Tips & Tricks: Swatching
May 14, 2010
Where to begin to explain how important and helpful swatching is? Where to begin? Hmmm..
Ok, when I was in 5th grade my class was given a special test. We were not told beforehand if it would affect our grade or really why we were given the test. We were just given the standard pre-test pep talk "read the instructions and begin". And we did. Heads down, we were hard at work. There were about 30 questions and they were all surprisingly simple: How many equal sides does a square have, Red and Blue make what color, etc. There were some that required a little thought but for the most part, easy. I was at questions #18 before I really looked up and took stock. Some of my classmates were just sitting there, done and waiting. I was shocked. I was totally rocking this test and I wasn't even close to done. Surely, something was amiss. And there was me like most of my class, who had not listened and not read the instructions on the top of the test: Put your name at the top and wait for further instructions from the teacher. I had just skipped the instructions and failed the test.
Luckily this test was to remind us to read instructions because obviously the teacher was on to us and we needed the lesson. Swatching is like reading the instructions. If you don't do it you will miss something and with projects such as sweaters, shawls, and other heavily involved patterns that can mean unflattering fits, sizing issues and realizing you don't understand the stitch pattern until it is too late. When you have hours and many balls of yarn involved you will really wish you had taken that extra 30-60 min (at most) to knit a swatch.
For example, I recently cast-on to swatch for a sweater I am interested in. The swatch gauge states that with a size 8 needle 18 stitches and 20 rows should be 4 in. by 4 in. So I cast on 18 stitches and planned to knit 20 rows so see where I am. - I must inform you that for 96.25% of my projects I do not need to adjust my needle size--20 rows later I measured and found that I was way off, 1 in. off. I was shocked and relieved. Had I not knit my swatch and just started my sweater, I would have ended up with a sweater a toddler or other wee person would wear much more than me. I also discovered that the stitch pattern is poorly written and I needed to examine the picture as well as re-read the pattern before I got it and was able to knit my swatch. I cast-on for the swatch twice before I could get past row 1. I was frustrated but not as frustrated as I would have been had I needed to cast-on twice for 100 stitches instead of 18. You probably would have heard me through your computer and, of course, wine follows choice words.
I hope this serves as a warning and a comfort to you. As anxious as you are to start that project do not taint that joy with frustration and failure. Think of your swatch as a peek at how unbelievable your fiber and color will look knitted up. Then when you are on row 100,000 out of 200,000 you can remember how gorgeous your swatch was and find the will to chug through.
· As of this printing, I know of no pattern with 200,000 stitches, so fear not! But then again I have never bothered to count.
Swatch shown in Lion Brand Cotton Ease in Lime
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