This was supposed to be one super-long post, but last week's germs are making a return visit (or some new damn germ has moved in), so we're gonna take this slowly.
That means, more time for you guys who hope to join in later, to get joining!
So, the swatch. I don't always knit a swatch. Particularly not in a case where I'm using yarns I've used before. It's not unheard of for me to measure gauge off a sweater I've worn for a year, or even measure gauge off a sweater I gave to someone else as a gift. ("Hey, you know that sweater I gave you last Christmas? Can I see it a minute?") Just be absolutely sure you're using the same needles and the same exact yarn. And don't measure the gauge in a place that stretches a lot, like across the shoulders or elbows. Chest or belly area is best for measuring gauge in old garments.
For this knit along, I'm going to assume it's a yarn you've never met before and cover the gory details. Adjust to your own situation as you will.
The good news about the EPS is, we don't need to match our gauge to anything. Whatever we get in our little swatch, we get, and that's it, and no re-doing on smaller needles or re-working the pattern or any of that shit. If it's 6.29 stitches per inch, that's what you deal with. (Bust out a calculator if you've gotta.) The sort of bad news is, for the EPS to work properly, you REALLY need for the gauge to be accurate. EVERYTHING is figured from stitches per inch (or centimeter), so if it's off, you're doomed.
Remember the 'you're doomed' bit, when I'm getting really crazy on the measurement. I may bust out the calipers, just on principle. It really does matter.
But first, we've gotta knit the damn thing, right?
So, get out a ball/swatch/skein/hunk of your yarn and take a good look at the label. Here's mine.
One way to knit a swatch in the round is to knit it like a sock and cut it open. Or, you can do it like I do. Knit across the row. When you're finished, cut the yarn, scootch the stitches back to the right, join the yarn in and knit across the row again with the right side facing. You wind up with something like this:
KNIT UNTIL THE SWATCH IS SQUARE. Fold it diagonally on itself. When the corners touch and the sides line up, you've got a square and can quit knitting. Put the yarn tail on a sewing needle and run it through the stitches on your knitting needle to keep it from unraveling. Remove the cast on, put the stitches on a string, and you're done. THAT IS IT. By putting the stitches on a holding string, you allow them to move around, giving a more accurate gauge measurement. Don't do anything else. Don't wash it, don't mess with it. Admire it from afar. We'll talk about this, tomorrow. When my head is hopefully empty of snot.
Well, really, there shouldn't be any at this point. You can use different needles if you want. I'll be knitting mine on sixes because I like the fabric that it creates better. You can do this in seed stitch, or ribbing, or who knows what. Just knit the swatch as-is. I suggest we all follow along in stockinette, but you'll get the gist and figure out how to variate to your heart's desire.
Oh, and I just got done knitting a purple sweater for the Goob in this very yarn, so while my sweater is going to be teal, I'm using the swatches I did for the other. So there will be some purple and teal confusion in these first posts.