Whisper the word swatch in a yarn shop and I bet most who hear it will either shudder or groan. Sometimes I grumble with everyone else; while swatching isn’t yet my favorite part of every project, as I work through year two of my saturday swatch project, I’ve learned to love to swatch for fun and fundamentals.
What? There is more than one type of swatch? I believe yes. There are gauge swatches which are familiar as the bane of many a project as one works to meet stitch and row count. The second type of swatch is my focus today. They are those that I work up to learn the fundamentals of a stitch or a yarn. While my cat Buddy likes to nap through all swatches, they can be fun!
These swatches often cause many frustration among knitters and crocheters. With the desire to get started on the project already they are often rushed, ignored, or even skipped. This often can lead to disastrous consequences. I’m not discussing these swatches today.
I have a crochet pattern that’s readying itself for publication, in beautiful Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. I’ll explain my swatching for gauge philosophy when I introduce the pattern to you. Unable to wait? Here’s a preview. In this particular case, I needed to make a new swatch (the first one went on walkabout before being double checked for gauge and has yet to return). I hope to release this pattern in early May.
It’s the swatching for fundamentals swatches that I’ve primarily focused on for the past 15 months. What are they? As I’ve hinted, they are fun. They cover all the basic things I need to understand about how a yarn behaves. Does the yarn work best at this gauge and with this type of needle or hook, or do I want bamboo over steel? They let me explore colour in small amounts from how a speckle may obscure a stitch to how it plays off another colour.
These swatches are not necessarily large. They let me work through making the stitches, can I make the pattern it without messing up count? Sometimes these are quite narrow, merely 2in (5cm) wide, and their primary purpose is for me to practice making the stitch pattern correctly. I often work this in completely different yarn than the design requires.
While some of my swatches become samples or even designs, most of my swatches are what I like to think of as fiber doodles. I’m playing. I am seeing what new ways I can experiment with the yarn to do something different. Not all of these experiments work out. They are part of the learning processes for creativity, fundamental swatches have never failed me.
Try this at home!
I hope I’ve enticed you to try swatching for reasons beyond a specific project. Swatching can be fun!