The Importance and Benefits of Swatching
A swatch may seem like an unnecessary step, but it is an important one in the process of making a finished garment that fits well and looks great. Blocking the swatch will help you determine the final size and shape of the finished piece, and ensure that you know the gauge. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of blocking and measuring and how to do it properly.
Why Block Your Swatch?
Blocking helps you get an accurate gauge and ensures that the finished garment will be the correct size and shape. Knitted fabric can stretch and change shape as you work with it, so blocking the swatch sets the stitches into their final position and allows you to see what the finished fabric will look like. Since gauge often changes while knitting, making a note of your gauge before blocking can come in handy as a double-check. Blocking also helps to even out the stitch pattern and can enhance the stitch definition and overall appearance of your work.
Here are two images of the same swatch, before and after blocking. Compare the stitch gauge measurements - they're quite different!
How to Block Your Swatch
Gather your Tools
First gather together the items you'll need for blocking:
- A smooth surface that can be pinned
- Towel or similar cloth
Next, soak your swatch in lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess water and lay your swatch on a clean, flat surface. Use a towel to squeeze out excess water too, if desired. The Bind-off edge should be at the top. Use pins to secure the swatch with square edges and uncurled sides. Allow the swatch to air dry completely.
It's important to note that different fibers react differently to blocking, so be sure to check the care instructions for your yarn before soaking and blocking your swatch.
How to Measure Your Swatch Gauge
Allow time for your swatch to dry completely. Remove the blocking pins. Place a pin between two columns of stitches on the right-side of the swatch, two or three columns in from the edge. Place another pin on the left side in the same way. Measure and record the distance. Ideally your swatch is large enough that the pins are at least four inches (10cm) apart.
Fun fact: The far edge stockinette columns are always sloppy. There is only one adjacent stockinette column instead of two, providing less support. Placing the pins in from the edges gives a more accurate gauge measurement.
After noting the distance, count stitches between the pins.
Repeat these steps for the row gauge. Select a vertical column of stitches. Place a pin under two legs of a stitch at the top and again at the bottom. Measure the distance between the pins and count the stitches in the between the pins in vertical column.
Blocking your knitted swatch may seem like an extra step, but it is a crucial one in the process of making a finished garment that fits well and looks great. It allows you to see the final size and shape of your work, ensures that you have the correct gauge, and enhances the appearance of your knitted fabric. So next time you knit a swatch, don't skip the blocking step – it's well worth the effort!