KW Swatch Experiment

KW Swatch Experiment Data: Acadia

It’s time for our first data post in the #kwswatchexperiment: Acadia!

For the Acadia swatch, we asked knitters to cast on 25 stitches using US 6 (4 mm) needles and work for 28 rows with a 2 stitch garter edge on either side. The needle size was pulled from Courtney’s design, Echo Lake.

NOTE:
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.

acadia stitch gauges

acadia row gauges

As you can see above, there was a nice variety between the five* swatches we received from knitters.

OBSERVATIONS

STITCHES AND ROWS PRE- AND POST-BLOCKING
For all swatches, after blocking the stitch gauge either stayed the same or loosened up, and all of the row gauges either stayed the same or became tighter.

LOOSEST VS. TIGHTEST UNBLOCKED
• The loosest gauge (fewest sts and rows per inch) was Swatch 5 at 20 sts and 26 rows / 4″.
• The tightest gauge (most sts and rows per inch) was Swatch 1 at 24 sts and 33.33 rows / 4″.

LOOSEST VS. TIGHTEST BLOCKED
The loosest versus tightest swatches did not differ between pre- and post-blocking, although the gauges themselves changed slightly:
• The loosest gauge was swatch 5 at 20 sts and 26.66 rows / 4″.
• The tightest gauge was swatch 1 at 22.66 sts and 33.33 rows / 4″.

MOST DRAMATIC CHANGE BETWEEN BLOCKED AND UNBLOCKED
Stitch Gauge
• Swatch 1 had the greatest change in stitch gauge: unblocked, the gauge was 24 sts over 4″, but after blocking it loosened up to 22.66. 
Row Gauge:
• Swatch 2 had the greatest change in row gauge: unblocked, the gauge was 30.66 rows over 4″, but after blocking, it compressed to 32.

ANOMALIES
Of the 5 Acadia swatches we received, for the most part, all were quite uniform and lovely, even pre-blocking. Swatch 4 was the only one with a slight issue, as it demonstrated some “rowing out” (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, I touched on it at the very bottom of this post under Swatching in the Round Versus Flat)

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

As mentioned, the needle size given in the swatch instructions was taken from Courtney’s design, Echo Lake. 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.  But what would happen if our swatch knitters were knitting Echo Lake and did not block their swatch, or, (gasp!), used the recommended needle size as a “given”, and knit the sweater using a US 6 (4 mm) needle without swatching at all?

ECHO LAKE SPECIFICATIONS
GAUGE: 20 sts and 28 rows = 4” (10 cm) in St st, after blocking. NEEDLE: 1 pair – US 6 (4 mm) straights.

For Echo Lake, I’ve included 4 key measurements in the pattern that best illustrate some of the differences a knitter would experience if proper swatching did not occur.

Let’s break down the expected versus actual projected measurements by swatch for the sample size (2nd size) in the pattern for the upper arm circumference and body circumference:

As you can see, only the Swatch 4 and Swatch 5 knitters had the correct stitch gauge both pre and post-blocking on US 6 needles. Swatches 1, 2, and 3 are all off considerably. Had they knit the garment without swatching ahead of time, their sweaters would be between 4.5-1.75″ smaller in circumference. They all need to go up 1 or 2 needle sizes and reswatch.  

ROW GAUGE

An additional item worth noting is pre- vs. post-blocked row gauge. Let’s break down the expected versus actual projected measurements by swatch for the sample size (2nd size) in the pattern for the body and sleeve length if the knitter does not take blocked row gauge into account when measuring length:

As you can see, difference in row gauge between pre- and post-blocking on Swatches 2, 3, 4, and 5 indicate that more rows need to be worked in order to achieve proper length after blocking. This means that for most of the knitters, measuring their unblocked piece(s) as they work will result in sweaters that are incorrect lengths once blocked. Additionally, when they go to block their pieces, they will have to stretch the knitting out to get it to be the measurement as given in the schematic, which in turn will make the stitches longer and thinner, potentially reducing the circumference even further.

Additionally, while Swatches 4 and 5 were knit at the designated stitch gauge, none of the 5 achieved the row gauge as given in the pattern. Ideally, obtaining both given stitch and row gauge is best, but it is universally understood that this is very difficult to do. One way to avoid the issue of mismatched row gauge is to work to a specified length, rather than a given number of rows. As a result, all of our patterns have lengths given in inches/centimeters whenever possible. This means it is important to use your row gauge to calculate how many rows to work to the correct length. This has the additional bonus of guaranteeing pairs of sweater pieces, such as a front and a back, or both sleeves, are the exact same length, which makes seaming and finishing exponentially easier. You can read more about counting rows here

* As we’ve said before, we sent 7 skeins out to volunteers, but for Acadia – and a few others – fewer swatches came back than were sent out. If you’re a volunteer and are still holding onto your swatch, we still want it back!

