Previously, we talked about the importance of knitting a swatch sample. In today’s Knitting 101, we’re going to show you how to knit a gauge swatch in the round. We’ll show you different ways to swatch, and share tips to make you more successful.
Get this Susan Bates Gauge Tool for your knitted swatch.
Get this Cascade 220 Worsted weight yarn for your knitting project.
Swatching in the Round
If you’re going to knit in the round, you’ll need to swatch in the round. Plain and simple.
Sure, you scoff at the idea. I get it. I did the same at first, but soon came to learn how important this step was.
Knitting in the round with circular knitting needles differs from how you knit with straight needles. It’s different not only by the tools you use, but also in the manner of construction.
Since you’re knitting in rounds, not rows, your knitting tension and gauge can be affected. This means your final gauge measurement could be off, resulting in a too small/too large piece.
Knitting a Gauge Swatch
The trick to avoiding an incorrect gauge catastrophe is by knitting a test swatch.
The best way to do this is by using the same materials you intend to use for your knitting project.
It’ll do you no good to knit a gauge swatch using a different yarn or different needle material. There are differences in size, albeit minor, but differences nonetheless.
Using your project needles and yarn will help you achieve a truer knit gauge measurement.
Let’s talk about how you go about knitting a gauge block and what to look for in circular gauge knitting.
Tools I'm using...
Chiaogoo Circular Knitting Needles, Size 8 (U.S.)
Cascade 220 Worsted Weight yarn, 100% wool yarn.
Circular Gauge Swatch Sample
The goal of creating a gauge swatch is to mimic the knitted fabric of your finished piece as closely as possible. This means paying close attention to the knitting instructions for your swatch.
Some knitting patterns call for stockinette stitch swatches. Other knitting patterns call for you to swatch in the specific stitch pattern used in the project. Take, for example, this knit gauge swatch for my Andalusian Risa Knit Hat pattern.
Essentially, what the knitting pattern asks for is what you’ll do.
Then, you should block your knitting in the same manner in which you intend to block your project.
Why is this important?
Going through the steps of knitting a gauge swatch and blocking your knits will help you anticipate what could go wrong.
If you're aware of how your swatch will behave, then you’ll be able to correct your knitting mistake(s) before it’s too late. And avoiding mistakes is always a plus in my book.
Now, let's talk about the different ways you can knit a gauge swatch in the round.
How to Knit a Swatch Test in the Round
There are several ways to knit a swatch in the round. They are the:
- Knitting Floats Method.
- Small Tube Knitting Method.
- Knitted Hat Method.
Let’s talk about each step-by-step.
Knitting Floats Method
With the knitting floats method, you'll simulate knitting in the round. The difference is you won't knit a complete tube. Instead, you’ll work every row as a Right Side (RS) row.
Let me show you how.
Tools I'm using...
ChiaoGoo Interchangeable Knitting Needles, 4" Tip set, Size 8 (U.S.)
Cascade 220 Worsted Weight yarn in Aspen Heather.
For this knitting tutorial, we'll knit a simple stockinette swatch.
First, with your circular knitting needles, long tail cast on enough stitches to make a 5” - 6" swatch. I've cast on 30 stitches.
Here I'm using Cascade 220 worsted weight yarn and Chiaogoo circular knitting needles in size U.S. 8 (5 mm).
Now, slide the stitches to the other end of your circular knitting needles but do not turn your work. The right side of your work will be facing you. See below.
Next, carry the yarn loosely across the back of the stitches and begin knitting.
Try to relax and keep your knitting consistent. The first rounds are always awkward but don’t worry about that now. Just knit casually.
As you work each round, try to keep your floats loose. Your floats are the yarn strands that are on the back side of your swatch.
Now, continue knitting until your gauge swatch has a height of 5 - 6 inches (12.7 cm - 15.24 cm).
Gauge Swatch Yarn
If you plan to re-use your swatch yarn for your project, you’ll want to be extra loose with your floats. This is because you’ll need to measure your swatch flat.
If your floats are tight, your swatch will roll up. Then you’ll have to cut open your swatch to measure for gauge.
If you have yarn to spare for your swatch, you can be less stringent about keeping your floats loose. Later, you can cut the strands to measure it flat.
Finally, treat the knit swatch as you would your finished knitting project. If you plan to block your knitting project, you’ll want to block this swatch.
Before you bind off, it’s a good idea to mark your needle size in your swatch. For this swatch, I purled 8 stitches, which created garter stitch bumps.
This may not be so easy to do if you're working in a pattern other than stockinette stitch. Just make sure to record your needle size where you can find it later. Do it now before you forget.
