Wednesday, May 23, 2012

30 Stitch Swatch Magic

   There is a wide world of knitting geniuses who have graced my knitting journey and passed on gifts of technique and style to my eager hands.  The 30 Stitch Swatch is one of those techniques I use and teach for swatching and design.

    The concept was originally presented to me by Lynn Henderson, a brilliant knitting technician, whose local knitting group I avidly followed in the early 1990's.  Since then it has been tested by both unbelieving skeptics and the best knitting minds and it has proven to be a very useful tool, accurate and consistent.  And though I love almost every little aspect of knitting and design, doing multiple swatches just to get the gauge is probably my least favorite knitting activity.  The 30 Stitch Swatch solves that for me.
    Most amazing is that this will work not only with stockinette stitch but on all kinds of stitch patterns;  I've used it for stranded patterns, cables, lace, to say nothing of our dear garter stitch, and it holds it's own across them all.  Numbers tend to get a little wonky in the realm of super bulky yarn and broomstick needles, where inches equal fractions of stitches and the dark powers take over.  To be frank, I just don't go there.  In the wide range of yarns that I use, from cobweb to bulky and all weights in between, this technique is my faithful and trustworthy companion.
     I teach this as technique number one in almost all my knitted garment classes and I briefly discussed it in an interview on the Knitmore Girls podcast in 2009.   Some things have changed since that interview, I now do the Knitaway® in my Studio, but the 30 Stitch Swatch remains as a treasured component of my knitting tool kit.   I present it to you here in my classroom version with the hope that you may find it helpful, too.

PS:  Do you see the knots in the tail of the swatch pictured above?  That's how I keep track of what needle size I used for the swatch; size 7 needle, seven knots in the tail!

30 Stitch Swatch Magic
©2000-2012 Cheryl Oberle

30 Stitch Swatch Magic is an amazing and well-tested tool for determining gauge for a knitting project without having to do multiple swatches each time. It has proven to work over all types of stitch  patterns and with any yarn. Give it a try and see if it doesn’t make swatching more fun and informative!

The basic premise of this technique is that for every needle size that is changed 
(one size either larger or smaller), the width of a 30 Stitch Swatch changes (increases or decreases) by 1/2 inch.

Cast on at least 30 stitches, adjusting to accommodate pattern multiple; you must have 30 stitches in pattern over which to measure.  Work in pattern for 4 inches.  Block swatch.  Steaming is fine for this. Measure the entire width of the 30 stitches.  For every needle size changed the width of the 30 stitches will change by 1/ 2 inch.  This allows the knitter to extrapolate the gauge that will result by going up or down in needle size.

For Example:
30 stitch swatch on size 6 needles in pattern measures 5 inches wide.
Stitch gauge per inch:  30 sts. divided by 5 inches = 6 sts / inch ; 24 sts /4 inches.

By this method, using one size larger needle will expand the 30 stitch swatch by 1/2 inch to 5.5 inches wide.  So then, 30 sts divided by 5.5 inches = 5.45 sts per inch (as close to 5.5 sts/ inch; 22 sts /4 inches as one can get).

Going in the other direction, if you use one size smaller needle you will shrink the original swatch width by 1/2 inch.  So then, 30 sts divided by 4.5 inches = 6.66 sts per inch ( as close to 6.5 sts / inch ; 26 sts/ 4 inches as one can get).


  1. Brilliant! Thanks for the tip. Wish I would've taken the time to do this before embarking on a couple of sweaters from the last decade. Ha!

  2. All my swatches have been 30 stitches or so. Now I know where it came from.....thanks Cheryl.