The Great Swatch Experiment

About a month ago, Kate posed a seemingly harmless question to the Twitterverse, and unleashed a monster.

What happened next was unplanned, but when inspiration strikes, sometimes you just have to go for it! We decided to ask knitters to swatch for us so we could get a random sampling of gauges knit with the needle size recommended in a variety of patterns. Despite the overall belief that knitters seem to hate swatching, we were happily overwhelmed with the response! After compiling addresses, we sent out many, many skeins of yarn and swatching instructions to knitters all over the country. One month later we have over 75 swatches – 7 each in 11 of The Fibre Co. yarns.

Top row, l to r: ,  Tundra, Canopy Fingering,  Light, Meadow. Bottom row, l to r: , Acadia, Knightsbridge, Cumbria, Cumbria Fingering.

Top Row L to R: , Tundra, Canopy Fingering, Light, Meadow
Bottom Row L to R: , Acadia, Knightsbridge, Cumbria, Cumbria Fingering

We sent instructions for simple stockinette swatches, with the recommended needle size taken from an existing Kelbourne Woolens or Fibre Co. pattern. The knitters were not told what the desired gauge was, only the needle size recommended in the pattern and number of stitches to cast on and rows to be worked.

YARN: The Fibre Co. Arranmore (80% merino wool, 10% silk, 10% cashmere, 175 yds/100 gm skein): 1 skein.
NEEDLES: US Size 8 (5mm) needles.

Using US Size 8 (5mm) needles, CO 18 sts. K 3 rows. Row 1 (WS): K2, p to 2 sts rem, k2. Row 2 (RS): Knit. Repeat previous 2 rows 10 times more. K 3 rows. BO all sts loosely.


Over the next few weeks, we’ll go over each yarn and the resulting swatches, comparing the unblocked and blocked gauges of each and demonstrating how the results would affect the finished size of each pattern we pulled the needle size from. We’ll cover how to measure your gauge, how to block your swatch, and how to adjust your needle size when the recommended size isn’t right for you. We’ll also talk about what to do when you can’t get row gauge, something notoriously difficult to match from knitter to knitter.

Finally, we’ll highlight a few issues that cropped up in our random sampling – from twisted stitches to “rowing out” – and other general common knitting inconsistencies that can make it very hard to “get” gauge.

Thanks so much to all of our swatchers! Stay tuned for more next week!