We always recommend making a swatch before starting every project. Most of the time our customers say they hate swatching, they don't swatch, they've never swatched, they can't imagine swatching... etc, etc. So we know there's a lot of anti-swatching out there! But we're going to keep recommending it, and here's just one reason why...
We just rearranged the entire worsted room last week. (Locals... come on in and check it out. It looks great!) And while we were rearranging the yarns, we had to opportunity to touch EACH AND EVERY ball. Sure, we each have our favorites, but by being forced to fondle each ball, we got reacquainted with some long lost loves!
One yarn that I've always loved is Berroco Remix. Remix is a super soft worsted weight yarn that's made of 100% recycled fibers. It's machine washable (another plus for me!) and has a nice tweedy effect. While moving the Remix to it's new location in the shop, I really started itching to knit with it.
I started looking through the sweater patterns in the shop, and settled on the Chic Knits Ariann sweater. I really wanted a cardigan and I like the look of this pattern stitch. I'm going to make the long sleeves (instead of 3/4), but I'll pass on the belt! The collar doesn't thrill me... I really wanted a v-neck, but I'm going to see what I can do with it. By the time I knit up to the neck, maybe I'll have come up with a way to modify it to suit my tastes.
This sweater pattern calls for a stitch gauge (in stockinette) of 4.75 stitches to the inch. Remix is 4.25 stitches to the inch on an 8 US needle. I started my swatching on a 6 US Addi Lace needle.
[I went down 1 size from what the ball band said, because I needed to cram an extra 1/2 stitch into every inch, and then another size since I knit a little loose, and normally go down 1 size needle.]
I ended up getting almost 5 stitches to the inch which is pretty close to 4.75. But I felt like I was really trying to knit tight... and it was making my hands cramp up. That wasn't going to be enjoyable for me, and I like to ENJOY my knitting time.
So I threw a purl row into my swatch and tried a size 7 US Addi Lace. And I relaxed to my normal knitting tension. And the swatch... was too loose. It measured in at 4.25 stitches to the inch.
After another purl row, I went back to the 6 US Addi Lace and knit with a normal relaxed tension. The result? 4.5 stitches to the inch.
My final attempt was on a Denise size 6 US with a normal relaxed tension. And it was perfect. I ended up getting exactly 4.75 stitches to the inch.
Why did I keep trying different needle sizes and types, you ask? Isn't 4.5 close enough to 4.25? And isn't 5 close enough?
Well, yes. However, in an adult sweater, that 1/4 stitch per inch difference can really throw off the sizing of your final product! I am making a sweater with a finished chest measurement of 38". If I used the Addi Lace size 6 (with a gauge of 4.5 stitches to the inch) the finished chest measurement of this sweater would have been 40.2" That's more than 2" TOO BIG.
And if I had used the same Addi Lace needles (size 6) and concentrated on just knitting a little tighter (with a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch) the finished chest measurement would have been 36.2"... almost 2" TOO SMALL.
Moral of the story? We're always going to recommend you swatch. And if you can't get the gauge on a certain type of needle, you may need to try another type!