When Swatches Lie

I admit it, I’m a loose knitter. I usually go down one needle size from whatever is recommended. So when I swatched for my Scoop du Jour, my first swatch was with US 7 needles instead of the 8 listed for the pattern. Whoa – unwashed, I was getting only 16 stitches over 4 inches instead of the desired 18. I kept going down needle sizes, and finally got to the right gauge. On US 4 needles. Say what? I never had to go down THAT much before. I figured it must be the sticky, nubby yarn.  Washing my swatches had minor effects on the gauge – mostly it just made the swatches much softer. The swatch done with size 4 needles was right on gauge.

So I told myself to trust the swatch. Go with the 4. So I cast on for the back. Problem is, I have to do 4″ of ribbing (on a size smaller needle) before I get to the stockinette. As I knit, small warnings start wandering through my head. The width seemed a little smaller than it should, but I can’t really tell from the ribbing anyway. Finally I get a couple of inches of stockinette done. Uh-oh. It’s about an inch less in width than it should be. A check of the gauge tells me I’m getting 19 stitches per inch. And a lot more rows than I should be, too. Crap! I figured that maybe I’d just gotten used to the texture of the yarn, and was able to knit it more tightly. Should I do all my swatches again?

Of course not! I put what I already had on a spare cable, and started over with US 5 (4 for the ribbing). This one looks like it’s more the right size. Once again, I knit past the ribbing and a couple of inches into the stockinette. I grab my ruler again. Gaaaaah! While it’s slightly better than the first one, it’s still clearly not right.

I now have 4 swatches done in sizes 7-4, and two huge swatches (7-8 inches of the back, knitted twice), which are totally inconsistent. OK, I give up. I’ll swatch again. I grab the original skein of yarn I used for my swatches to do some more, starting once more with size 7 needles.  WTF? I’d swear the yarn seems thicker than what I’ve been knitting with. Is it just my imagination? Maybe it just feels different doing a swatch than a large piece. Or maybe it’s the larger needles. After a couple of inches, I can see that the gauge is not right. It’s consistent with my original swatch – 16.5 stitches over 4″. But even stranger, the fabric seems so much thicker than the pieces I’ve been knitting. So I grab the skein I’d been using on one of the back pieces, and started knitting another swatch from the unworked end. Whoa. Major difference! The knitting is much thinner and more flexible. I finish the swatch and check my gauge. 18 stitches over 4 inches. Same needles, and knitted within a few minutes of each other. The only difference was the skein of yarn. For some reason, the first one I grabbed for the swatches is not consistent with the others (same source, same dye lot). I got 2 sealed packs of 5 skeins each, plus 3 loose skeins. The swatch was from one of the loose skeins. I used the other 2 loose skeins for the first back piece, and one from a sealed pack for the second back piece. All of the yarn seems consistent except for that first skein.

I haven’t opened the other bag yet. I’m afraid to.

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10 Responses to When Swatches Lie

  1. margene says:

    It looked good last night…and the color is pretty. Can this cardi be saved? I hope so!

  2. Miriam says:

    Holy crap! that’s irritating! I hope you can make it work. Maybe if you strand in the thinner skein with another to minimize the difference, or if you find that it’s the only thinner skein, then you can use it for the collars and bands. That really sucks!

  3. susan says:

    That sucks. You could have finished the damn sweater by now.

  4. Lani says:

    Oh no! Good luck with the re-swatching! Good thing it’s Valentines day and you can grab some chocolatey goodness if it continues to be a not behaving knit. 🙂

  5. Stacey says:

    Oh no! It must be that the skeins outside of the bag have been able to breathe. 😀 They need to adjust to the altitude and snow?

    Have you checked the wpi on the different skeins? Could it be that some are mislabeled?

  6. Chris says:

    Yikes!! I’d be contacting that company…

  7. Wow, I’ve never even heard of that problem. How annoying!

  8. Lark says:

    So sorry it’s been such a trial. The color looks good, she said, feebly trying to find the good in a yucky situation…

  9. Hey, now that’s just not fair. You made MORE than a good faith effort.

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