Aalto KAL: Part 1, the Swatch

We’re gearing up to start the Aalto Knit-a-long starting June 17 (sorry for the delay, everyone; we had two colors that were back ordered…). In prep to start knitting, I highly recommend doing your gauge swatch at least the week before the KAL starts.

I did my gauge swatch this past week. I chose the Poppy colorway (thought it would go nicely with the purples and pink in my hair! The Poppy color is actually a bit darker than pictured).

Here was my process for doing my gauge swatch. I hope this helps you when you do your gauge swatch:

  • Because the gauge is supposed to be 22 sts & 28 rows/4″ and I always want to do a swatch at least 6″ wide (the bigger the better for swatches, people), I decided to cast on 30 stitches (to get a 6″ wide swatch, I really should have cast on 33 stitches, but…).
  • I knew this yarn would be slippery and while I am addicted to Addi needles because they are super fast, I decided that it would be better to go to a less slick needle. I chose Knitter’s Pride Karbonz. Karbonz circularI could have used bamboo needles, but the Karbonz combine the flexibility and “stickiness” of bamboo or wood needles with the speed of metal because of the metal tips. (Keep in mind when doing your swatch to knit it with the same needles you will be using for your garment – your gauge may be different with a wood needle vs a metal needle or a different brand).
  • The pattern calls for a German Twisted Cast On. Instructions for this cast on are provided in the pattern, but I found them hard to understand. Shibui also provides a link to Lucy Neatby’s video on this technique, but again, I was having a hard time following the video. So, I went to the trusty Cast On, Cast Off by Leslie Ann Bestor. Sure enough, German Twisted Cast On, aka Old Norwegian Cast On, was in there, IMG_2282and I was able to figure it out. Your swatch is a great place to practice this cast on if it’s new to you!
  • I started my swatch the way the pattern says to start – with 4 rows of reverse stockinette. This is not necessary, but I just wanted to see how it looked. After that I switched to stockinette for the full width of the swatch.
  • I often will slip the first stitch of every row for an item that is not being seamed, because it produces a nice edge; however, I noticed when I was doing each row in stockinette with this yarn and the bigger than expected needle size that the edge stitch was rolling under to the back. And I knew that the edge of the actual garment is in reverse stockinette, so after I had knit a few inches, I added the edging called for in the pattern to my swatch. Slipped StYou can see that the edge stitch (inside the purple box) is rolling to the front of the swatch now that I am doing the reverse stockinette edging. I decided that I really didn’t like that look, so I switched to actually working the edge stitch (knit or purl depending on the row). Here’s how it looks after I switched (above the black line is the area where I did not slip the first stitch of each row).Not Slipped I wish I had done a few more rows, but I think I like the non-slipped edge stitch better.
  • The gauge in the pattern calls for the swatch to be blocked. Make sure you do this before you measure! I got the swatch completely wet then laid it on my kitchen counter to dry overnight. I didn’t pin or use blocking wires; I just patted it flat and aligned the edges with my hand.
  • After it dried, I measured the center of the swatch in the area where I had only done stockinette (not where I had done the reverse stockinette edging). Measuring in the center will give a truer measurement than incorporating the edging stitches in your measurements. Make sure to measure across at least 4 inches. My blocked gauge was 18 sts/4″ – too few stitches!
  • BUT… because cotton & linen are notorious for stretching, I thought I’d better simulate gravity and hang my swatch up for a few days to see if the gauge changed. I hung the swatch on a pants hanger. Because the swatch is much smaller than the finished Aalto poncho will be and thus won’t stretch by itself as much as the full garment, I wove my circular knitting needle through the bottom of the swatch to simulate the gravitational pull on a larger garment. IMG_2330After hanging for a few days, my gauge had changed slightly to 19 sts/4″. Still not right…

It’s back to the drawing board (or knitting needles) for me – I’ll have to go down a needle size to try to get the right number of stitches per inch. (Oh, and by the way, my row gauge was 27 rows/4″; almost right. I’m hoping changing the needle size will help with that as well. I’ll discuss how to compensate for row gauge in a future post.)

~ Laura

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