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4 Day KAL 2023: A Tale of Two Swatches

If you're participating in Marie Greene's 2023 4 Day KAL for the Lemon Spritz tee and you've chosen your yarn for the sweater, now is a great time to swatch! This pattern is designed for yarn with some silk, linen, cotton, or hemp content, and if you haven't worked with these fibers before, you may find that they behave differently than 100% wool yarns.

We used Kelbourne Woolens Mojave (60% cotton/40% linen) for our shop sample, and guess what -- we weren't able to match the pattern gauge with our swatches! That happens sometimes to all knitters. How do you proceed when this happens?

Two swatches side by side in Kelbourne Woolens Mojave

Here are two swatches, both done by the same knitter. The one on the left used US 4/3.5mm needles and had a gauge of 20.5 sts = 4" The one on the right used US 5/3.75 mm needles and had a gauge of 23 sts = 4". The pattern gauge is 22 sts = 4".

We recommend knitting large swatches for sweaters, at least 6" x 6". Dividing the pattern gauge by 4 gives you the number of stitches you should get per inch (22/4 = 5.5). Multiplying this number by six gives you the number of stitches you should cast on to achieve a 6" swatch (5.5 x 6 = 33). Knowing this gives you another way to "eyeball" your gauge, in addition to counting the number of stitches per inch.

The swatch on the left came out to about 6" in width (a 6" ruler is displayed underneath it), while the swatch on the right was significantly narrower. Even though the stitch count of the larger swatch did not match pattern gauge, the size of the swatch did, and that gives us some confidence to move forward with US 5 needles for our sweater. 

Two swatches side by side showing difference in fabric drape

We also did a "scrunch test" on the finished, blocked swatches to see how the fabric felt and behaved. The swatch on US 4s was stiffer and sprang back from being scrunched. The swatch on US 5s had more fluidity and held its folds. Our test knitter prefers more drape in her sweaters, so she liked the feel of the fabric on larger needles, which again gave her confidence to cast on with US 5s.

Our shop sample was wet-blocked and pinned to pattern schematic measurements after it was completed, and guess what -- the stitch gauge in the final sweater matched the pattern gauge of 22 sts = 4." We hope these suggestions for reading your swatches will give you success as well!