How to knit a swatch and test your gauge

Before starting to knit a project, it is essential to knit a sample first , especially if you want to make a garment. We will explain its importance to you in this new article.

  • Knit a swatch and test your gauge
Exemple of swatchs : two in stockinette stitch (needles 3mm and needles 4mm) and one in garter stitch

Here’s a question every newbie to knitting has to ask : do we really have to do a swatch ? Is it necessary? 
YES, a swatch is an essential step , and I will explain why.

Knitting a swatch allows you to check your gauge, which means testing your knitting tension. Indeed, we all knit in a different way, either more or less loose, or more or less tight, which will have an impact on the final result of your project. The sample will allow you to count the number of stitches and rows that you have for 10cm and compare it to what the pattern has. In addition, it will also allow you to see how your yarn behaves after washing (some tend to relax).
You will have to measure your swatch after washing , but it is always interesting to do it also before, in order to see how your wool behaved.

We define a square of 10cm x 10cm with pins

To make a swatch, you need to knit a square of about 15-20 cm. I advise you to make the edges in garter stitch, and the inside in stocking stitch so that your square does not roll, which would be easier to count your stitches. Subsequently, you can already measure it, and then count the stitches. To do this: mark out a square of 10 cm by 10 cm with pins, and count. Then, wash your swatch and allow it to dry well. Start again to count your stitches and rows, because it is more important to take into account the result after washing.

Once you have counted your stitches, then noted down on a piece of paper, you must compare the result to the pattern’s gauge:

  • Either you calculate fewer stitches and rows knitted: this means that you knit loosely, you must then change to smaller needles.
  • Either you have more stitches and rows: it means the opposite, you knit tight, use larger needles.
  • Either the number of stitches matches the gauge from the pattern and in this case it is perfect! You can start your knitting.

If you are knitting stranded colorwork, you should also make a swatch of the pattern motif: when you knit with several yarns in same time, people usually tend to knit more tightly. In addition, this will allow you to be able to do your color trials.

If you knit in the round: there is also a tendency to knit differently when knitting in the round. It may therefore be worthwhile to knit a swatch in the round with about 30 stitches.

If you can, keep your swatches, and write down the yarn and needles used and the number of stitches and rows you get on a piece of paper. This way, if you need to knit this yarn again, you will already know the 10×10 gauge depending on the needles used.

  • What are the other advantages of knitting a swatch?

So of course, as mentioned above, the first interest of the sample is to check your blood pressure so that the measurements of the pattern are respected as much as possible. But not only!

– The swatch also allows you to test the yarn, especially if you’ve never knitted it before: for example, you might be disappointed with the result and decide to choose another yarn. In these cases, you might as well see it before actually starting your project!

– In addition, the rendering of your wool may not suit you, even if the gauge is like the pattern. It was the case with the Flora yarn by Drops that I was knitting a couple of years ago. To get the right gauge, I would have had to knit it in 3.5mm needles, but I find the rendering too loose. So I chose to knit it in 3mm needles, with a smaller gauge, and I knit the project one size above mine.

– The swatch also allows you to be able to test several types of needles, and to see which you feel most comfortable with. You can find circular needles that are in metal, plastic, bamboo … and you could also have a different gauge depending on the material you choose. So try them on a swatch first.

– It will also allow you to familiarize yourself with a new stitch: if you are trying a cable, or a lace for the first time, you could first practice on your swatch so that you can then be ready when knitting your project !


And now ….. we knit !!!!


And there you have it, you technically have the keys to get started! Happy knitting!


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