As with most people, I’d rather not knit a gauge swatch. But I’ve learned the hard way that it really does help you determine if your sweater will actually fit the way you intended after you’ve spent, oh, let’s say, 6 months knitting it (this may or may not be a true story).
So I’m planning to knit a sweater in the round- no seams, no knitting front and back pieces, etc. I did some research on knitting gauge swatches in the great and powerful Ravelry forums, and it would appear that because my sweater will be knit in the round, my swatch should be knit that way, too. The reason is because many people knit and purl at different tensions (I tend to purl tighter than I knit), and this would make my swatch inaccurate. But who wants to knit a whole circular thingy just for a swatch? Then I recalled a technique I learned in Ravelry for knitting a flat “circular” swatch, meaning you only ever work from the right (public) side of your swatch as you would do for a sweater knit in the round. I’ve seen other methods for flat circular knitting, but I’d put my money on this method. No cutting of the yarn involved, and no giant loops of yarn hanging across the back of the swatch. Below is a tutorial I came up with to demonstrate this technique on a real gauge swatch I’m working on.
On a circular or double pointed needle, cast on enough stitches to get a swatch at least 4″ wide, however I’d recommend at least 6″ to get a more accurate reading. You’ll start knitting completely flat before switching to knitting flat circularly. Work garter stitch (knit every stitch) for approx 4 rows. This keeps the lower edge from curling. (It’s up to you to decide if you want garter stitch edges as well. I tried working the first and last 4 edge sts in garter, but because those stitches are shorter than stockinette stitches, it pulled in a little on one side. Your choice.)
On the right (public) side, knit across to the end of the row. Your working yarn will now be at the end of the row.
Slide your knitting back to the other end of the needle. Notice how the working yarn is coming from the left side of the knitting? Now pull out a generous loop of yarn from your ball to work with. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how much, but my swatch which measures about 8.5″ across needed about a 34″ length of yarn. You can just eyeball this measure if you don’t want to get out your tape measure each time. Now knit across the row, still on the right (public) side, using this long loop of yarn. Knit away from the ball of yarn, not towards it.
In this picture below, I’ve knitted 15 sts using the giant loop of yarn, working away from the ball of yarn.
You’ll see that there are loops of yarn hanging off the left side of the swatch. If you’ve estimated correctly, you won’t have really huge loops, although you can see I eyeballed some lengths and miscalculated. It doesn’t really make much difference in the end since you’re not going to use the edge stitches in your gauge calculations.
Slide the work back to the other end of the needle. Et voila, like magic, your working yarn is waiting for you to knit one row the plain old regular way. Repeat steps 2-4 until your swatch is at least 4″ tall (or until you’re sick of knitting it) and work another 4 or so rows of garter stitch before binding off loosely.
I thought about calling this method of flat circular knitting “Flatular”, but somehow it just doesn’t have a great ring to it. Makes me think of this:
I hope this tutorial inspires you to enjoy swatching a little more. It also helps if you have a sense of humor about it, too. 🙂