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The Tension Swatch:

Provided by:
Pat Holbrook

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Regardless of what charting method you use, you must begin with a tension swatch according to the type of machine you are using.

- Standard gauge: 60 stitches and 60 rows (markers on stitch 21L and 21R)
- Mid-gauge: 40 sts and 40 rows (markers on stitch 16L and 16R)
- Bulky gauge: 30 sts and 30 rows (markers on stitch 11L and 11R)
- Passap Pink, Duo 80 and E6000: 60 sts and 60 rows (markers on 25L and 25R). Some designers suggest that a 100 stitch and 100 rows (markers on stitch 50L and 50R at row 50) is more accurate.

Many people feel that it is an unnecessary amount of time, trouble and waste of yarn to make a tension swatch. But is is more wasteful to knit up a garment and have it not fit, especially if you have used quality yarns.

The rules for making a tension swatch are simple but very important. Measuring needs to be done accurately with the centimetre ruler for the Knitleader for the Brother machines and the green, yellow or blue ruler for the Silver/Studio/Singer machines. The colour ruler varies according to machine type.

The Passap machine does not have rulers although some have form computers and the E6000 can use the module to determine the stitches and rows. Passap knitters with neither of the above methods have to determine the stitches and rows by measuring the swatch with a centimetre ruler.

Sample Swatch:
- 50 sts = 16 cm; 50 divided by 16 = 3.125 sts per cm x by chest size, add ease
- 50 rows = 13 cm; 50 divided by 13 = 3.84 sts per cm x length required

1. Your tension swatch must be knit in the pattern you are going to use for the garment (tuck, fairisle, etc). A common mistake made by knitters is they think because they have made a tension swatch in a particular yarn, eg 4-ply acrylic, for a previous garment they can use the same tension swatch for the new garment because it is also the same make of yarn and is 4-ply acrylic. But they have not considered that the dye makes a difference and the size of the swatch and the tension can be quite different.

2. Determine the tension suitable for the yarn and pattern. To do this, choose a starting tension about 1 number tighter than what you think would be right. Knit about 10 rows. Increase the tension 1 dot at a time, knitting 10 rows after each change in tension. Be sure to keep track of the tension in each section. Decide which tension you like the best for the yarn and pattern.

3. To make the final tension swatch, cast on in waste yarn the required number of stitches, according to which machine type. Knit about 6 rows. Make picot holes in this row to mark your chosen tension. For example, tension 7 and 1 dot would translate to 7 picot holes on the left side of your knitting and 1 picot hole on the right side. Knit 4 more rows in waste yarn.

Change to main yarn and knit the following number of rows:
- Standard - 30 rows
- Mid-gauge - 20 rows
- Bulky - 15 rows
- Passap - 25 rows

Place a piece of scrap yarn on each marker needle (as above).

Knit the same number of rows, according to machine type.

Change to waste yarn and knit 10 rows. Cast off.

4. Remove the swatch from the machine and let it relax, then wash and dry it as you would the final garment.

5. Steam the swatch carefully and let it dry before measuring.

Now we are ready to measure our swatch so we can choose the correct ruler to be used with our charting device.

All crosswise measurements will determine how many stitches we will cast on and the lengthwise measurement of our swatch determines the number of rows.


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