How to make a tension swatch on a knitting machine for use with or without a knitleader:    (Ann Huppert – GrammaAnn)

*knitleader instructions below

  • Decide what tension you want to make your garment in by doing an experiment with your garment chosen yarn. Cast on approx. 30 – 60 needles (depending on your gauge of machine) and knit several rows in several different tensions to see which one you prefer. Record which tension you prefer. Remove this knitting.
  • Cut 4 – 6 ten inch pieces of contrasting yarn
  • (Bulky instructions are in parentheses.) ((Mid Gauge (6.5) in double parentheses))
  • Cast on 60 stitches (30) ((42)) in garment yarn in your chosen tension
  • Knit 20 rows (10) ((10))
  • With a contrasting yarn (similar size), knit two rows
  • Knit 60 total rows for standard gauge
  • (Knit 30 total rows for bulky gauge) (( 40 total rows for a mid gauge))
  • Mark the stitches in several places as follows for the standard:
    • Knit 15 rows
    • Push the 21st (11th) ((16th)) needle on the left and right of 0 out until the stitch goes behind the latch
    • With a contrasting yarn piece, manually knit through those 2 stitches
    • Knit 15 rows
    • Mark with contrasting yarn
    • Knit 15 rows
    • Mark
    • Knit 15 rows
    • Mark 2 – 3 times at intervals for the bulky and mid gauge
  • Knit two more rows of contrasting yarn
  • Knit another 20 (10) ((10)) rows in the garment yarn.
  • Change to waste yarn and knit a few rows. Or bind off.
  • Pull your tension swatch lengthwise and diagonally. Let it rest and wash as garment will be washed if desired.

Using a tension measure ruler to figure stitches and rows without a knit leader: * Instructions for using the knit leader below

  • Use green ruler for standard, blue ruler for bulky, yellow for midgauge – available from
  • Measure stitches per inch first. Do not stretch swatch as you measure. Place the S side of the ruler on the inner edge of the left marker stitch. Read the number on the ruler that is over the inner edge of the right marker stitch. Do not measure the marker stitches but inside of them. Record that number.
  • Figure rows per inch: Place the R side of the scale between the two contrasting rows at each end. Place one on the inside of the V and the other end at the point of a V – making sure you stay on the same row of stitches. Record that number. Always round up or down to the nearest quarter.
  • Then divide each of your 2 numbers you recorded by 4. This number gives you your stitches per inch and your rows per inch.
  • Then decide how many inches wide you want to make each piece of your garment and take that times the number you came up with. Example: say you got 7 stitches per inch from your ruler measurement – and you want a back piece that is 20 inches wide – you take 20 X 7 = 140 – so you cast on 140 needles for that piece. Say you got 10 rows per inch and you want that garment piece to be 30 inches long. You take 10 X 30 and you knit 300 rows to get the piece as long as you need.
  • * If you want to use the knit leader, you do not measure the swatch with the colored ruler, but a centimeter ruler and then follow the instructions in the knit leader instruction booklet to set the rows with the buttons on the knit leader and stitches with the stitch measure scales
  • Bulky machine – has a row counter lever and the tripper lever on the carriage – make sure they are both down because they both need to trip the knitleader so it goes down twice with each pass of the carriage. Use stitch measure scales with the white numbers on the ends for the bulky machine.
  • Standard machine – has one lever that reaches the knit leader. The sheet goes down just the once with each pass of the carriage because the row counter does not trip the knitleader – only the knitleader tripper. Use the stitch measure scales with the black numbers on the end for the standard machine.
  • Knit leader – on feeding lever connected to the front of the knitleader there are 2 holes. The left side one is for normal knitting on both the bulky and standard machine. The right hand hole is for when a fine gauge machine is used or when the swatch measures less than 6 cm.


To Make a Tension Swatch on Every Other Needle on a Standard Gauge Machine:

  • Pull out every other needle 60 L X 61 R (every other needle out of work)
  • Knit swatch as above, but marking with contrasting yarn at needles 42L and 41R on the 3 spots (this gives you 40 stitches to measure in between the 2 marked stitches)

You may copy, print and use any of the info on my blog. Please do not copy and repost anywhere on the internet without contacting me to get my permission. Thank you, Ann

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