What is a swatch?
A swatch is :
- a sample of cloth or fabric (or other material);
- a characteristic specimen of anything.
Therefore, in crochet or knitting, a swatch is a sample of the fabric used in the finished garment.
Why is a swatch needed?A swatch is used in crochet or knitting, to measure and match the gauge/tension used in a pattern, so the end result is a crochet/knit garment made to the right size and measurements.
What is gauge?Gauge is:
- A standard or scale of measurement.
- A standard dimension, quantity, or capacity.
Therefore, in crochet or knitting, gauge measures the number of stitches per X number of inches.
Where to find Gauge/Tension:All patterns: knit or crochet, mention the gauge/tension used in the pattern, to get the desired result.
Some patterns: are not reliant on gauge, these can be simple items such as embellishments or motifs, crochet or knit, using any yarn and recommended hook/needle size for the yarn; and will mention that "Gauge/tension is not critical".
However, always check to see whether you use a hook/needle size smaller or larger than recommended to achieve desired effect.
Gauge/tension is determined by a designer, designing a garment with specific stitches in the pattern, and deciding which yarn and hook size will give the desired result.
Stitch and Row Gauge/Tension:
Garment patterns usually mention both a stitch and a row gauge; to achieve exact fit, in width and length, both the stitch and row gauge/tension are important for the perfect fit.
Pattern repeats: some patterns count a set of different stitches as a repeat across a row; resulting in X number of pattern repeats per X number of inches.
Gauge/Tension is also found on yarn labels, indicating X number of stitches and X number of rows to 4in (10cm), and recommending hook/needle size. Use this information as a guide only, your gauge/tension swatch may result in a slightly different count.
Gauge/Tension Swatch: Make and Measure
- Are your stitches the right size?: when following a crochet pattern it is important your stitches are consistent in size and match the Gauge/Tension provided in the pattern.
- Size and Shape: with the correct stitch gauge/tension your crochet garment will match the shape and size mentioned in the pattern.
- Gauge/Tension: is the ratio of a given number of stitches or rows to inches. For example, ten (10) stitches per inch or five (5) rows per inch.
Gauge/Tension Swatch: How to Make
- Use the same yarn and hook size recommended in the pattern.
- Make a swatch approximately 6in (15cm) wide X 6in (15cm) long; so you can get an accurate 4in (10cm) measurement across the centre of the swatch.
Gauge/Tension Swatch: How to Measure
- Counting stitches: use a rigid ruler, place along row of stitches, use two pins, and mark the beginning and end of 4in (10cm).
- Do not stretch fabric: keep fabric flat, do not manipulate to fit whole stitches into the 4in (10cm) measure. Always pin exactly where 4in ends, even if it means you have half a stitch.
- Count: how many stitches? across 4in (10cm), (include the half).
- Counting rows: use a rigid ruler, place along a vertical line of stitches.
- Line up: edge of ruler with bottom of row or stitch.
- Pin it: one pin, to show first stitch (first row); second pin, at end of 4in (10cm) up.
- How many rows? count the stitches/rows.
- Check the gauge/tension: match? is it the same as pattern?
Points to Consider:
- Accuracy counts: when measuring your gauge swatch.
- Wash and Block: ? only if recommended for pattern, before you measure your gauge/tension swatch.
- Flat surface: Lay the swatch on a flat surface.
- Pin down (if necessary), DO NOT stretch: if edges are curling pin down, careful not to stretch the fabric.
- Gauge/Tension swatch match: same as pattern? YES, proceed with pattern. NO, change hook size. If swatch is too small? use larger hook; if swatch is too big? use smaller hook.
- Swatch again: if your first swatch does not match, use a smaller/larger hook and swatch again; until you match the gauge/tension in the pattern.