Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fearless Knitters Swatch

First off, let me tell you I am not a totally fearless knitter.  But honestly, I'm not afraid of knitting in any of its many guises.  A road trip with all of my children at the same time?  Dread fills me.  But knitting is no biggie.  Not because I'm so good at it, I'm only pretty good; but because I've learned to swatch everything!
some of the swatches in my knitting basket

Swatching is the "scratch paper" of knitting.  It's the doodle pad.  It's the place you can screw up with abandon, precisely because you can abandon it!  Everyone will look at your finished object or garment, and never ask to see your swatch.  It's how I start every pattern I've ever designed.  It's also how I test out every cable combination, and confirm gauge.  Testing color combos next to each other while still in the skein is okay, but you'll never be sure until you swatch.  Little differences in the finishes on yarns, or nearly imperceptible diameter differences may look great, but they may knit up horribly.  Enter the swatch to the rescue!

Stranded colorwork with the occasional 3 color row
This comes to mind because the teaching season has started again, and I have begun my teaching swatches.  (OK, I started the swatches before the sling.)  This first round of swatching is for Introduction To Colorwork, and it starts easy.  First, two colors held together.  Then we stripe.  Then it will be slip stitch.  Then intarsia.  Then stranded.  Then Fair Isle.  During my class, my students knit a swatch just like mine.  They're always amazed that they can do 6 different types of colorwork inside of 3 hours, when they were sure they couldn't do any!  Why can they perform this magical feat?  No performance anxiety!  No one will ever see it but them.

One more thing swatching is terrific for is curing some start-itis.  If you're dying to start something fabulous, but don't want to sink a fortune into new yarn and patterns, grab some leftover yarn and swatch a new or rusty skill.  You can find a variety of patterns and tutorials on the internet if you're a new knitter, and don't have any instructions for a new skill at home.  Try,, and YouTube for patterns, directions, and ideas.  Do it now!

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