The fingers took their tranquilizer and I calmly, determinedly and hopefully knit a swatch. I am a fan of big swatches. Often, knitters read the gauge on the ball band and cast on just that number of stitches. But that means you are trying to measure/count curling edge stitches. Not an easy nor accurate thing to do.
My preference is to make a larger gauge swatch. Use garter edges to prevent curling and measure off the 4 inches in the centre of the flat-lying portion of the swatch.
My prescribe gauge was 23 stitches. Using two strands of the very, fine, brown tweed held together with one stand of the cream-coloured, mixed-fibre yarn, I cast on 36 stitches. Pre-blocking, the gauge was 22. Close enough I thought. But I had a suspicion that this fabric might stretch after blocking - and it did. Post washing it measured, laid flat, 21, but shaken and fluffed, 20 stitches over 4 inches. Hmmm. I settled on 20.5 as my achieved gauge.
What to do. Should I re-do the swatch using a finer needle? Well, I could have. But I liked the fabric I had produced with my 4 mm needles, so decided to stick with what I had. It does mean however, that I must use my by-now, famous-I'm-sure, gauge-changing formula. My gauge divided by pattern gauge to achieve a factor by which I multiply all stitch counts in the pattern as I come to them.
The observant of you will be asking - What is that bra-like cup at the top of the swatch. Well, not only can a swatch give you gauge, but also, it gives you the opportunity to practice unfamiliar techniques. What you are looking at is my first ever go-round of German short rows. The designer uses them, in this pattern, to create the shoulder slope. This being a top-down design, that slope happens shortly after cast on, in a highly visible location on either side of the neck. I thought it a good idea to try out those new-to-me short rows before starting the sweater. Even here, my first go-round, I think those German Short Rows look darn good. None of the bulk and sometimes little hole that a traditional wrap and turn can produce.
So - prep work done. Off to start the real thing.