Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The S Word: Swatching the Khajiit Cowl

I am always surprised by the number of knitters who hate to swatch, like it's some evil chore like washing venetian blinds or ironing shirts. (Those are definitely on my 'avoid like the plague' list). The very same knitters spend a lot of time knitting up garments only to find they don't fit or look all that great. And then complain about it!

Knit the gauge swatch. It will save you tons of hours in the long run, and you will get an accurate picture of what your knitted fabric is going to look like. Just as importantly, you will have a fairly accurate idea of the end size of your project.
Yes, I color coded my charts.
Saves a lot of time and agony.

It's especially critical when working with cables, since the knitted fabric draws up significantly. I will use my own swatch as a case in point: The swatch here is knit up in two needles sizes. The bottom sample of the swatch is knit with the recommended size for the Khajiit Cowl, which is 5.5 mm (US 9). The honeycomb pattern is elongated just a tad, and the fabric is a little sloppy and loose. More importantly, it is not the correct gauge of 24 stitches and 28 rows; it came in at 23 stitches and 26 rows. That doesn't sound like much, but over 208 stitches, that's an additional 1.5" to the overall circumference of this cowl.  The top of the sample (above the garter stitch rows) was knit with 5.0 mm (US8) needles. The fabric is slightly denser, and the honeycomb pattern is rounder. The additional density spells warmth and better wind resistance. It is also the stated gauge for the project of 24 stitches and 28 rows. Voila!

How long did this take me? I'm not a super speedy knitter, and cables slow me down further because I am still of the ilk that uses a cable needle. My swatch clocked in at just under two and a half hours, and I ripped back four entire rows and a couple of partial rows in the process. What's a couple of hours when I now know what the fabric is going to look like and how it will fit the recipient? There's also the added bonus of playing with the stitch pattern for a while so that it's more familiar. 

Just pop a movie in or cue up your favorite playlist of tunes and get going. 

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