Like a lot of knitters, I’ve gone from having a devil-may-care attitude about swatching to increasingly, becoming a careful swatcher. I’ve even been known to swatch repeatedly to get the right gauge — something I never did in my teens (which accounts for the blue acrylic sweater of gargantuan proportions).
What I’m about to say is probably obvious to everyone else, but it only recently dawned on me.
I always have a hard time measuring my swatch and counting up stitches. Especially with variegated yarns, I keep losing track, even with a magnifier. Finally, I realized I could just cast on the number of stitches I was supposed to get in four inches to hit gauge. If gauge is six stitches to the inch, cast on 24 inches, knit for 24 rows (or however many are supposed to give you four inches) and then measure. If your piece measures four inches, you’re at gauge. If it is over or under, you have to adjust your needle size accordingly.
Here is my current variation: to avoid the curl issue with the edges of stockinette, I cast on four extra stitches. I knit in garter stitch for four rows, swatch in pattern the correct number of rows, and then do a final four rows in garter. This creates a nice little frame for my swatch. It lies perfectly flat so that I can measure the little box in the middle and check my gauge. Just like this:
It makes it so easy! I’m probably going to be mortified when I learn that everyone else has been doing this all along, but I figured I would share it, in case it could be of help to anyone.
Not too surprisingly, my gauge in both of these swatches is off. Off to buy new needles!