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And now on to the post...
Knitting the swatch is the part of knitting everyone wants to skip. If you are like me, you just want to dive into knitting the thing and get it done so you can wear it! But experience has taught me that the swatch is a must. More on that later.
The swatch is made to determine how many stitches and how many rows you get when you knit with a specific yarn and a set number of needles. The best way to get an idea of the gauge is to follow the info on the label. I am writing these patterns so that you can knit them with any yarn you want - as long as you swatch.
For this first hat I'm using Sublime, bamboo and pearls dk, purchased at Nangellini's on South St. in Philadelphia. This yarn is so soft! and it says it's made from 30% pearl sourced viscose? How decadent!
I always start with what it says on the label. It is the easiest. I take the needle size and cast on the number of stitches it says to.
I prefer this cast on method. But if this doesn't work for you, search youtube.com. There are a lot of tutorial videos about knitting there.They may not all make sense to you but one of them will!
Once you've cast on you can start knitting. If you have never knitted before... go back to youtube, or find someone who will help you. Knitting is a great social past time. It's not called stitch and bitch for nothing!
Usually the swatch says to knit for four inches and you will get a nice little square. Bind off the stitches.
At this stage a lot of people recommend blocking. Get the square wet, and then pin all the edges into place trying to make the square four inches by four inches. I always try to do this at night because it needs to be completely dry and I'm very impatient about letting it dry completely.
Once it's dry, you can check your gauge. You can use an ordinary ruler, tape measure, or this fancy "knit-check" gauge. These are very handy.
So if I check the gauge on my swatch I find that I have five and a half stitches per inch.
Now you are ready for second step in The First Pattern. Measure your head....
So for example ... my head measures 22 inches. 22 x 5.5 = 121 stitches. I will cast this on, knit a little bit and then check that it is accurate by putting in on my own head. Too big? rip it out and cast on less stitches. Too small? rip it out and cast on more stitches.
Just a little bit more about knitting the swatch and getting things to fit right. Even if you do everything right, sometimes things just don't turn out right. I used this beautiful Sublime yarn to knit the prototype of the second hat pattern I will post. I swatched, blocked, counted correctly, but the hat is floppy. It's awful. It is really soft and looks great sitting on the table, but it looks like I've got a wet rag on my head when I put it on. What I'm trying to get at is "if at first you don't succeed, try try again." Everyone knits something awful - it's kind of a Murphy's Law. But don't get discouraged - just rip it out and start over. (That means unravel it). Yes it's hard when you've done so much work on it and had such high hopes, but really... what else can you do? Stick into your yarn basket? That would be too bad because you would never wear it. But if you rip it out and start over, making the corrections - you have something lovely. Hang in there... it's all worth the effort in the end.
And what do you do with all your swatches? I hang onto mine until I've used up all of the yarn. I usually poke a hole through the label and tie that to the swatch. That way I never loose the important info. Eventually I'll probably sew them all together for a little blanket or something? Anyone else?