KW Swatch Experiment

KW Swatch Experiement Data: Arranmore

It’s time for our second data post in the #kwswatchexperiment: Arranmore!

For the Arranmore swatch, we asked knitters to cast on 18 stitches using US 8 (5 mm) needles and work in stockinette stitch for 20 rows with a 2 stitch garter edge on either side. The needle size was pulled from my design from the Arranmore Collection, Carrowkeel.

For every yarn, measurements were taken pre-and post blocking. For the wet blocking process, I soaked the swatches in water and wool wash, and laid them flat to dry. I wanted the swatches to behave they way they wanted to behave without any manipulation, so I did not pin them or pay attention to the measurements when laying them flat. This way, the blocked swatches most accurately reflect the gauge the yarn was most comfortable at. This is how I treat all gauge swatches, but I do pin the actual finished pieces to the calculated measurements based off of the swatch gauge. 





While there was a large difference in stitch and row gauges between the swatches, it was interesting to see that there wasn’t as much of a difference between gauges after the blocking process. Between the swatches, the stitch gauges ranged from as few as 13.5 stitches/4” to 17.33 stitches/4” (almost a full stitch per inch), and the row gauges ranged from as few as 21 rows/4” all the way to 28 rows/4”, almost 2 rows per inch. Despite these differences, the largest pre-and post-blocking stitch gauge change was only .5 stitches/4”, and row gauge change was only 1 row/4”.

• Swatch 6 had the loosest gauge at 14 sts and 20 rows / 4″.
• Swatch 2 had the tightest gauge at 17.33 sts and 28 rows / 4″.

• Swatch 6 had the loosest gauge at 13.5 sts and 21 rows / 4″.
• Swatch 2 had the tightest gauge at 17.33 sts and 28 rows / 4″.

As mentioned, there wasn’t a very dramatic change between pre-and post-blocking.
Stitch Gauge
• Swatch 6 had the greatest change in stitch gauge: unblocked, the gauge was 14 sts over 4″, but after blocking it loosened up to 13.5. 
Row Gauge:
• Swatch 6 also had the greatest change in row gauge: unblocked, the gauge was 20 rows over 4″, but after blocking it tightened up to 21. 

One of the greatest anomalies we observed was with Swatch 1. On this swatch, the stitches are twisted on every other row. That is to say, the right “leg” of the stitch is crossed over the left leg of the stitch instead of the legs of the stitch being separated from one another. This most likely is happening because the knitter is wrapping the yarn clockwise around the needle when purling instead of counterclockwise, but they are wrapping the knit stiches counterclockwise, which is what is causing the difference between right side and wrong side rows. Twisting stitches causes the fabric to be tighter with much less horizontal stretch. It also You can read more about this (very common) mistake and how to fix it in our post on Martha Stewart here.


As mentioned, the needle size given in the swatch instructions was pulled from my design from the Arranmore Collection, Carrowkeel. This needle size is based on what the average knitter would need to use in order to achieve the recommended gauge given in the pattern. We compiled the same data as we did with the other swatches, and the results are below:

GAUGE: 14 sts and 21 rows = 4” (10 cm) in St st on larger needles, after blocking. NEEDLE: US 8 (5 mm) circular.


While Carrowkeel is knit flat and seamed (always my preferred method for knitting garments), once complete, the gauge discrepancies compound themselves over the entire garment. I calculated out what circumference the swatch knitters would actually get on their garments if they knit the second size with the needle size as given, pre- and post-blocking. Swatch 6 is definitely in the ball park, but some of the other swatches, like Swatch 1 for example, are 8.25″ off – that is a huge difference!


If I had any sort of “knitting agenda”, I think it would be to convince everyone to count rows, and not measure the lengths of their pieces as they knit. It isn’t as intuitive (and with so many cute devices available today, who wouldn’t want to measure?), but at the end of the day, doing a really small amount of basic arithmetic is just….well, better. I cannot remember the last time I measured the length of something, and not once has any of the dozens and dozens of pieces of knitting I produce yearly not blocked to the correct length. 

Above you can see the number of rows needed pre- and  post-blocking in order to obtain the correct length. Even with such minor chnges in gauge, at the heavy weight of the Arranmore, even just a few rows makes a huge difference! (Convinced yet?)

Stay tuned next week for the 3rd Data post.
We really loved your questions and comments last week, so please continue to leave questions in the comments and we’ll be happy to help you out!

9 thoughts on “KW Swatch Experiement Data: Arranmore

  1. AV says:

    How does that work with twisted stitches? I know some people I think the term is combination knitters is the same reference?