Since the knitted fabric of stockinette stitch tends to roll, you can knit a couple of purl rounds to create a garter stitch border. This will help control the roll a little.
In the image above, you can see I knit two rows at the beginning and end of the gauge swatch. You could also add a knit border to the side edges of the gauge swatch. I didn’t do that here, but you can do what you’re most comfortable with.
Now, let's move on to the next method: the knit tube.
Knit Tube Method
Just as the name implies, this swatch method involves creating a small knit tube. It requires knitting in the round with circular knitting needles. This would include double pointed needles (DPNs), fixed circular needles, or interchangeable knitting needles.
For this method, first cast on to knit in the round.
Next, join to knit in the round. Then, work your knit stitch pattern until your tube measures five to six inches in height. This may be in stockinette stitch in the round or a particular knit stitch pattern. Be sure to check your knitting instructions.
- Don’t intend to use your swatch for anything else? You may bind off your stitches. Then, soak, cut open, and block your gauge swatch. When your swatch is completely dry, measure your gauge.
- Plan to re-use your knit tube? You can place your stitches on waste yarn to block without binding off or cutting.
When your gauge is correct, slide them back on the needle and continue knitting. Otherwise, you'll need to redo your swatch or use the knit tube for something else.
Tools for Blocking:
The swatch shown above is for a mosaic knitting pattern in the works. I’ve opted to knit it as a tube as I intend to continue adding other swatches to it. For this reason, I will not bind off.
Now, let's move on to the third method: the knit hat.
Knitted Hat Method
For those of you who want your swatch to serve a purpose beyond measurement, this last method is for you.
A suggestion by the late, great Elizabeth Zimmermann, this method is my favorite as it is the most functional.
In her book, Knitting Workshop, she recommended knitting a swatch cap (a knit hat) instead of a small swatch.
By knitting a hat on circular needles, you create something large enough to accurately measure gauge. And when you're done, you'll have a completed, wearable project to show for it.
How to Knit a Hat for Gauge
For this method, first cast on enough stitches to knit a hat.
In the sample above, I'm using Cascade 220 worsted weight yarn. For my cast on, I have 80 stitches.
Keep in mind, this method could range from 80-120 stitches depending on needle size, yarn gauge, and stitch pattern.
Next, join your knitting in the round with circular needles.
Finally, begin knitting your hat in the round. Work your knit hat in pattern or in stockinette stitch, whatever your design calls for. Then, when you've finished, wash, block, and measure gauge.
And that, my knitting friends, is how to knit a gauge swatch in the round.
In this Knitting 101, you’ve learned how to swatch in the round and three different ways to do it. You’ve also learned a few tips to help you make a successful swatch gauge and a better knitter.
So now that you know, it's time to start knitting. Why not try your hand on this Electric Love Mosaic Cowl? You'll love it.
Did you find this Knitting 101 tutorial helpful? I'd love to hear all about it. Please drop me a note with your thoughts or recommendations. I'd greatly appreciate it.
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Haven’t knitted in years. All you have furnish me with instructions, both written and tutorials are Wonderful and brings back fond memories and makes me Want ! to learn so many New patterns, stitches etc !
Christina Garza-Brown says
That's wonderful! I'm so glad you found joy and inspiration on my site. Best of luck! ~Christina
How do I knit a swatch for a large flat circular shawl
Hi Bill! Great question! If you're working to a pattern, it should give you instructions on how the designer swatched to test gauge and, if nothing else, final swatch specs. In most cases, you can swatch with your intended yarn and needles to see if you're on track. This is most commonly done in stockinette stitch, unless the designer says otherwise. For a circular shawl, I'd pay closer attention to number of stitches per 4" as width will play the biggest part for the wearer of the shawl. Ultimately, if your pattern is for back and forth knitting, not in the round, you can knit a swatch flat as well. If you haven't seen it yet, you should check out my Knitter's Guide to Gauge for more info. I hope this helps!
Cathie Owen says
How would you do a guage swatch for reverse stockinette in the round.
Hi Cathie. Reverse stockinette in the round is simply purling every round. To knit gauge swatch in the round in reverse stockinette, just purl every round. I hope this helps! Good luck!
Cathie Owen says
Perfect. Thanks so much. I so appreciate your response
If you intend on re-using your knitted tube, do you cast on double the amount of stitches since you won't be casting off and cutting it open to lay flat? I don't understand how you might have enough stitches to measure the swatch otherwise.
Great question, Christine! If you intend to reuse the yarn from your swatch, you'll need to make the floats long enough for the swatch to lie flat in order for you to measure properly.