Many, many, many years ago, I watched The Knitter’s Workshop for the first time. She pointed out that it is easy, and tempting, to stretch or scrunch your conscientiously knit swatch to fit the stitch count you are trying to attain. Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
The first step towards an accurate swatch is to cast on at least six inches worth of stitches. If you are looking for five stitches to the inch, cast-on thirty stitches. Knit a few rows of garter stitch, at least three inches of stockinette and end with more garter stitch rows. Cast-off but keep the last stitch on your needle. I like to keep as much yarn intact as possible in case I have to use every last ball to finish the project.
Lay your swatch flat. I had to use a couple of books to hold down the edges. Keep the swatch relaxed. Lay a ruler on top of the swatch with the 2-inch line at the beginning of a stitch. Next, put a pin at that spot. Place a second pin at the 6-inch mark. You have now marked out a nice 4-inch section of your swatch.
Now comes the moment of truth. Because you didn’t count stitches as you placed the second pin, you weren’t tempted to stretch the truth a bit.
My swatch turned out to be 4 sti (stitches to the inch). The pattern calls for 5 sti. Have I mentioned that I am a very loose knitter? That swatch was worsted weight on a Size 3 needle! Time to try again with a Size 2.
I will keep you posted on my progress.