Knitting Swatches – getting worse not better

Before I knit a garment, I always take the time to knit a swatch with a boarder of garter stitch.

The garter stitch boarder helps the knitted swatch lie flat – rather than curling.

A couple of months ago I knitted this swatch, but didn’t particularly notice anything wrong…

Ryeland yarn swatchThis month I knitted another swatch and noticed the right hand side was significantly shorter than the left…20160112_160836 (1)

So I knitted another swatch…

20160112_160850 (1)

Now I was looking, I noticed it was happening to a lesser extent in the cream swatch and even slightly on the purple one. Somehow I’m knitting tighter at the left hand edge than the right. And I’m getting ‘better’ at it! Are all my future sweaters going to be significantly shorter on one side than the other?

I swatched again.

Now paying more attention, I realised that on each purl row of the swatch, I pulled the yarn too tight as I moved it back when I switched between the purl and knit stitches of the garter stitch.  No idea why I’m doing it harder as time goes on, but I’m hoping to train myself out of it. Meantime, I’m wondering if anyone else has had similar problems and overcome them? One of the things about swatching is that you’re supposed to relax as if you’re knitting the garment. I’ll hardly be doing that if I’m concentrating on how hard I tension the yarn.

And while I’m asking, has anyone had any other challenges with knitting swatches?

Bekki Hill




37 thoughts on “Knitting Swatches – getting worse not better

      1. All your crafted items I have seen are beautiful, no sign of this in any of your makes before?? Maybe you are just having a minor tension glitch Now you are aware I’m sure it will soon put itself right again 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you that’s very kind of you. I do think the problem is adding the garter boarder – which therefore shouldn’t affect what I make. So I’m just going to leave it off and have curly swatches, unless they prove to have tension anomalies that can’t be dealt with by blocking.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I never swatch and often wonder why so many knitters feel compelled to swatch. I know it can tell a knitter about tension among other things, but a few people get way to ‘swatch happy”. I never swatch as I have found it to be a waste of good yarn and my time. I wonder when this trend got started as my grandmothers never did this nor did their fried and they were all beautiful knitters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They did swatch… in a roundabout way. See- the first thing you make of something that you never made before sometimes comes out wonky. They probably looked at what they did wrong and corrected it with the next one. Over the years- you have your favorite yarns, and you know how they behave, so you don’t need to swatch for something you’ve made many times before or with a yarn you’ve used many times before.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I hear where you’re coming from Tina and if you’re following a pattern with the recommended yarn, swatching may be a waste of time, if you know you usually knit to ‘recommended tension. However, I had a real disaster that could have been averted by swatching, so I’m a bit more bothered now that it may not be a waste of time also. Another reason I swatch is because I make up my own patterns, so it is necessary then.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree on knitting swatches..beautiful yarn is expensive and deserve good consideration. I had your problem once too, one side was shorter I mean…and then I discovered I was knitting with needles in two different sizes( I am still blushing with embarrassment….) and I just read up on your delightful blog, what a joy to start the day here! xo Johanna

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I usually only do a swatch if I’m substituting a yarn or if I’m using hideously expensive stuff. When I did the swatch for my current project the instructions told me to cast on 24 stitches and make a swatch over the pattern. I spent ages agonising over why the pattern wasn’t working out and finally emailed the pattern company. Apparently, the pattern needs multiples of 4 stitches plus 3 to get the pattern to work so I should have cast on 27 stitches. Well why didn’t they bloomin’ well say that then, grrrrr.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is frustrating how many patterns have mistakes in them, but then again there’s a lot of calculating to work out what to do for each different size. So I’m sure even the best technical editors miss things at times. However, there’s some publishers that seem to consistently produce mistake ridden patterns and that isn’t defendable. Mind, I wonder if the mistake in the swatch instructions in your pattern was down to it not being checked, because the general belief is nobody swatches?


  4. Here’s the question: are you blocking your swatches? Every knitter has some sort of tension. Usually the tension is on the ends, and the middle is nice and loose. This is why they say to measure the middle of your swatch. But blocking should even it out somewhat. If it’s still tight on one end after blocking, then maybe some tension-watching is in order.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, thank you for this post! You have just provided a possible solution to an issue my knitting has and so I guess I could be doing the same thing. As I will soon be knitting a sweater as a gift this will be an opportunity to solve my perennial asymmetrical issues! I will be studying the endings of purl rows very closely ………… And also you answered my question of why you always knitted a garter edge on your swatches …. I thought it looked pretty but didn’t realise the important job it did. You are clever!! Gosh a double bit of learning and it’s not even 8 am yet!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pauline. As I’ve said above, I think I’ve written this wrong. The problem is the boarder is changing my tension, not that my knitting in general is having tension issues. Although it does beg the question, what happens to my tension when I work between knit and purl, say on cabling? However, if my miswriting helps you solve a problem them I’m jolly glad I wasn’t clear 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That is interesting, I have not seen it before. 🙂 Go figure. I must admit I hardly do swatches, unless its to work out the pattern before I start to get an idea of the construction. I know I should, but I am still pretty bad at it.
    I am wondering if blocking your swatches would indicate a difference, would t pull straight?
    All the best. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Talya asked if I’d blocked it and I said yes, but I realise now my brain was bit fuzzy. I haven’t blocked it, but I have washed it. Blocking it won’t be useful as it will distort the truth about the tension I’m knitting to – which is what I’m knitting the swatch to find out. Thanks for the thought though – it should work if it was my finished product that was squint. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I only knit swatches if I’m making a jumper or other garment, never for hats or blankets. The garter stitch border is a great tip that I’ve not seen before but will definitely use – it’s normally quite difficult to measure a curled up swatch!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a great idea. Only for me it’s that damn border that’s messing with my tension. I checked since I wrote this post – my squares for blankets are perfectly square. So I’m right. it is adding the border that’s throwing me 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beads and Barnacles

    Ohh interesting. Probably more interesting that you have ‘just’ started doing it. Sometimes it seems that I can be a less than consistent knitter (or crochet for that matter) I have had to rip back a hat before that I knit flat because one side of it was so much shorter than the other as I had adjusted my tension over the item.
    I also cast on a knit the bottom band from the Christmas at Sea 1898 pattern and the two ends of it definitely are different sizes, but not too much for it to be a huge issue. I have noticed how I sit when I knit makes a bit of a difference, my ‘normal’ chair is very laid back and sitting in a upright armchair or on a train I do knit slightly differently.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. It’s incredible once you start looking what little differences make. I wonder how much it’s position and how much state of mind being different. I’m really pleased to say, I’ve no observations beyond swatching of that sort. In fact I have a pair of mitts on my desk – one knitted on an aeroplane one on a sun lounger. They look identical. Mind I’m such a knitting geek, I’m going to be looking from now on. Bet I find some 🙂


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