Swatch Thoughts: Focused vs Sampler

Pile of swatches
a messy pile of swatches

There are as many ways to swatch as there are to create. Two of the most common methods are sampler and single swatches. A sampler can combine multiple techniques, materials, or tools in one. A single swatch, by contrast, decides on the variables and keeps them consistent throughout. Is one swatch better than the other? It depends on why the swatch was created, what is the question it answers?

Note: if you click the images in this post, they will open at full size.

Single focused swatches

For gauge swatches, I like to create a single focused swatch so I can evaluate it without changes that can alter stitch counts. I often create multiple single swatches, each with a single variable changed each time — yarn, tool (material or size), stitch, method to start/finish.

Four Tunsian crochet swatches on a plain background.
swatches that focus on (mostly) a single change

This example shows four Tunisian crochet swatches. They started to help me practice my general technique, and that meant both creating the starting chain and finishing off.

I’ll confess these aren’t swatches that only changed a single variable, but they come close. All are made in the same yarn, a 100% grey cotton. Half are worked with one hook (4mm) and half worked with a second (6.5mm). I’ve worked a Tunisian knit stitch with each size hook. Then I practiced the Tunisian purl stitch with one hook, followed by a simple pattern [Tks, tps] for the other.

Sampler swatches

When I swatch for fun (aka fundamentals), I most often end up creating sampler swatches. It isn’t always my intent when I start, but I tend to ask “what if” as I’m working and just start fiddling and making changes.

I have three different examples of how these swatches can look. These are the types I most often make because “what if” is my favorite question.

Technique Sampler

Tunisian crochet sampler swatches, different shaping techniques worked in the same yarn.
Technique sampler for shaping

For the first I was practicing shaping in Tunisian crochet. For the right-most swatch I simply decreased and increased on the right edge of the fabric and kept the left edge straight… until the end when I got excited and wanted to try out an idea. The swatch on the left came next and shows different techniques on both edges.

Stitch Sampler

Tunisian crochet sampler swatch, two stitches worked with the same yarn
Stitch sampler

This next swatch shows one yarn, in this case a silk mohair worked up in two different stitches. This happens most often when I’m swatching for a design in a specific yarn.

There are a few instances where I would use this as a gauge swatch, it would allow measurement of differences between elements (stitches), sometimes a significant element in a design. Working with this example, let’s pretend it’s a swatch for a piece worked primarily in the Tunisian simple stitch (Tss) that ends with a lace border. I’d also likely work up a swatch like this one, one that would change the hook size between the Tss and the lace. Sometimes sampler swatches can also be focused single swatches.

Yarn Sampler

Tunisian crochet sampler swatch, same stitch pattern worked in 3 different yarn variations
Yarn sampler

The third swatch is a different kind of sampler, where the material changes but the stitch is consistent. I wanted to know what type of fabric would result if I worked a silk mohair held together with different options 1) with a light-sport weight merino-cashmere blend, 2) with a second strand of the silk mohair, and 3) for reference the same stitch worked with a single strand of the silk mohair. I wanted to feel the differences and working it all as one swatch made that easiest.

Final Thoughts

How you choose to swatch is up to you. My hope is that this post shares useful ideas and inspiration for your swatches.

Please note that no swatches photographed in this post were blocked, they’re SOTH (“straight off the hook“, see SOOC for details. As a word it is from Old Saxon and means true, real).

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