What's all the Fuss?

What's all the fuss about?(image imported from www.herbalmusings.com)
A. An enjoyable prelude to a knitting project
B. A prelude to a knitting project
C. A necessity
D. A necessary evil
E.  Evil
F. Avoid it at all costs!!!!

Now, inquiring minds want to know, which did you pick?

I used to think of swatches as a PITA,  and a postponement of the fun and delicious beginning of my project. Many times, as my stack of ill fitting sweaters will prove, I skipped swatching all together.
Often pattern designers will warn you in the gauge info area, "Take time to save time, SWATCH!" I am suggesting you might consider taking heed of this advice.

Long sleeve Lush Hoodie with zipper.
This red hoodie was one of the first few sweaters I made. It came out shorter and wider than I had intended. The yarn is acrylic, and I don't wear it often. Even though I made it within the past four years, it looks like a relic from the 80's. On a positive note, I am proud of the zipper and how well it looks, given I had only ever put a zipper into a fabric construction.

The typical method of swatching is this:
Based upon the pattern you have chosen, use the needles and weight of yarn as listed.  You take that yarn and those needles, and cast on and knit a 6 inch square. Then you get it wet, stretch it gently, wait what seems like forever until it is dry. Now you measure a four inch square area and tediously count how many stitches and rows per inch. If the results match what your pattern requires, you are good to go. If the numbers don't match up, well this is where I get stuck, but a smart knitter makes adjustments, and later, after all of the long hours of knitting, their sweater fits. I mean really fits, with no clothespins in the back, pulling it in....

If you want some entertaining reading and more convincing that swatching IS your friend, go here to Knitty, Fall 2006. This article, by Julie Theaker summarizes the reasons good knitters DO swatch. Or follow the link provided by my friend Evelyn of the blog, Project Stash. One thing to point out if you go to the link, note how they suggest a permanent method of recording the size needles used in making the swatch. Innovative and simple.

Yarn Tasting Swatches...

While on the Red Line Yarn Crawl a few weeks back I sat down at the table of a dozen or so yarns offered by the Windsor Button for yarn tasting. I swatched with three different yarns; they are all of a weight that will make for nice warm weather tops. Here they are...
Berroco Lago, viscose and linen
Berroco Captiva, cotton, polyester, nylon
Filatura di Crosa Cristallo, cotton, acrylic, polyester
I need to peruse the stacks of Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits to match one of these fibers up to a pattern, but first, I really must stash dive to see what skeins I already have that will work for Spring Summer.

I have noticed a few bloggers mentioning the swoon effects of a new delivery of yarn to sample. Imagine? They grab needles, a cuppa something soothing, (yes, whiskey can fall into this category) and away they sail to test out what hijinks they can coax the fiber to do. Then, as they are lulled by the effects of the rhythmic clicking and sliding of wooly goodness, design ideas catapult into the abode of said designer and  the rest is history.

Ok, ok, I admit it might be exaggeration, but I actually did some willing swatching this week. Yes, I said willing. No, there was no pattern into which (as I was praying with each stitch) I needed to make gauge or return to pattern trolling. Yes, seriously, I willingly and enthusiastically swatched. Here is what it looks like. 

Malabrigo Gruesa, Purple Mystery colorway
As I knit on this swatch, an image from one of my books popped into my head. I never really coveted this particular garment, but the looks of this yarn in a swatch compelled to me give it a go.  This is where my swatching led me.
Back section of Montague Vest from New England Knits.

Stash Diving for Sweater Ideas....

I have to admit the guilt I feel over these skeins (this is but the tip of the stash iceberg). I have accrued a number of batches of sweater quantity yarn, thanks mostly to ebay and Stitch House. Now I am thinking of knitting a good sized square to peg on the bulletin board over my work space,  that way I can muse as I knit. What kinds of garments do these lots of color want to become?


fig said…
Great post! I definitely pick "c" and sometimes "d." Thanks for the tips and info!
FoFo said…
Lovely yarn and projects. I have learned the virtues of swatching. I swatched for my newest project and I am glad I did. I had to go down 2 needle sizes!

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