Ravelympics: Ready, Steady, Swatch!

I’m getting ready for my first 2010 Ravelympics*. I’ll be knitting for Team Buttercream which you’re all invited to join if you’re not already in a team. I’ve picked my event too – Sweaters Slalom! I’m attempting a personal record of knitting a full-sized man’s jumper in 17 days!

Knitting without Tears book

I’ve chosen to knit the Seamless Hybrid jumper by Elizabeth Zimmerman (EZ). Her book arrived last week and I’m very excited to get started. However, I can only swatch before the start of Ravelympics on February 12.

I really want this jumper to fit as it’s a birthday present for a special guy. Since the pattern is knitted in the round, EZ recommends to swatch in the round too as “some of us knit more tightly than we purl, or contrariwise.” I know it seems like a lot of work, but I’d much rather put the effort in now then to look at an ill-fitted jumper which is never worn outside the home.

So how do you check your gauge for circular knitting?

I’m glad you asked. :) The tutorial I’m about to show you is for a pattern like the Seamless Hybrid, where your own personal gauge with your choice of yarn will determine the number of stitches you need to cast on. If you are swatching to achieve a specified gauge, you might need to increase or decrease your needle size and swatch again if you did not achieve the desired gauge the first time round.

Patons Jet ball band

The first step is to look at the gauge given on the ball band. 16.5 sts = 10cm. I have a 60cm circular needle of the recommended size (5.5mm). Therefore I need to cast on at least 16.5 x 6 = 99 stitches to make sure the work will go right around the circular needles comfortably.

Second step is to knit in the pattern for 8 to 10cm. In my case, I knitted in stocking stitch until I ran out of yarn.

Swatching for Seamless Hybrid jumper

Third step is to pin the work flat. I put the live stitches on a piece of scrap yarn but I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m just paranoid that it will unravel. Basically, take the needles out and pin it.

Fourth step is to measure. I have a couple of knitter’s gauge rulers to help me with this but any old ruler will do. I want to know how many stitches I have in 10cm space.

Checking gauge

You can see from the ruler above that I have 8 stitches per 5cm (see red numbers below stitches).

Double checking gauge

I also have another gauge ruler from Knit Picks and this one has a magnified area. It does not photograph well but trust me there are 16 stitches per 10cm (see yellow numbers).

So my gauge is 16 stitches = 10cm on 5.5mm needles. It’s slightly different from the ball band’s gauge of 16.5 stitches = 10cm.

The top to copy from

The fifth and last step is to work out how many stitches to cast on. I’m going to use the measurements from an existing top (above) to make my Seamless Hybrid jumper. The bottom hem measures 111cm around.

So basic maths will tell me that if 10 cm = 16 stitches, 111cm = 16 x 11.1 = 177.6 or rounded to 178 stitches

If I did not swatch and just used the gauge on the ball band, I would have cast on 16.5 x 11.1 = 183 stitches. The extra 5 stitches would have added about 3cm to the sweater body!

Another good thing about swatching is that I get a chance to see how the yarn looks knitted up. I was nervous about the colourway at first but I really like how it looks. It will suit the birthday guy perfectly.

That’s it. I’m ready to knit the jumper! I have to wait a little over 3 weeks before casting on and I can’t wait!

*Ravelympics is a Ravelry event where knitters/crocheters/spinners from all around the world compete for 2 weeks of focused, intense personal & team challenges while watching the Winter Olympics. This time we’re “gathering” in Vancouver, Canada during Feb 12-28, 2010. Come join us!

{ 8 comments }

8 Responses to “Ravelympics: Ready, Steady, Swatch!”

  1. Laura47 says:

    I’m already on a Ravelympics team, Team MINE!, and I’m entering the Sweater Slalom, too — I’m going to be knitting the Thermal sweater (jumper) for myself (and I’m not exactly a petite flower these days), using wonderful fingering yarn from Sanguine Gryphon. It’s my first attempt at knitting an entire sweater on 2.5mm needles, not to mention in two weeks, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge. And if I actually finish it? I’ll do some WIPs Wrestling (finishing UFOs) or Aerial Unwinding (frogging UFOs) to fill up the time.

    I’m glad to see you swatched in the round. I’ve learned, the hard way, that my gauge in the round vs. knitting back and forth can be very different, so the only way to even hope to get an accurate swatch is to knit those circles. Although, even then, don’t forget one basic knitting rule: Swatches LIE. They don’t always tell you the truth. And don’t forget to wash your swatch!! I’m using a yarn that I’ve knit socks from a number of times so I know how it behaves in the wash, but if you’re not sure, it’s possibly the most important swatching step!

    What group is Team Buttercream organized out of? Team MINE! is from the Selfish Knitters group — which doesn’t mean we knit only for ourselves, it just means that we knit what we want when we want, rather than allowing other people to pressure or guilt us into knitting things we don’t want to. It’s a fun group, and if you want to read some horror stories of people demanding the ridiculous and the impossible from knitters, it’s a good place to find them.

    I can’t wait for the Olympics!

    • Salihan says:

      Oh my! Your sweater sounds very time consuming but I can imagine it to be very warm to wear.

      Thanks so much for your tip about washing the swatch. I’ll do that and double check my gauge again. :)

      Team Buttercream was organized out of Julie’s blog: http://www.knittedbliss.com. I am a member of the Selfish Knitters group but I assumed it was only for knitting projects made for ourselves. It makes much more sense now! Haha… I’m not an active forum user as you can tell.

      I won’t be able to watch the Olympics from here. They only telecast it on the paid sports channels and I’m not signed up with them. But I’ll definitely watch the highlights on the web and on the news. :) Not long to go!

  2. Julie says:

    hooray!! good thing you’re taking the time to do a careful gauge swatch now, You’ll be all ready to go on Feb 12th!!
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..FO: Spiced Citron =-.

  3. xiuxiu says:

    OMG! I love the knitpicks gauge ruler. I wish they send internationally :(
    Kudos for you to do a careful gauge swatch. I never do it carefully. I tend to knit tighter in the round than flat, and usually I only knit 2×2 cm gauge :P
    .-= xiuxiu´s last blog ..Craft hope =-.

  4. Valerie says:

    I’m on Team Knit Picks Enablers! I’ll be knitting in WIPs Dancing. I tagged 4 items, which is probably double what I think I can do but I am challenging myself.

    There is thread in the Ravelympics 2010 forum for teams to post their logos/badges (a gallery). I love seeing the creativity of the badges as well as the team names–and I love the camaradie between Ravelmates. I don’t remembering seeing posts for Team Buttercream or Team MINE (hint, hint) . . .

  5. Malissa says:

    I wish you luck! I have that book, it is sitting near me waiting to be read! Only one question: Does it not cause pain in your hands, arms, neck and back trying to knit something like this in 17 days?? How many breaks do you take? LOL.. I just curious.. because I have a hard time sitting for hours straight only knitting. I also don’t own a television if that has anything to do with it?!
    I am currently knitting ‘Temptation’ from Thrown Together by Kim H. I am using Rowan Big Wool..with size 10 and 12 cm needles and I have to say it is flying by in no time!

    • Salihan says:

      It is hard work knitting for long periods of time. I try my best to sit properly, support my arms with cushions and take regular breaks every hour. When I get overtired, I normally just stop for the day/night. You can see more of how I knit and crochet here: http://salihan.com/2009/new-improved-craft-space/

      I’ve not seen the Tempation pattern before but it sounds like it’s going to very cozy and warm! Happy knitting!

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