Side note: This tutorial of mine originally appeared in the Editor’s Blog over at Creative Knitting. I’m a regular contributor there (on the blog, newsletter, magazine… GRIN!), so I hope you go check it out and support us! 🙂
Most of us love a good circular, seamless project and the very idea of socks, hats, top-down raglans, or circular yokes brings us a joy that is virtually palpable. Well, except the little gauge swatching part (because we ALL do our gauge swatch, right?!). This area can cause some angst for knitters, but I’m going to show you my favorite method of swatching – The Faux Round Swatch!
The reason we need to swatch in the round, versus attempting a flat swatch for a circular piece, is that flat stockinette stitch is looser (thanks to those pesky WS purl stitches), resulting in few stitches per inch. Circular stockinette stitch is tighter (because we aren’t purling), resulting in more stitches per inch. The point is: a flat swatch for a circular project is a no-no.
The first method I leaned to swatch in the round was simply casting on double the number of stitches, working in the round on double-pointed needles (dpns), and then binding off. Lay it as flat as you can, in half, and try to count your stitches on the cushioned surface (created by the other half underneath). Not exactly accurate, is it? It also uses a lot of yarn and takes more time to work.
And here comes the Faux Round Swatch! It can take a little bit of practice to get into the groove, but it uses less yarn, takes less time, and just looks all cool with fringe effect. Without further ado, here’s how you go about it!
Circular needle or dpns used for the project.
Yarn for the project.
Gauge for the project (i.e.: X sts and X rows = 4 inches / 10 cm in Stockinette Stitch)
Step 1: Take the number of stitches in the gauge and add 6 stitches to that number. Cast on that amount of stitches onto your needle. For example, if gauge is 20 stitches = 4 inches, you’ll add 6 to that to cast on 26 stitches.
Step 2: K1, p2, work your gauge stitch pattern, p2, k1.
Step 3: Instead of turning your needle to work the WS, push your stitches back to the other end of the needle (a). Take the working yarn and keeping it at the back of the swatch, wrap it 2-3 times around your finger (b), keeping it snug, and begin working across the stitches as indicated in Step 2 (c). Let go of the loop you’ve created after the first 2 or 3 stitches (d). When you get to the end, pull the strands snugly again.
This process creates loops across the back of the swatch, slightly curling the edges (a, b, c). The first and last stitches will also look sloppy (d), but don’t let that bother you. That’s why we added those “buffer” purl stitches to the edges.
Repeat Step 3 until you have worked the number of rows indicated for 4 inches in the gauge information. I.e.: if the gauge said 32 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch, you work 32 rows.
Step 4: After working all desired rows, turn your work (no loop this time), so the WS is facing you and bind off in pattern.
Step 5: Grab your trusty scissors, spread out your swatch, and snip the loops right in half so they fall away and flat your edges again (a, b, c). If you are a perfectionist like me, loose edges simply won’t do. So, just pinch the stitch and pull each loop-strand tightly (d). If you are going to machine wash your swatch, go ahead and tie every 2 strands together in a little knot for security.
Step 6: Block your swatch as desired.
Step 7: Measure your swatch. With a ruler and the WS of your swatch facing, measure JUST the gauge swatch part between the buffer stitches. Here are my typical gauge swatching “rules”:
- If it is 4 inches in width and 4 inches long, you are good to go.
- If it is smaller than 4 inches by less than 1/4 inch, go up one needle size. If it is smaller than 4 inches by more than 1/4 inch, re-swatch with 1 or 2 needles sizes larger.
- If it is larger than 4 inches by less than 1/4 inch, go down one needle size. If it is larger than 4 inches by more than 1/4 inch, re-swatch with 1 or 2 needles sizes smaller.
I hope this tutorial for the Faux Gauge Swatch makes your circular knitting days a little more joyful!