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New twist on a gauge swatch — “You can just start knitting!”

New twist on a gauge swatch — “You can just start knitting!”

Shift Cowl with measuring tape

Wait, what?! Can you believe you’re hearing this from us? 

After all our propaganda about how gauge swatching is sexy, we’re here to tell you that sometimes you can just start knitting.

This crazy idea is what we’ve been telling folks who are participating in our Knit Along for The Shift cowl by Andrea Mowry. It starts next week and we’re eagerly anticipating the kick off! (Want to sign up and learn more? Click here!)

Let’s review why swatching is sexy.

Swatching is like taking your yarn for a casual cup of coffee before you decide to splurge on an expensive dinner date. 

Our swatch date is how we learn a little about our yarn. Is the yarn right for your project? Is the suggested needle size right for how you knit? What happens if you try a smaller or larger needle? How close is your gauge to the gauge specified in the pattern?

The big question is: are we a match? Are we taking this yarn home to meet the parents?!

Gauge is what determines the final dimensions of your knitted item, and in the case of a garment or something you’ll wear, you need to know your gauge to assure you get the fit you want. (Take a moment to review that swatching post if you haven’t already!)

If you’re not spot on with your gauge, there’s nothing wrong with you. Really! It just might mean you need to switch needle size or do a bit of math to make it all work out.

Shift Cowl with measuring tape

Swatching for The Shift — we’ll break the rules a little!

A cowl doesn’t need to fit you with precision. You’ve got some leeway on the fit.

What matters is that your cowl has a nice drape — you want it to settle around your neck and upper torso in a lovely, relaxed way. You probably don’t want your Shift to feel like chainmail. (Or maybe you do! If so, go for it!)

Fingering or sport weight yarn — the recommended yarn for The Shift — is often used for socks, so you might be tempted (as I was) to grab your size 3 US needles. That’s how I started my Shift — I picked up those 3s and just started knitting from the pattern. Yep, just started knitting! No swatch! The knitting was its own swatch!

By the end of the first triangle bit, (Set-Up and Section 1), I was starting to get a handle on the stitch pattern, and it was clear that the 3s weren’t making that beautiful drapey fabric I wanted. Compare the measurements in the image pictured above — my first swatch — with the one that appears at the top of this post. You can't feel the difference in the fabrics, but I think you can see that my first swatch appears quite tight and it's almost hard to see the contrast pops of color.

So I tore it out and started again. It wasn’t much time or much knitting, but I knit enough to give me the information I needed about the yarn and my needles — and I decided to go up to US size 5s. And it’s a perfect match!

We’re living happily ever after…

Need help determining whether you’ve got a match made in heaven? We’d love to help! Email or call the shop, or stop by. Hope to see you for The Shift Knit Along — sign up and join us!

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