How a Pattern Happens – Swatching

Have you ever wondered what goes into designing a crochet pattern? It’s different for everyone, but I thought it would be fun to share my process with all of you. This is part 2 of a series of behind-the-scenes posts, where you can join me as I work through a new design.

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Last time, we talked about starting the process, determining how much yarn to use, choosing a yarn, and ordering it.  Now I have my lovely Red Heart Soft Touch yarn, which I received free from Red Heart for this pattern, and a few hours to play with it. That means it’s time to swatch! So you can get a better idea of timing, I actually did this swatch on 11/17.

Swatching - How a Pattern Happens -

Swatching can be fun!

Swatching, particularly with a garment or size-dependant object of any type, is absolutely critical. Not only will I use this swatch to determine the gauge for the pattern, but it helps me to see what stitch textures and design elements I may want to include. Swatching is far from boring, particularly when I’m not sure exactly what I want to do. This is the fun, just playing around part, where I can try new things on a small piece.


Some basic stitches

Unless I have a good idea of what stitch pattern I want to use, I usually start swatching in single crochet. This gives me a good baseline feel for the yarn, and for how comfortable I am with the hook I chose.  In this case, I chose a 4.5mm hook. I’ll let you all in on a little secret: In my patterns, I usually recommend a hook about .5mm larger than the one I actually used. Why? Because I have found that I crochet more loosely than many of my readers. With my first few patterns, a lot of people said they had to use a larger hook to meet gauge, so now I just recommend a larger hook to begin with!

Ok, so back to the swatch – The hook size was comfortable with the yarn, so that’s a win. The single crochet was nice, but a bit firm…and honestly who really wants to do a whole vest in single crochet? I tried about 4 rows of double crochet, but it’s too “gappy”, light, and stretchy.

Looking for something in between, I tried extended single crochet. Extended single crochet is shorter than a double crochet, but taller than a half double, and somewhere between the two as far as density. 4 rows in, and this isn’t doing it for me either. it’s a little better than the dc rows, but I want something….more. This is why I can never seem to end up with an “Easy” skill level pattern.

Swatching - How a Pattern Happens -


Meanwhile, on Pinterest

I’m at a loss. The yarn is glossy and smooth, so even a more distinct texture would still look subtle, which is what I want. Linen stitch might work, but I’ve just done a couple of projects in linen stitch and I’m kind of bored with it. And after miles of seed stitch on my Textured Tree Skirt, I need a change from that too. I don’t want anything with TOO much texture though – I’m really going for a simple, clean look. So it’s time to put the swatch down, putter around on Facebook, and peek at Pinterest.

I had been thinking how I’d love to do some embroidery but never seem to have the time. So to clear my mind, I browsed through pictures of embroidery, of crochet, and of embroidery combined with crochet and there it was…a new stitch I hadn’t tried, called the herringbone ladder stitch.


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Hmm…herringbone stitch…Yes, that could work! 4 rows in and I love it. It’s perfect. Just the right density, not too loose but not too stiff. A little hint of the texture comes through, and there’s a neat, subtle striping effect too. 4 more rows and it’s definite – this will be the main stitch for the pattern. Now I need to work my swatch up to a little more than 4 inches in this stitch, so I can use it to measure gauge.

Swatching - How a Pattern Happens -

That stitch on Pinterest really did look cool though. I bet it could easily be worked on top of crochet stitches. I have to try it of course, with rainbow yarn, because…well…why not? It turns out it does work, and it’s actually pretty cool. Later, I’ll have to see if I can fit this into the pattern somehow.

Swatching - How a Pattern Happens -



My swatch is done, but before I take the measurements, I need to wash and block it. This way, if the fabric is going to stretch, or shrink, or change in any way, that will be accounted for in the gauge. Otherwise it could completely ruin the sizing later. Once it’s dry, I have the numbers I need – 15 sts x 12 rows = 4″ in herringbone stitch.




  • Carol

    Thank you! If I hadn’t signed on for your newsletter I would have missed an obvious step of washing the swatch. Can you tell I’m a newbie?! So much more to crochet as well as the fun of making anything with the glorious yarn 😀
    Here’s to living and learning,

    • Pia Thadani

      You would think it would be obvious, right? Not so much – I only found out myself a few years ago and my first thought was…”well…duh….how did I not know that?” lol

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