I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a concept through swatching, to realize that it does not fit the schematics that I initally wanted it to fit. This takes me to a crossroads of either changing my design completely, or working it out through my grading. I would WAY rather work out what I actually want it to look like than have to change my whole design.
I have found through my years of design that I can make a much better pattern, and make things a lot easier on me, if I grade my patterns right away. Some designers calculate their sample size, make their sample, and then grade their pattern to include their other sizes. This works really well for some people, but I’m going to let you know why it doesn’t work for me.
There are a lot of complications that can arise in grading a pattern. You need to make sure that repeats will fit properly into each size, that texture functions the way it should, the decreases and shaping fit properly, and more. Typically, when I take a pattern out of concept and swatching, and begin calculating, I find that the repeat or texture will not fit perfectly within the CYC’s standard size charts. I then have to manipulate my original concept quite a bit to make sure that every pattern size is going to both fit well, and also represent my sample piece accurately. I need to make sure that every size looks the same, putting sizing differences in spacing where I want it.
You can definitely do this after knitting one size, but I find that to make all my sizes uniform in appearance, I tend to change all the sizes in areas of the garment. I never want to make a sample, and then find that it doesn’t precisely represent the actual pattern. What works for manipulating the repeat in one size, probably won't work for all sizes. I like to be able to look at every size, put in all my calculations, and manipulate every size at the same time to determine what is going to be my best option making every size look the same across the board.
So at the end of the day, it really is preference, but it is always my goal to make sure that my patterns are “what you see is what you really get”.