Knitting a Tension Gauge Swatch
How to Ensure Correct Tensions in Hand Knitted Items
Lots of knitters hate knitting tension squares. They want to jump in and start knitting that new project straight away and enjoy the lovely new yarn they’ve bought just for the purpose (or perhaps pulled from the yarn stash!)
Why Knitting a Gauge Swatch is Essential
Jumping in and getting started straight away with the knitting is all very well if the project is a scarf or something else where known gauge is not that essential. However, if it is necessary to know the finished size of an item, whether it be a sweater or a bag made up of different pieces which must fit together, then knitting a gauge swatch is a must. No two knitters handle yarn and needles in exactly the same way, and this can result in considerable variances in stitch and row gauge.
Almost all knitting yarns sold today come with a suggested gauge to aim for and needle size to use. To take one example, 4 ply yarns usually come with the suggestion to knit at a gauge of 28 stitches and 36 rows per 10 cm square, using size 3.25 mm knitting needles. If however the 4 ply yarn is being used to knit socks the needle size will usually be reduced to 2.5 mm. In this case there will of course be a change in stitch and row gauge and it will be essential to knit a swatch, using circular knit techniques, because it is usual for the knitter to want the sock to fit somebody.
Substituting yarn is another minefield. Quite often the yarn for a particular pattern will not be available and the knitter will want to use something else. Once again it will be helpful to know that the yarn being substituted for that in the pattern will work to the same stitch gauge and whether adjustments may need to be made to the needle size to ensure that the knitting tension will match.
It may be necessary to switch from circular knitting to flat knitting and vice versa. Some knitters do work to a different tension gauge when working flat to the one they will use when working circular knitting. The reason for this is that the purl row is often looser than the knit row due to the techniques used in making a purl stitch. Again the only way of knowing whether this will happen in any given case is to work a gauge swatch.
Read more at Suite101: Knitting a Tension Gauge Swatch: How to Ensure Correct Tensions in Hand Knitted Items http://knitting-patterns-techniques.suite101.com/article.cfm/knitting_a_tension_gauge_swatch#ixzz0gqeed4qe