Stay tuned next week for the next installment in the series. And if there was something we didn’t cover in this post, feel free to leave a question in the comments and we’ll be happy to help you out! 

11 thoughts on “KW Swatch Experiment Data: Acadia

  1. Kirsten says:

    I am going to shout about this (and the future Swatch Experiment posts) from the mountaintops. This is must reading for anyone who knits! Thank you!!!

    1. Thanks!! (And let us know if you have any additional insight you want to add from your experiences and dealing with knitters!)
      – Kate

  2. AV says:

    Is there any way you can send out the info to the knitters that knit the swatches? Or the ones that request it. The only reason I am asking as I am curious as to assist myself in getting better as my understanding of this process. I am sure I was one of "tight" ones as I find my flat vs in the round is very big on a difference as my needle choices and tension control. Just want to confirm my own curiosity. Thank.

    1. Hi there!
      For the final "data" process, we didn’t keep track of each individual knitters swatch (mostly because we’ll be pointing out some knitting issues and didn’t want any one knitter to feel bad or as if they were being singled out). If you shoot us an email, though, with the yarn you used, we just might be able to give you some specific feedback!
      – Kate

    2. AV says:

      Thanks i will and I do appreciate the protection to us knitters. I was just curious as to myself as I see this for me as a learning tool for me to understand more about my knitting and guage.

  3. Kevin Griffin says:

    Kate,
    Maybe you are planning to do this…but if not, can you please tell me why the reccomendation is to knit a 4 inch square….personally, I’ll be honest in saying, I don’t always do 4 inches, I may do 2 or 3 as all that really matters is stiches per inch correct? Also, can you go over how to actually count the stitches, I often find that I second quess myself and recount about a thousand times!
    Lastly, wondering once you block a yarn and get your guage, do you record that in your notebook…or do you block and reblock and reblock ec… everytime you use that yarn, because say for example you used a yarn,blocked it to 6 stitches an inch with size 6 needles which were thee ones the pattern used as well…..two years go by,new pattern….suggested needle size 4…do you have to reblock using a size 4….or go with the 4 knowing that your guage matched suggested when you used the size 6 needle 2 years earlier? Lastly,you mention how you blocked which isn’t the ‘technically correct’ method according to most books that teach it, so, given that should I be blocking my sock yarn using washing machine /dryer as that is what I usually end up doing woth the socks once they are done?

    Thanks,
    Kevin

    1. Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for your questions! The 4" inch square is actually the bare minimum I recommend working – there are actually two swatches on my desk right now that are 9" x 8"! Technically, yes, stitches/inch is all that matters, because it is easy to multiply that out to 4", but the more stitches you have to measure over the greatest distance, the more accurate your gauge will be. I think the way we measure gauge is probably best demonstrated in a photo tutorial, as there are a lot of steps/descriptions, so I will try to put that together in the next week or so.

      Every time we design something new, we knit a new swatch (or 2, or 4….) If there is a swatch I really love that I didn’t use for whatever reason in a past design, I will take it out again and reblock and remeasure, but never change the needle size recommended unless a few sample/test knitters get disparate results.

      What do you mean by isn’t "technically correct"? Regardless of the yarn or application, we always recommend treating your swatch the way you will treat your finished product. Wet blocking doesn’t just make the stitches look nicer, it removes any grease/oils/dirt from the fibers (either from your hands, the spinning process, or where the yarn/project has been), and the fibers fill with water, causing them to bloom, which in turn showcases how the finished fabric wants to look/behave. I typically don’t work with superwash yarns, but if you knit a swatch in a yarn you plan on washing/drying, but do not wash/dry your swatch, the swatch isn’t actually an accurate representation of final gauge or fabric. This same concept holds true for a lace swatch that will be turned into a shawl – if you’re going to wet block the shawl, wet block the swatch.

      Hopefully this helps clarify some things!
      -Kate

  4. Martilynn says:

    Would love to have knitting style included too, if possible. English vs Continental, and how yarn is tensioned (wrap or hold style). Thanks for thinking to have this conversation; tech details can be quite fascinating for us.

    1. Hi Martilynn,
      This is a great suggestion, but unfortunately the vast majority of knitters did not provide this information to us when they returned their swatches. We have also found in teaching that the English vs. Continental doesn’t (or shouldn’t!) make a huge difference in gauge. We’ll be doing a post on Friday with some additional questions and answers and will be sure to cover this topic further!

  5. Jodi says:

    Thank you for all the above
    Last January at the Vogue Knitting show I NY there was a new pattern that a model was wearing. It was done in Arcadia.
    Can u please give me the name and picture
    Pattern would be great but probably can’t do that
    Thank you in advance
    Hate2dust@aol.com

    1. Hi Jodi, Thanks for your comment. We were not at VK Live in January and didn’t organize the fashion show, so your best option would be to email Vogue/Soho Publishing directly and ask them about the Acadia item in question. Best of Luck! – Kate

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