I’ve never been a huge fan of swatching–when I’m knitting, I prefer to leap, then look. But when I’m making a yarn substitution, I do force myself to make a swatch. In the case of the Tangled Yoke Cardigan from the Fall ’07 Interweave Knits, that turned out to be a very, very good idea. I’m swapping Valley Yarns English Tweed for the Rowan Felted Tweed that the pattern calls for, and on the recommended needles for the pattern, I ended up getting 5 stitches per inch, instead of 6 stitches per inch, which would have spelled disaster (in the form of knitting for weeks to months and ending up with a sweater that’s way too big for me). I worked my way down from a 3.75 mm needle to a 3.0 mm needle, and managed to get both row gauge and a stitch gauge that would let me knit the smallest size with positive, rather than negative ease. I even washed and blocked the thing! I neglected to take one thing into account: when a pattern gives a stitch gauge for two different stitch patterns that are used in a sweater, even though it’s on the same size needle, and is the same number of stitches per inch for both of them, it is a Very Good Idea to incorporate both patterns into your swatch.
If you don’t, you end up with what I did. A gauge of 5 stitches per inch on the ribbing, and a 40″ sweater. Since the design doesn’t include a peplum, there was no way around ripping back and starting over, this time on 2.5 mm needles (I didn’t have 2.75 mm needles that were long enough, and my gut instinct told me that I wasn’t going to be able to get 5.75-6 stitches per inch with such a small change).
Not that I actually bothered to swatch that. I just merrily cast on again, and things seem to be working out much better so far. Of course, my row gauge is now a bit too fine, and I need to lengthen the body of the sweater, so there’s all sorts of recalculating going on on the fly, but that doesn’t seem to scare me as much. My 200 stitch “swatch” is going to be a much better indicator of what’s going on with this sweater.