Spotlight on: Gauge Swatches, Not Just for Counting Stitches

I know, I know, you do not want to knit a gauge swatch. But as you all know, if you want your garment to fit or ensure you have the right amount of yarn, the gauge swatch is very important. But did you know that a swatch can be a great place to test pattern modifications you might want to make?

When knitting a gauge swatch for a sweater, I no longer knit a pretty border, so the swatch lies flat. I swatch as instructed in the pattern, whether stockinette, garter, or patterned but without a border. I wash and block the swatch and pat it out without stretching it. If I need to put a pin here and there to ensure it does not curl too much, I do so carefully, again not stretching the fabric. I leave it to dry, measure my gauge, and, when done, tuck it into my project bag.


While knitting my Novice Cardigan, I was reminded how handy your swatch is for testing a modification. This pattern calls for you to pick up stitches and knit a 1x1 rib for the button bands. I tend to prefer double-knit button bands on my sweaters, so I was pretty certain I would make that modification.  

Because I am knitting the sweater in a bulky yarn, Woolfolk Luft. I thought I had better test both button bands to see how that double-knit band would look and feel. So, what did I do? I went to my handy, dandy swatch, and knit a sample of both bands.  I followed the pattern on one side, and on the other, I swatched the double-knit band.

Thank heavens I did because when I finished both and cast a critical eye on them, I realized I was wrong. The double-knit button band was just too heavy, and the 1x1 was so much better and worked best with the overall sweater.

It is so much better to figure this out on a small scale. If I had knit the entire button band on my sweater it would have taken so much more time and then I would have to go back and rip it out.

You can also use the swatch to test different edge stitches and practice various embellishments, like embroidery. It is your very own testing ground!  

P.S. Remember to save your swatch! If something happens to your project, you can unravel the swatch and use the yarn for repairs.

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  • Gerrie on

    Just found your store and your blog today. Will be by the store later today but wanted to say how much I am enjoying your blog. I have read three so far, and find them very informative, helpful and well written. I have you on my Reading list now so I can return again and again. Thank you!

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