Many yarn crafters detest swatching. I'm not one of them. I always do a
swatch before starting to work on a large project.
Always wash and dry your swatch before checking your gauge.
There are too many advantages to swatching to skip this crucial step:
And what to do with all these swatches?
- First and foremost, to find, check and if necessary, adjust your
gauge. It's best to make a generous sized swatch and do your measuring
near the middle. Edge stitches can distort your gauge count.
- To torture test the fabric by living with it, and by washing and
drying it the way the finished project will be treated. Do you really
want to wait until after completing the item to find out it's a pet hair
magnet and shows ever speck of hair it picks up, it makes you itch, it
shrinks lengthwise, that the red bleeds into the white, or that the yarn
- Swatch Tip - When torture testing, particularly if using multiple
swatches, tie an appropriate number of knots into the cast on or cast
off length of yarn remaining to indicate the size of hook or needles
you used, or to indicate Swatch 1, Swatch 2, etc.
- To see if you enjoy working the stitch pattern(s) you'll be using.
If making the swatch has you pulling your hair out in frustration or
anxious to start washing your floors for some excitement, imagine putting
hours on end into it.
- To see whether the colours, stitches and materials appeal to you. If
you dislike them in the swatch, you can change any of them now, before
embarking on something larger. Be sure to wash your swatch before passing
judgement. Stitches and yarn can look, feel and behave quite differently
- If creating your own pattern, or combining yarns, it's a great chance
to try out different colours, stitch patterns, methods of decreasing or
increasing, etc. Go nuts with it!
- To see if you have enough yarn.
Be sure to wash your swatch first and estimate conservatively, by about
ten percent. If you find you should have 120 metres per ball, figure
on 110. If you find a ball covers 100 square inches, figure on 90 or so.
It's always better to have a bit of yarn leftover than to run short.
- If you know the yardage of your ball, you can take a measured piece of it, say 10 meters
(or yards) or so, and work it up in your intended pattern stitch. Measure
the resulting piece to see how much area it covers. A little math can
tell you how much fabric you'll get from this ball of yarn in this
- Conversely, if you don't know the yardage of the ball, you can work up
one ball in your chosen stitch, measure to obtain the area it will cover,
and multiply by the number of balls you have to see if it's sufficient
for the project you have in mind. A big job? Maybe, but better than
finding out you're 2 balls short when you're almost finished the project.
- To practice the techniques you'll use in the project. Work at it long
enough so any natural relaxation or tightening up of your work will occur
before you embark on the big project. This will help you avoid the
My gauge was fine when I started, I don't know what happened!
syndrome. In this case, check your gauge near the most recently
completed end of the swatch, still avoiding the edges.
- Field testing. Take your swatch with you when visitng the intended
recipient of the item you have in mind to see if it coodinates with their
decor, clothing, taste etc. Do this when no one is looking, otherwise
your motives may be discovered or your sanity questioned. ;)
- Use it as a pocket on the item you're making.
- Make a small coin purse, facial tissue cover, etc.
- Collect a lot of them (with similar care requirements) and make a
blanket or afghan.
- If small enough, use them as coasters.
- Larger ones (cotton only please) can be potholders (use multiple
layers), or washcloths for dishes or body.
- Keep them in a record book or other filing system with the rest of the
information about the pattern used, yarn label info, etc.
- Wash it occassionally and you'll have some 'pre-broken-in' yarn to use
for future mending, lengthening, etc.
- Pin or otherwise attach it to the outside of the container where you
keep the leftover yarn from the project for easy identification.
- Doll / stuffed animal blankies. A little one will love a toy blanket
that matches an item you've made for them.
- If large enough and otherwise suitable, make
- Tubular (circular) swatches of appropriate size can be added to and
used as hats, doll / stuffed animal sweaters or made into socks.
- Rip it out and use it to finish your project when you find you're
short of yarn afterall. ;)
Quick Tip For Measuring Lengths of Yarn
There are a few places around your home that will make measuring easier.
- See if the width of one of your hallways or doorways it 36 inches. If
- A tiled floor in your home will often be made of 12 inch (or sometimes
9 inch) tiles.
- Standard bathtubs are usually 5 feet long.
- See if any tables, counter sections, large appliances, or other pieces
of furniture are a convenient length to measure by.
- If unassisted, it's easier to measure in lengths which are less than
the distance between your hands when your arms are outstretched.
- Back to To see if you have enough
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