Featuring the Clover Swatch Ruler and Needle Gauge
I know a lot of knitters and crocheters cringe at the words “gauge” and “swatching”. But working up a gauge swatch before starting a project can be important, and it doesn’t have to be difficult! Clover recently gave me a free swatch ruler and needle gauge tool to try out and review for you. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to share some information with you about gauge and swatching.
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Keep reading for more information on why and how to swatch, and how to adjust if needed. Plus, enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a Clover swatch ruler and needle gauge!
What is a gauge swatch?
A gauge swatch is a small sample of knitting or crochet, from which you can measure the size of your stitches. It can also be a chance to practice the stitches used in the pattern, and can give you an idea of how the finished piece will look and feel.
Why does it matter?
You don’t always have to match the gauge listed in your pattern or on the yarn label, but it’s important to understand how differences in gauge can affect your finished piece.
- Size: Matching the gauge used in a pattern will result in the same size finished piece as the pattern. If you’re making a hat, and you want to make sure it fits you and not an elephant, this is important!
- Texture: If your gauge is tighter, your fabric will be stiffer and firmer. A looser gauge results in a more open and drapey fabric. This difference can be important if you want your garments to drape nicely, or your stuffed dolls to keep their stuffing in.
- Yarn usage: You may not care if your blanket square turns out to be 13 inches instead of 12, but if it does it will use more yarn. Over an entire blanket, that can mean several extra skeins. Accurate gauge measurements can help to predict yarn usage.
Practice makes perfect
Learning a new stitch pattern can take a little practice, and your first few tries may have some mistakes. Working up a gauge swatch gives you an opportunity to practice the pattern before you start the project. Just be sure you are measuring your gauge over a section of your swatch that is correct and even.
When working without a pattern, a gauge swatch can give you a chance to try out different stitches and ideas. I wrote about exactly that in this post about swatching for a new design.
Making a swatch
If you are working from a pattern, it should have a recommended gauge. 4 inches is a common size for measurements, which is why the Clover Gauge Swatch Ruler has a convenient 4 inch window.
Your pattern may say something like “12 sc x 15 rows = 4 inches”. This means that if you measure across a 4 inch square of single crochet stitches, you should find 12 stitches and 15 rows. This does not mean you should work up a swatch that is exactly 12 sc by 15 rows.
Make it bigger
The stitches along the edges of your work are often slightly different than those in the middle. Cast on and bind off edges, selvedges, and foundation chains can all affect your measurements.
To avoid measuring over these areas, your swatch should be larger than the area you need to measure. If you’re measuring a 4 inch square, make a swatch that’s at least 6 inches square. The exception to this rule is if the instructions include a specific gauge swatch pattern.
Swatching in pattern:
Gauge measurements should ideally be done in the stitch used in the pattern. In the above example, the measurements were given as a number of single crochet stitches, but it could easily have been a different stitch or stitch pattern. It also doesn’t have to be a 4 inch square.
The gauge instructions may say something like “5 shells and 12 rows = 3 inches in pattern”. In this case, you would still need to work up a larger square, but follow the stitch pattern used in the project to do so.
Sometimes, the pattern will specify separate instructions for a gauge swatch, or may use part of the pattern itself as a swatch. For example, in my Modular Mitered Pillow pattern, each small square should be about 3.5 inches. In this case, you do not need to make a larger swatch as the measurements take into account the edge stitches.
Blocking your swatch
It’s usually a good idea to wash and block your swatch before measuring it, because different fibers react differently to blocking. Unblocked squares that are identical except that one is made with bamboo yarn and the other with acrylic yarn will become very different from each other after blocking.
Unless otherwise stated, the gauges listed in most patterns are based on a blocked swatch or on the final project after blocking. If you match the gauge with an unblocked swatch, you may be in for a surprise once you wash your finished piece.
Block your swatch the same way you would block the finished project. For garments, it’s a good idea to hang your swatch with a little weight on it (binder clips or chip clips work well). This can help to simulate any sagging from the weight of the garment.
Here are three swatches of the same yarn, one unblocked, one blocked flat, and one blocked with some weight. As you can see, the finished measurements are very different.
Not blocked, the 4 inch area is 20 sts x 8.5 rows. Dried flat, it’s 19 sts x 8 rows. When hung with a little weight, it becomes 18 sts x 7.25 rows. These may not seem like big differences over 4 inches, but it becomes a bigger difference in a larger piece. In this example, if I went by the unblocked gauge and made a sweater with a 36 inch bust, after washing it, that bust would become 40 inches!
Here’s where the Clover Swatch Ruler comes in very handy. The window isolates a square area, making it easier to count your stitches.
There are ruler markings on all sides of the window, in case you need to measure a smaller area. 2 sides have markings in inches, and the other 2 in centimeters.
Adjusting to meet the pattern gauge
If you find that you have too few stitches in your measured area, that means your gauge is too loose and your stitches are too big. To fix this, try dropping down to a smaller needle or hook size. Alternately, if your gauge is too tight and you have too many stitches, try going up a needle or hook size. It may take a little trial and error to find the right size.
Adjusting the pattern to meet your gauge
If the pattern is simple enough, and you are happy with the texture of your swatch, you may be able to adjust the pattern to meet your gauge. This requires a bit of math.
First, figure out how many stitches and rows you have per inch. Then look in the pattern to see how many inches you need. Multiply the two numbers together and you will see how many stitches you will need to make.
For example, if a scarf pattern is 8 inches wide, and my gauge is 12 stitches in 4 inches, I will need to make 24 stitches to get the same 8 inch width. If you make these kinds of adjustments, remember to take into account any stitch multiples needed for pattern stitches, and remember to adjust the number of rows as well.
This multi-functional tool is great for measuring swatches, but it also has needle and hook gauges! It comes in 2 pieces that nest together. Both are sturdy, but thin and flat so they store easily.
The big piece, with the swatch ruler, also has the needle gauge. This handy tool helps you identify the size of any needle, even if the markings have rubbed off. This is particularly useful for double pointed needles that have no markings. You simply find the smallest hole that your needle fits into, and that’s the size.
The smaller piece has a similar gauge, but for crochet hooks. On this one, instead of holes to put needles through, there are grooves to slide hooks into. Both the hook and needle gauges have US, metric, and Japanese sizes listed.
Enter the giveaway!
Clover is generously providing a swatch ruler and needle gauge tool to one lucky winner!
To be eligible, you must be 18 years of age or older, with a valid, US shipping address. The winner will be contacted by email, and must reply to that email and provide their selections and shipping address within 1 week in order to receive the prizes. If the winner does not reply within 1 week, a new winner will be selected. The giveaway ends on May 3rd, 2019 (at 11:59pm, central time). Hurry and enter below!