Knitting some swatches to determine the best needle size for the motifs

This week I’m knitting with Universal Yarn Uptown Baby Sport, which is 100% pill-resistant acrylic yarn that is super soft. Available in a wide array of shades, Uptown Baby Sport looks and feels great in projects for children.

Today I’m knitting some swatches to determine the needle size(s) that I’ll use for my projects. As I mentioned yesterday, the recommended knitting needle size is US4 [3.5mm] = 24 sts x 30 rows = 4” [10cm] in stocking stitch. The gauge for the dress I’ll be making is 24 sts x 32 rows = 4” in stocking stitch, on a US3 [3.25mm] needle. I’ll begin by using the US4 [3.5mm] as per the yarn recommendations, then switch to the US3 [3.25mm] to see if there is much of a difference. I’m also looking forward to trying out the bold colors of Tea Rose and Petal.

Uptown Baby Sport is available in 27 different colors . . . Pink Pearl (light pink), Tea Rose (bold pink), Lily (creamy white), and Petal (bold coral) are my color choices for this week.

For my first swatch in Petal, I cast on 30 sts, with a US4 [3.5mm] needle, knit 4 garter stitch rows, then proceeded with a slipped stitch edge and 2 garter stitches at each side, and stocking stitch for the main field. My results were 23½ sts and 32 rows = 4”. There really wasn’t any difference after laundering.

Since the dress is knit with a feather and fan motif using a sock weight yarn, I decided to try the US3 [3.25mm] for the next swatch in stocking stitch. Then I’ll make another in pattern to measure that gauge.

For the second swatch in Tea Rose, I used the same stitch count and a US3 [3.25mm] needle, but knit 34 rows of stocking stitch. This swatch measured in at 24 sts and 34 rows = 4”. In both swatches, the row gauge is a little off the mark, but I’m not concerned as the pattern for the dress is not based on row gauge. Even though there wasn’t that much difference between the two swatches, I preferred knitting with the US3 [3.25mm] needle.

(L) 1st swatch in Petal yielded 24sts and 32 rows using a US4 [3.5mm] needle, and the (R) swatch in Tea Rose yielded 24sts and 34rows using a US3 [3.25mm] needle.

I’m very happy with the stitch definition of this yarn. Now I’ll move on to knitting swatches in the pattern motifs that I’ll be using for my project. As I mentioned yesterday, the skirt of the dress uses a Feather and Fan motif, but I’ll be using variations of this stitch pattern for several projects this week. I’ll begin by using the US3 [3.25mm] needle and the conventional version of the pattern which is an 18 st repeat. In order to accurately assess the gauge, I felt it was important to have 2 pattern repeats.

For the third swatch, I cast on 42 sts, worked 4 rows in garter stitch, and maintained the slip stitch and 2 garter stitches on each edge. My swatch measured in at 5”, which works out to approximately 28 sts = 4” and my row count was about 34 rows. That works out perfectly as the dress pattern gauge is 28 sts x 34 rnds = 4” in Feather and Fan pattern.

One of the variations I’ll be using is a 12 st pattern repeat instead of 18 sts, and a closed feather (or is it the fan), that I’ll go into detail on Day 4. For the fourth swatch, I cast on 30 sts with the US3 [3.25mm] needle and maintained the slip stitch and garter edges.  My results were 24 sts = 3½” and 38 rows = 4”, which means the stitch gauge works out to approximately 27 sts = 4”, so just a bit tighter than the open version. Since I’m not following a pattern gauge for this motif, this exercise was to determine what stitch count I needed for one of my projects.

The stitch definition comes through nicely with Uptown Baby Sport. I’m very pleased with the results.

(L) 3rd swatch in Petal yielded 28sts and 34 rows using a US3 [3.25mm] needle in Feather and Fan pattern, and the (R) 4th swatch in Tea Rose yielded 27sts and 38 rows using a US3 [3.25mm] needle and closed version of the pattern.

For my fifth swatch, I wanted to try out a herringbone pattern. Initially I thought about holding two strands together to knit a horizontal herringbone and wicker stitch. I must confess, the results were not what I was hoping for, so I switched gears and found this two-color version. I was so excited by it, that I got carried away with my swatch, and actually ended up creating one of my planned projects.

5th swatch in Petal and Lily yielded 29sts and 28 rows using a US4 [3.5mm] needle in a 2 color Herringbone pattern.

My planned project is a placemat for the Tea Party, but this was truly an exercise in what not to do. I love the results, but I should have used a larger needle size for the color work as my knitting was too tight to lay flat with the garter edge, even after hard blocking. I used a US2.5 [3.0mm] needle for the garter stitch and a US4 [3.5mm] for the color work. On Day 5, I’ll reveal the pattern details and the recommended needle sizes; in other words, do as I say and not as I do.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “memory” before when talking about different yarns. Wool has good memory, meaning it will go back into shape by laying flat to dry. Plant based or other animal fibers, do not have good memory which means you need to consistently block items back into shape after laundering. Acrylic yarn tends to have a lot of memory … like the elephant that never forgets. You can hard block it, but it will revert to its natural form. Never hang acrylic to dry; it will elongate with the weight, however, wash it again and tumble dry with the recommended settings, and it will be good as new. By the way, never steam block acrylic; it will ruin your project (spoken from experience). So, what does all of that mean … I should’ve swatched with a larger sized needle.

Tomorrow will be an exciting day when I start my Feather and Fan Tea Party projects beginning with a little dress befitting an Uptown Girl princess. I hope you’ll join me as I use Uptown Baby Sport in two shades of pink to transform a Playtime Dress into a Party Dress.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: Knitting with Uptown Baby Sport makes projects befitting an Uptown Girl

Go to part 3: Turning a knitted dress from Playtime into Party Time

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Lisa December 7, 2022 - 6:41 pm
I would love to make a sweater in that two color herringbone stitch. Is it slipped stitches or stranded colorwork? Can you share the stitch pattern? Thanks in advance!
Carla A. Canonico January 9, 2023 - 9:33 am
Hi Lisa, follow the link at the end of each post for the pattern.
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