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Swatching in the round

Wednesday, 28 July, 2010

Since I mostly knit cardigans, swatching for projects knit in the round isn’t something I have to think about very often. But with the finished project I’ll show you on Friday I had to do that very thing, and I discovered a nifty little trick I wanted to pass on.

As some of you probably know, when you knit stockinette in the round your gauge is different than when you knit it flat. This is because when you knit in the round you’re only knitting knit stitches, where as if you knit stockinette flat you’re knitting and purling, and the tension when you knit is different than the tension when you purl.

For example, to make gauge on the Whisper Cardigan I finished last summer I knit the sleeves, which were knit in the round, on a size 3 needle. When I began knitting the back, and switched to knitting flat, I had to go down to a size 1.5 needle to get the same gauge. That’s quite a difference.

In the past, when I had to swatch for a project knit in the round, I would get a 12” or 16” needle, cast on enough stitches that I could comfortably knit in the round, and knit until I had a large enough piece to measure. When I make a flat gauge swatch I usually cast on around 35 stitches and knit for 4” but the in-the-round swatch it always required way more stitches and took a lot longer. And if you’re anything like me, spending more time than absolutely necessary on a gauge swatch is to be avoided at all costs.

There is a way to knit a stockinette gauge swatch flat that mimics knitting in the round. It’s genius, and simple. Here’s what you do:

Cast on however many stitches you want to cast on. Knit one row.

Instead of purling the next row, slide your stitches back down the needle, bring your yarn across the back, and start knitting another right side row.

The wrong side will look like this. See how there’s a length of yarn that’s been brought across the back from the right to the left? Make sure you don’t pull the yarn across the back tightly. You’ll want a little slack.

Keep repeating until your swatch is the size you want it. The back will be kind of a mess when you’re done.

Voila! No purls, only knits!

I can’t remember where I learned this but it’s definitely a trick I’m glad to have in my knitting toolbag.

Maybe I should make this a regular feature? If you have a knitting technique you’d like explained, or a general knitting question you’d like me to talk about, let me know!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, 28 July, 2010 1:01 pm

    Okay, that is GENIUS. I wish I’d thought of it sooner.

  2. Wednesday, 28 July, 2010 6:40 pm

    How clever, thanks for sharing…
    I Almost (tee hee) want to swatch just to see how great it is.


  3. Wednesday, 28 July, 2010 7:32 pm

    I’ll be trying this very soon. Excellent explanation, by the way. Thank you, thank you!

  4. Wednesday, 28 July, 2010 7:56 pm

    i never thought that it could be different… hummm quite a revelation here… THANK YOU!

  5. Wednesday, 28 July, 2010 8:18 pm

    i hope you don’t mind, but i cite you on my blog, in french, because i think this information is very very useful. thank you.

  6. Mom permalink
    Wednesday, 28 July, 2010 8:29 pm

    By the response I know this is important, sadly it makes no sense to me…

  7. Thursday, 29 July, 2010 10:21 pm

    My gauge knitting-in-the-round vs. knitting flat is very different too!!! I’m glad I’m not the only one. I usually have to go down at least 2 needle sizes to knit in the round. I am so lazy though, I do not swatch. I just knit the sleeves first and if they are not the right size I call them a swatch and start over. I hardly ever get the same gauge in my swatch that I end up with in my knitting!

  8. Mischel permalink
    Friday, 30 July, 2010 7:57 am

    Your site name caught my attention, your absolutely gorgeous knitting keeps me coming back. I am re-teaching myself to knit, starting off small. I’m hooked on socks currently. I would like to move to larger projects. I was wondering what type of “join” you use when starting a new skein?

  9. Saturday, 31 July, 2010 12:54 pm

    I feel like an idiot for never thinking of this. It’s so simple! Thank you! You just reminded me that sometimes the simplest of tricks can help many. Cheers!

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