Swatching in the round is something I know I should do if my project will be knit in the round, but I admit I sometimes swatch flat instead, especially if the stitch pattern is easy to work flat (like stockinette or a knit/purl texture). But for an important project like a garment or something else that will take a lot of yarn and time, there's no way around it - swatching in the round will give you the most accurate gauge information.
In this post I'll be showing you how I knit the swatch for my Cinnamon Stars cowl. The method will work for any stranded colourwork project, and for any other project knit in the round.
I planned ahead by adding a few extra stitches either side of the colourwork chart, alternating stitches of each colour in a chequerboard pattern - I got the idea from the 'bridge' stitches of a traditional no-sew steek. These extra edge stitches helped to keep the inevitable wonky edge stitches separate from the main part of the swatch.
Because I had plenty of yarn in each colour, I decided to make a swatch that would be cut after knitting. Here's what I did:
1. Using a shortish circular needle, I cast on and knit a couple of rows back and forth in garter stitch.
2. I joined my second colour and began knitting the swatch 'in the round': at the end of each row, I slid my swatch back to the other end of the circular needle, draping strands of the working yarn loosely across the wrong side of the swatch.
3. When I had finished the colourwork, I knit a couple of rows of garter stitch with a single colour and then bound off.
4. I carefully cut the loose strands at the back of my swatch, avoiding cutting through any of the colourwork floats beneath.
5. I tied neighbouring strands together to make a more secure fringed edge on either side. This step is optional, especially if you don't wish to keep your swatch!
5. Finally, I wet-blocked the swatch to make it lie flat and even up the stitches. Once it was dry, I took my stitch and row gauge measurements and my colourwork-repeat measurements.
If you don't have extra yarn to spare, you could knit a 'froggable' swatch by making the loose strands across the back long enough to allow you to block the swatch without cutting them. Alternatively, there are other methods for swatching in the round that use even less yarn - the second method in this TECHknitting post 'Circular swatches knit flat' looks very efficient, but I admit I haven't tried it out yet. You'll recognise the first method as the one I used above.
Do you have a favourite swatching method?