-long) It is so big that even if it came up a bit small it would probably be okay so I am not so worried about matching the tension information (its fairly scant with only a stitch gauge given) normally I would start knitting and have a quick measure once I was a few inches in so I knew what to expect. But I haven’t worked with this yarn before, its Lotus Yarns Tibetan Cloud, its very fine for a fingering weight and I wasn’t sure how it would behave when washed. I was expecting it to bloom a bit. The point is I didn’t know, so I checked.
Leaving the stitches on the cable with the yarn and needles attached still I popped it in for a quick soak, blotted off the excess moisture and pinned it out overnight to block. By morning it was dry. I had lost no knitting time at all! I reviewed the fabric: I’m spot on for tension, the fabric is lovely and floaty and soft, the yarn did indeed bloom a fair bit. I may rip back the short rows section as I’m not super happy with the method I used now I’ve seen it blocked out but other than that I can just continue knitting as before.
I have gained the information I need to knit on with confidence.
If you are working a top down sweater you could do this with the yoke pretty easily. If you have too many stitches on the needle to allow it to lie flat or you are using straight needles or double points then pop the stitches onto some waste yarn before doing this.
Example 2: The sleeve
This is the start of a sleeve for a bottom up crochet sweater I am designing. The whole design will be worked in the round without turning so I needed to swatch in the round without turning too. So it makes a lot of sense to start a sleeve. I worked a few inches, kept it attached to the ball still and soaked, blotted and blocked it. This was crochet so it was easy just to take the hook out to do this but if I had been knitting on dpns I would have slipped the stitches over to a piece of waste yarn and then slipped them back on the needles to continue again.
This also works if the sleeve is to be knitted flat and the garment is to be knitted flat.
This time I was looking to see what the fabric looked like and to find out the tension. I guessed at the tension and cast on how many I thought I’d need for the width at the cuff. Sadly this swatch didn’t come out as big as I hoped so it will be restarted. If it had been the right size I could have continued it as the sleeve.
(In case you are wondering the yarn is Eden Cottage Yarns Milburn 4ply – yep I just cannot get enough of it!)
Example 3: The pocket
(not pictured) If you can’t use either of these methods why not make a pocket? Yes even if the pattern doesn’t call for one, you can almost always sew on a nice patch pocket to store those hankies in! Just a bit bigger than 4″/10cm is the perfect size for a patch pocket and its also a great size for a swatch – its like it was meant to be or something!
For more information about standard swatching; the whys and wherefores, see my previous post here.