Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Swatch Journey

Swatches have such a strange reputation!  Some people look at them as a necessary evil, others a waste of time, and still others love them and see them as a resource.

Cascade 220 sampler afghan.  Pattern available.

My experiences with swatches have included all of the above.  And then I took a journey.  I had come back knitting after a hiatus of several years, and had knit quite a few projects.  I was worried, though, because I would read a pattern and not be able to remember how to do certain techniques I used to zip through with ease 20 years ago.  I very quickly felt boxed in with what I was able to do, and phobic that I might get into a project only to discover I didn't know how to finish it.  So I decided to swatch every skill I had any interest in or possible future need for.

It was just a notion until I saw a sampler afghan that a friend had crocheted.  Aha!  A possible use for all these swatches beyond a simple learning project!  Shortly after that I was off to the races.  I started simple with relearning stripes.  One swatch down.  Then intarsia blocks.  I probably worked and ripped two swatches for every one I finished in the beginning.  (My daughter ripped out a finished one early on because she had seen Mommy do it.  I cried.)  I was sure I was doomed.

I was also crazy busy during the day with work and four kids and a very sick mother in law, and a bunch of other madness.  When I wanted to knit, I only had a couple of minutes to maybe an hour.  I couldn't start a new project or take a class, so I kept cranking out swatches.  Cables...  Basketweaves...  Bobbles were nearly the end of me and my knitting career. 

Life settled down, and I had 19 swatches.  I realized I really had a shot at finishing this sampler afghan after all.  And as decided to repeat some of the blocks I was amazed at how much easier they were the second and then the third time.  The blanket ended up being 36 blocks large, and although I can tell which blocks were early swatches and which I did at the end, it looks pretty good, even now, 5 years later.  I'm grateful to my swatch journey for reinforcing (and sometimes inventing) my knitting skills.  And I'm very grateful when I see my kids cozied up under the finished afghan.  I made that!  I learned so much. Swatches and I are friends now.

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