A dressed tension swatch isn’t something I’ve come across very often as a knitter. I don’t remember the last time I saw it in a modern pattern. But then I’m not a big garment knitter. But then again, even some of my knitter friends who do make a lot of garments have still not heard of this type of tension swatch.

If you’re knitting something small or flat then a regular tension swatch is perfectly fine. But if you’re a big garment knitter you may notice items such as jumpers and cardigans can grow longer than you intended.

We all know what causes this. It’s gravity, pulling the weight of the yarn down. But how do you replicate this in a small tension swatch? That’s where a dressed tension swatch comes in.

Making a dressed tension swatch is pretty much the same as a regular one. Knit your tension swatch as normal but make it at least 5cm longer. Then wash and block your swatch also as normal.

A dressed tension swatch being blocked.

Once your tension swatch is dry this is where the big change occurs. Find a vertical surface you can pin your tension swatch to, and pin along the top of the swatch only. A scarf hanging from a curtain pole will be suitable if you’re struggling.

Next attach the remainder of your yarn to the bottom of the swatch. But do not pin this to your vertical surface. This will simulate the weight of yarn on a garment.

A dressed tension swatch hanging from our spare mattress. 

Leave this for one day and then remove and measure as usual. Use this as your tension for your garment.


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