Does blocking your swatch make a difference?

Continuing on from swatching in the round, this time I’m looking at the benefits of blocking your swatch.

Did you try swatching in the round? If you did, I hope you found it useful and that this technique has given you more confidence in how your finished objects will turn out.

To help build on that confidence I thought I would share something else that was a game changer for me, that as well as knitting your swatch as you would your actual project, it also helps to wash your swatch as you would your finished object. For a long time I didn’t even consider the impact that blocking my swatch might have on my gauge, but after trying it I was amazed.

Some yarns behave very differently when wet and even a quick wash can affect the appearance of the finished fabric. If your yarn were to relax when wet, it could make your swatch larger than it was originally. Depending on the characteristics of your chosen yarn, it may have plenty of memory, and will return to it’s original size or close to it when dry, or it may have very little and will maintain the new larger dimensions even when dry. Washing and blocking your swatch before measuring for gauge will help to ensure that your finished object will look as good after it has been washed and worn a few times as it did when it first came off the needles.

Do I need to block my swatch? Finished swatch in garter stitch straight off the needles. Stitches and shape are uneven and edges of the work are rounded.

My swatch, fresh off the needles. The yarn I used is 100% Bluefaced Leicester.

Do I need to block my swatch? Swatch before and after blocking. Blocked swatch on the left is now bigger, more square and stitches are more even than unblocked swatch on the right.

My blocked swatch on the left came out at 8 cm x 7 cm (12 sts x 24 rows over 5 cm/ 2″). My unblocked swatch came out at 8.5 cm x 6.5 cm (11.5 sts x 27 rows over cm/ 2″).

On a small scale the numbers don’t look that different (as my yarn is wool it has a certain amount of memory), but over a larger area those slight differences would still start to add up and you start to run the risk of your finished object turning out narrower and longer than you intended. If you were using a yarn with less memory these differences could be even more pronounced.

Blocking also gives you a chance to see how the fabric you create will look and behave after washing. My original swatch holds it shape nicely, whereas my blocked swatch is more fluid and has a lovely drape to it. The garter rows are also more even after blocking, giving the blocked fabric a flatter appearance.


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