New Knitterly Heights

…otherwise known as Swatching.

I’ve never really swatched much. I know they tell you to, and I’ll usually do enough so that I can ensure I have the right stitch gauge (but not row gauge) and then I rip that back and start. I don’t keep them. Or I’ll just jump right in and hope for the best! I’m like that. Plunge right in and hope it works out okay.

Fortunately for me, I’ve never really knitted anything where gauge really mattered all that much. Little kid stuff is the most complicated to date, and to be honest nothing fits little kids well as we keep shoving them in clothes that are either too big or too small, so gauge was not something I worried about. Too small? Next kid can wear it! Too big? He’ll grow into it! Fantastic.

The thing is now I’m contemplating making clothing for ME.. and both too small and too big really aren’t options here. I would like it to fit when I’m finished. So suddenly swatching matters.

The thing is, as I’m swatching for the Central Park Hoodie, I’ve simultaneously discovered another reason to swatch, with which I’m actually quite enamored. It all has to do with yarn.

My sad tale is that I am afraid of wool. I’m “allergic” to it, although I’m learning that it’s not as simple as that. Some things bother me but other things don’t. The trick is finding out what works. So since I’m wary of this project to begin with, seeing as I’ll likely need to size up somehow, I didn’t want to spend a boatload on yarn. I found a yarn in a pretty purple at WEBS (a fabulous online yarn store) that was described as “soft” even though it was wool. And it was super cheap. So I bought it. And now that I have it, it’s itchy. Uh oh.

I decided to go ahead and swatch it. Maybe it’ll soften up on washing? At the same time, I picked up something called Summer Tweed that was silk/cotton and decided to swatch that too. No wool!

And in completing these two swatches, which look and feel utterly and completely different, I realized that whenever one is making clothing, it is in my best interest to “try out” a few different yarns. Buy one skein of a few different things, swatch them, keep a record of the needle size and gauge, and then when I want to make something, pull out my swatches, perhaps swatch one or two other things, and make a decision without buying 20 skeins of something unseen off the web. Even seeing things in person at a yarn store, as if I ever have time to browse through yarn stores any more, is not the same thing as seeing a swatch.

Suddenly I heart swatches. A lot.

One might wonder what one does with a shitload of swatches. Well like I said above I would keep most of them just as swatches. But there are other uses I’ve thought of as well. Wool swatches could be sewn into wristbands and worn so I can figure out whether or not they’ll truly be itchy. Cotton blends could be used as washclothes. Swatches could be sewn up into a blanket. For that matter the kid can play with them. All and all, suddenly, swatches seem like FUN! Imagine all the designs I could play with just by swatching on one ball of yarn. So much cheaper and easier to decide if you like something or how to design something when starting off in miniature. For example I just got two lace books and I will probably make washcloth-size swatches with one lone ball of Kidsilk Haze to not only see how it all works, but to use for future measurements in making lace scarves. It’s all just incredibly brilliant. I can’t believe I never did this before!

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