Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Swatching a Storyboard

I've heard from lots of knitters who don't like swatching. I'm never really sure that I truly understand why. After all it's still knitting isn't it? I do get that everyone wants to jump into the project and how excited they are to start.

I think of my swatch as a story board. It allows me to test out stitches in a small scale. I can experiment  with the details. I can see how two stitches look side by side or test increases and decreases. I like to see how they work with a stitch pattern in advance of the project. I can add a little band and see if the stitch ratio for pickups is correct. It gives me a chance to understand the fiber I'm working with. Rayon and silks behave very differently than wools. Yarns can bloom after washing. I once made a tassel for a bag that surprised me when the strands untwisted all the way to the knot and the tassel became fluffy while the bag stayed smooth and firm.

As a teacher, I've learned from looking at students work, that their personal knitting style creates little variations in the finished product that impacts the final result. I get ladders in circular knitting when using double pointed needles. I want to know in advance that  the ladder will disappear when I block the project (the fix for me is to rotate the stitches around the needles if it doesn't block out). Some knitters have a huge gap in gauge between their knit and purl stitches The fix here can be to use two different needle sizes for stocking stitch). Some have a loose stitch on one side of their cables. Your swatch can tell you all of these things and many more that will allow you to improve the final project.

1 comment:

  1. I am a firm believer in swatches, but learned a very important and surprising thing recently. I had knit a great pullover for my son in a yarn that was 85% merino and 15% silk. Loved it! The drape and sheen of the fabric was lovely. So I decided to make myself something in the same yarn. I chose red for myself, and had used grey for my son. Since I was using the same needles and the same yarn, I did not swatch again. Well, it turns out that was a big mistake!
    I learned that the red dye is very harsh on yarn and the fabric is quite different in red. It looks better after blocking but this colour does not have the same sheen as the grey.
    Moral of the story....... ALWAYS knit a swatch and wash it!!!!! This the ONLY way to learn what the finished product will look like.