How to make the perfect Swatch for the right Gauge (Part III of Knitting Pattern Design)

This Blog is Part III of the Blog series about Knitting Pattern Design.

After we speak about how to take measurements in Knitting Pattern Design in Part II, we are going to speak about how to make the perfect swatch that gives you the right gauge.

But why gauge matters? Let me tell you a story… Sounds familiar?

Finally you found the perfect new project that combines all your desires, its a symphony between color, texture and shape. This outstanding beautiful yarn you bought the other day because you could not resist found its perfect match, the pattern that bring out all its integrity. All day at work you think about to start it right after, every other upcoming appointnemt you just ignore. Then, after work, when you finally sit in front of the freshly printed pattern and every cell in your body just want to START, you remember the words of the kind lady from the woolshop: never start a new pattern without checking first the gauge!! Make a swatch and block it! But also this words you just wipe out of your mind because the desire to start is overwhelming! so you start anyway and all the satisfaction fills your body, but only until you finish the first part, measure it and its not right at all and you think: why i didnt listen to the lady from the yarnshop again???

After many of this painful snapshots you are probably like me more aware of the importance of the gauge. You know that you create extra work because you will have to open everything and start again.

Especially when you want to design your own knitting pattern the perfect swatch is crucial for all further calculations of the garment. If the swatch is not made precise, your calculations will never be accurate and the garment will not fit.

So what do you have to consider to make your swatch perfect?

  • Make it big enough! With a sample of 10×10 cm you have enough information about stitches and rows to calculate the rest of the piece. But: the edges distort the measurements. This means, you have to make your swatch bigger then 10×10 cm. Cast on 1.5 times more then labeled on the wool so you reach more or less 15 cm.
  • Block your swatch! Soak your swatch with water and give it a stretch in all directions (up/down/diagonal). Let it dry flat. Depending on the material you are using, the gauge after blocking can be very different! Don’t forget to measure the swatch before AND after blocking. This gives you an idea how your yarn behaves. Otherwise you might panic if your piece looks way to short while knitting.
  • Find the perfect needle size! Start with the one labeled on the wool. If  it is a bit more tight or loose then you want, start over and change needle size. Take a smaller size for more tight and a bigger for more loose.
  • Test also the cuff! This will let you know how many rows are needed to avoid that the cuff rolls up. You can also measure how much it contracts.
  • Different stitches- different gauge! Keep in mind that every stitch will give you another dimension. Some stitches contract, other dilate. Make a swatch for every stitch.

If colorwork is part of the design, give it a try in your swatch. This allows you to see how the colors interact with each other. If you make stripes, it is mostely more interesting to make the stripes in different highs. Now is the moment to experiment! Further mind the following point:

  • how to change color at the selvedge.
  • how many rows per color.
  • how the color interchange.
  • which color is the basic color. This you use for selvedge and cuffs, so this color is dominant.
  • Be aware that when you change the stitch and the color in the same row, it can be very visible. If you purl for example, the purl brings out the color from before. Knit one row in the new color before you change to purl.
  • keep the balls separated.
  • and always try to take the yarn from inside!

To find the right needle size, colors or stitches, you can also make an additional smaller sample before. 

Part IIII from my Blog series about Knitting Pattern Design will be about how to do the calculations from the swatch to your design!

Thank u for reading and (late) Happy New Year xxx

6 thoughts on “How to make the perfect Swatch for the right Gauge (Part III of Knitting Pattern Design)

Add yours

  1. Wow, amazing blog structure! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is excellent, let alone the content material!


  2. I’m no longer certain the place you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I used to be in search of this info for my mission.


    1. I am mostly speaking from my own experience (and mistakes!!) and what I learned from working in a yarn shop for about 8 years (yes, I stared with 19 😉 ). Im am happy to read that my information was useful to you: my mission is to provide useful information 🙂 and what is yours?


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