See this? This is a swatch. You knit a swatch. A small piece of fabric using the yarn and stitch pattern you’re going to use. You knit it. You block it. You measure it. You count how many sts and rows per inch. Then you use those numbers along with the measurements of the finished project and you decide how many sts and rows you need.
This swatch is 6 x 6 inches. It has 14 sts and 20 rows over 4 inches, measured in the middle of the swatch. I calculated accordingly.
See this? This is Ben’s sweater. Knit with the same yarn, needles and stitch pattern as that swatch above. Before I blocked it, its measurements were smaller than the ones I wanted for Joey’s sweater. Joey is three years younger than Ben and wears four sizes smaller than what Ben wears.
I blocked the sweater to Ben’s measurements, but was stretched tight like the skin on a drum. I reblocked it, allowing it to relax and now it fits Joey. Sort of. The sleeves are rather constricting, and the body is a little long. The yoke is about 3 inches deep and it should be more like 4 or 5.
See this? This is Ben’s sweater. I gave up on the stitch pattern. I decided that perhaps the garter rib pattern had contracted because, well, it’s garter and rib. So I went with St st. I had also done a swatch with St st, and I recently knit myself a sweater using this same yarn in a different color and it fits perfectly.
Today I was 4 inches short of finishing the first sleeve for Ben’s sweater. His arm measures 5″ at the wrist and 7″ at the upper arm. I took my gauge and calculated enough sts to have 2″ of ease at the wrist and the upper arm. I tried it on him to see how much further I needed to go. It was skin tight. Like leggings. Or pantyhose (if you know what pantyhose are). I measured him two days ago so you can’t say, Oh, well, he’s grown.
The biggest knitting mantra you will hear over and over again is, Knit a swatch. Swatches tell you all sorts of things. They tell you what the fabric will look like in the finished garment. They tell you what your gauge is with that yarn and those needles. They tell you how the fabric acts after it’s been washed.
You wanna know what I say? Swatches lie. They lie, lie, lie. If you want to know how your fabric will change with blocking, knit a swatch, measure it, block it without pinning, and measure it again. That will tell you how your fabric will change with blocking. Other than that, measure as you go. Measure, measure, measure.
Swatches are nothing more than a knitter’s attempt to make science out of what is actually an art. We write patterns based on gauge, and we calculate all sorts of measurements and tell you all sorts of things about what the finished project will look like. But in the end, knitting is an art. Nothing more, nothing less.
P.S. I’ve known all this for some time. The truth about swatches. I still swatch.