Monday, June 1, 2009

The Secret Of The Swatch


A swatch is a great thing.

I know most of us hate knitting swatches, but honestly, they really are quite amazing. They tell you so much about a yarn without you having to find out the hard way! And, I can tell you, over the years I've had my fair share of knitting disasters. For the most part, these happen because we don't swatch (or we don't wash the swatch after we've made it!)

The only way you really get to understand how a yarn knits up is by working a swatch. It's really quite incredible. For all the finger walking we do with yarn, caressing it's softness in the store and giving it a tentative touch every so often once we've got it home (just to stay connected, you understand), we really don't know how it will feel until it's worked. This is where the swatch comes into its own. For better or worse, that small square of knitted fabric can feel totally different to the skein we've loved from afar.

A swatch is also a memento, particularly if you give away a lot of projects, not to mention a 'living' reference card. You can work different needle sizes, different patterns and different colours all into one swatch. If a sweater comes unravelled or develops a hole sometime down the road, you also have matching yarn on hand to make a repair with instantly. To be honest, a swatch is a work of art all by itself.

The funny thing is that I've only just realised this myself. Normally I HATE swatching. When I start a new project, I'm always so excited about it that I can't wait to get going. Everything else in my life comes to a grinding halt as I eagerly cast on and get going. Slowing down long enough to knit the perfect swatch always seems just a tad too restrictive for me. Until recently that is.....................................

It all started last weekend when I took DD2 to the LYS to select some yarn in an effort to stop her coveting the Harmony by Jojoland. I sat down at the work table to avoid the temptation all around me, only to be confronted by a wonderful ribbed lace top pattern in July's edition of "Creative Knitting." A top-down construction by Kristin Omdahl, it looked like a simple knit that would be a wonderful summer addition to my wardrobe.

I left the building.

Last week I went back. It was just the pattern after all, not yarn, and being a classic it could just sit in my pattern file until I needed it. "Let's face it, my knitting queue is so long that I'll be a classic by the time I get round to making it," I thought to myself. "One little pattern won't do any harm."

I thought about the pattern for the rest of the week. It hovered there at the back of my mind, drifting to the front whenever I got fed up with my other projects. Two rounds on my forgotten wooly purse project while I waited to pick up the girls from school led to thoughts of cool cotton tencel. Then it hit me!

I HAD PIMA SILK IN MY STASH!!

When I got home, I tore the house apart looking for the delectable cotton/silk combination that I'd bought for half price in the middle of winter. There was probably enough for a cotton classic....... but I didn't need to actually knit the top. I am bound to the lace bathroom curtain right now after all and really don't need a distraction. But...........................................I could just swatch.

Yes, dear readers, guess what I did on Saturday? No, not 25 rows on the lace curtain resulting in a half finished product. I did that other hateful thing, I swatched.....................and I loved every glorious, unadulterated moment of it! You see, the secret to swatching is to do it when it's forbidden; when you're supposed to be working on something else. Suddenly a swatch becomes the best thing since superwash merino. The delicious feeling of doing something ever so slightly 'naughty' makes swatching a breeze. I may just have to swatch a few more projects while I'm knitting that curtain this summer.

Anyone want an afghan?


3 comments:

Rudee said...

I'm going to have to swatch some of my hand spun now. It's been calling me. Between spinning and knitting the endless shawl, I've been trying to ignore the gorgeous colors. Maybe I can just swatch a hat. Maybe I could just knit the hat and call it a swatch. Hah. It's hand spun-there is no more where that came from.

Kimmie said...

I wish I had swatched with my most recent project. I wouldn't have had to frog half the thing knowing my YO's weren't right.

Are you going to make the top down darling top? It's really really cute!

Jane said...

Hey Rudee, Elizabeth Zimmermann used to make swatch hats. Sounds like a good excuse to me!

Kimmie - It is a cute top, isn't it.

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