    1. Hi there, thanks for your comment! I’m sorry, though, as I’m not sure I understand the question. Could you please clarify?

      1. AV says:

        Hi I was just trying to figure out as to the cross of the purl stitches. After reading the comments above and yours as yo what you used to do I have it. Is the Courtney who was a combination knitters? Just curious. I am loving this series. Thank you for educating.

  2. Jessica Leigh says:

    Lucy Neatby wrote a blog post not long ago about deliberately wrapping the purl stitches backwards when ribbing or at the left edge of cables to get a tighter final knit stitch (she’s right, by the way, it works really well). I asked a question about reversible fabrics that I think she misunderstood, but in her answer she said that when working flat she often wraps all her purls backwards to get an even gauge! Of course, the trick is that you then have to work these stitches TBL on the next row.

    I’m loving this series. If I have a few hours, I’d like to try my own swatch experiment, comparing swatching in the round: all knit, all purl, and all Lucy Neatby clockwise purl. I’ve always thought it knit/purl gauge is pretty much the same but now I want to test it (perhaps I should also check my continental gauge).

    1. Thanks for your comment! Swatching in the round definitely affords the opportunity to work different types of stitch wrapping without the added concern of twisted stitches.

      There are long-standing methods, such as the Eastern method, where the yarn is wrapped clockwise while both knitting and purling back and forth, and as a result the stitches never become twisted. The issues tend to arise when the knitter uses different wrapping methods for knitting and purling when working back and forth, which is what causes the twisted stitches (and while we’re not 100% sure what Swatch Knitter 1 did, this is the most common method of making this mistake, which is why we mentioned it!)

      I’m so glad you’re liking the series! It would be really interesting to do some of your own experimenting with all of the different methods and techniques you described!

  3. Tracey says:

    I’m a combination knitter and purl my stitches the wrong way, but the easy fix to that (because purling this way is so much easier) is to change how you knit, and insert your needle from the right, in front of the back post. And for anyone that hates purling, I suggest giving it a try – purling takes the same time for me as knitting, so I can knit stockinette forever without complaint. It just takes some fiddling to figure out how to do some stitches, such as cdd, but ssk is easier than k2tog. It also makes ribbing easier since the stitches lay in different ways so it’s easy to tell when to purl and when to knit.

    1. Hi Tracey! If it works for you, then go for it! I also used to wrap my purls the other way, and found no issue with it. I just knew that I needed to compensate for it on the next row so I wasn’t twisting my stitches. I knit that way for years, not even knowing I wasn’t doing it the "standard" way. By the time I was working in yarn shops, I learned that what I was doing had a name! Eastern Combined Uncrossed, or combination knitting. I kept at it. Once I started knitting lace shawls, I realized I needed to swap all my ssk’s and k2tog’s, and be careful the direction I wrapped my yarn overs in so that I was keeping the design symmetrical and not closing up my yarn overs. When I attempted a true lace shawl, with patterning on both right and wrong side rows, I was switching around so many things that my boss, Lisa Myers, stopped me and gave me a pep talk. I was making things unnecessarily complicated. I took a break and knit a simple project, practicing purling the other way. Once I got the hang of it, the rest of my knitting became much easier. Now I don’t even think about it, and as an added bonus, I can knit many different kinds ways!

  4. Carol C says:

    Hi, I’ve now read 2 of your swatch experiment posts. Although I’ve known for some time why swatching and block are crucial to a final product that fits properly, I admit to being a lazy swatcher so this will inspire me to take the time to do it right!

    I have a question about incorporating the row gauge results. You point out that knitting to the pattern measurements give different final results after blocking if one’s row gauge is off. So how do you recommend adjusting? Should we be recalculating body and arm lengths (for example) so we knit the appropriate length or number of rows to achieve the length specified, or the lengths we need?

    1. HI Carol! Thanks for your comment.
      In order to knit items to the correct length, you need to know your blocked row gauge. As you can see in the graphic above, I’ve calculated out the number of rows (highlighted in navy) the knitter needs to work for their row gauge to achieve the proper length as dictated in the pattern. The Arranmore swatches didn’t change too much, but there was a much larger change in the Acadia swatches, so the difference there between the pre- and post-blocking lengths would be much more drastic. I did a Tips and Tricks post (linked to in the 2nd to last paragraph above) on how to calculate the number of rows you need to knit based off of your row gauge and the desired length that might also help clarify things for you! – Kate

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