Welcome back, knitters! Today we'll be talking all about swatching and casting on your Cilfor sweater. 

Once you've got your yarn and needles in hand, fight the urge to immediately cast on - to ensure that your sweater will fit just right, you've got to start with a swatch. Making a swatch isn't just an arbitrary step in the process of knitting - it informs you of your gauge. Gauge is defined as the amount of stitches and rows/rounds that occur over a certain number of inches; for Cilfor, the gauge is 19 stitches & 28 rounds over 4" of stockinette stitch. (Not sure where to find the gauge of the pattern? Have a look at our "Anatomy of a BT Pattern" resource page for a full breakdown of where to find all the nitty gritty details and how to navigate each section.) 

Gauge is entirely personal and varies quite widely from person to person. In a pattern, the gauge listed is often the personal gauge of the designer. When you make your swatch, you may find that your gauge is identical to the one listed in the pattern or you may find that it's a bit off. Either way, your skill as a knitter doesn't have anything to do with the gauge you get - it's merely a result of the tension with which you hold your yarn. 

Since Cilfor is knit in the round, your swatch should be too! To accomplish this, we recommend the "speed swatching" technique. Here are instructions on how to knit a speed swatch for in-the-round knitting, originally posted as a part of our "Swatching 101" resource page:


- Using a circular needle, cast on the desired number of swatch stitches (the 6” principle discussed above also applies here) and knit one row. Rather than joining the work to knit in the round, slide the live stitches back to the rightmost tip of the needle. Leaving a long tail floating loosely across the back, bring the yarn to the other end and knit from the first stitch on the needle, across your row of stitches again. Repeat this maneuver, sliding and bringing your yarn back to the tip of the needle, for the desired number of rounds. Note that you are knitting all rounds from the Right Side, just as you will be when working a circular garment.


- As you work you may notice your selvedge stitches are loose and messy — it’s good to get into the habit of tidying up your edge stitches every few rounds to keep them neat. Some knitters find that stitches along one selvedge edge are looser than the other, but both sides should be snugged up as you work for best results. If you’re swatching stranded fabric with two colors (as shown in our swatch below), knit the first and last two stitches of every round with both colors held together. This will lock each of your colors securely at either end of your swatch. (Your gauge will not be affected by these doubled edge stitches.)


- When you’ve worked the necessary number of rounds in your swatch, bind off all stitches. The back of your speed swatch will have several long floats draping across the back, one float for every round worked.  Use scissors to cut the long floats at the back of your swatch down the center in order to allow your swatch to lie completely flat. The “fringe” created after you cut can be trimmed cleanly at each edge to make blocking your swatch more manageable. Block and allow your swatch to dry.



It bears repeating: be sure to soak and block your swatch and allow it to dry completely before taking measurements. Our woolen-spun yarns, like Shelter, “bloom” when they're soaked, which means the diameter of the yarn will increase ever so slightly as the fibers plump up. This more often than not results in a change in gauge for your pre- and post-blocked swatch. If your gauge is slightly off as you pin down your swatch, you can always try to manipulate the fabric and see if you get get the stitches to conform to the correct measurements - just make sure to give your swatch plenty of rest time once unpinned to ensure those measurements remain accurate. (Questions about gauge? Send us an email at support@brooklyntweed.com; we'd love to help!) 

Once your dried swatch has been measured and both your row and stitch gauge are on point, it's time to cast on! Cilfor calls for the ubiquitous Long Tail Cast On which is more than likely already in your bag of tricks. If not, never fear! We've got instructions for how to work a Long Tail Cast On on our "Casting On" resource page. One of the many wonderful aspects of knitting is the ability to customize to your own preference; if you're more of a Cabled Cast On person or even a Tubular Cast On fan, feel welcome to substitute those in place of the Long Tail.

To determine how many stitches to cast on, first look at which size you'll be knitting and find its place in the line up of all sizes offered. Then, you will find the correlating placement in the pattern instructions and there you will find your cast on number. For example, if I were to be knitting the fourth size I would cast on the fourth cast on number listed in the pattern. 

Once you've got all of your stitches on the needle, and your Beginning Of Round (BOR) marker in place, you're set to join in the round and get down to it! Next week, we'll get into knitting and shaping the yoke of your Cilfor sweater - see you then! 


  • Great suggestion Kathy! We’ll work on getting a swatching video added to our YouTube channel.

    Jamie M. on

  • Really like to see this in You Tube format in stead of a blog.

    Kathy on

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