saturday swatch project

Over the years I’ve found I’ve become habitual in the stitch patterns and yarns I choose to work with. There’s nothing wrong with that but I miss the experience of being surprised by the unexpected. Yes, I swatch, but only when I’m looking to meet a particular gauge. To play with yarn, colour, texture, fabric without a project in mind is something I always say I’ll do but rarely seem to take the time to do so.

2014-05-16-anzula-swatchesThis year, I decided to go through the sample skeins I’ve acquired over the years and work through my stitch dictionaries and try pairings of yarns, needle size, and stitch I wouldn’t always think play well together. I’m aiming for one a week, posting to Instagram on Saturday nights. This month, I’ve been working through my Anuzla mini-skeins, they are approximately 10 yards each.

So far I’ve worked through Haiku (70% Superwash Merino, 20% Bamboo, 10% Nylon, +/-400 yd / 365 m, 7.5 sts / in US #2), Croquet (50% Superwash Merino, 50% Tussah Silk, +/- 230 yd / 210 m, 4.75-5.75 sts / in US #4-7), and Meridian (55% Tencel, 35% Alpaca, 10% Nylon, +/- 812 yd / 742m, Lace Weight).

At the moment I’m interested in fabrics that are either reversible or created with small stitch or and repeat requirements. These swatches reflect that. Haiku is knit in Rib & Welt Diagnoals, which is fully reversible. Croquet is Rosette Stitch, which creates a firm fabric over even stitches and 4 rows. The Meridian found me playing with different needle combinations and as initially designed only requires 2 rows for the repeat over an even number of stitches.

I have many more yarns from different companies, bases, and dyers to swatch and many more stitches to play with. The current plan to knit, weave, and crochet as the mood strikes me. I can repeat stitches, yarns, needles, anything. Maybe I’ll combine weights, maybe I’ll combine handspun with millspun, maybe there will be hybrid projects with fabric that is woven, crocheted, and/or knitted. The swatches don’t need to be square or rectangular. Really, the only rule is that I need to make a good faith effort to create a new swatch each week.

sample mini skeins

sample swatches

I finished the swatch project for Happy Fuzzy Yarn and my handspun, knit, crochet, and woven samples were displayed in the booth at the summer show for TNNA, The National Needle Arts Association this past weekend.

Handspun, Knit, Crochet, Woven samples

Fibres and colourways shown are:
100% BFL in Hemoglobin, 100% Falkland in Crete, 100% Polwarth in Sunset, 100% Merino in Hearth, 75% BFL/25% Silk in Kelp, 100% Bombyx silk in Death & Taxes, 50% Merino/50% Tencel in Cobalt, and 50% Merino/50% Yak in Azores.

progress and kittens

The swatching I mentioned last week is progressing. I need to make further modifications to the chart, but I’m pleased with how it’s shaping up. I can’t wait to draft the pattern and knit up the full design!

2014-06-27-swatching-B 2014-06-27-swatching-C

The foster kittens continue to be adorable and grow.

2014-06-27-kittenpile

How is summer treating you? What are you knitting?

summer swatching

A few weeks ago I attended an industry trade show, TNNA. I returned home (well, eventually) with many new yarn samples to try and a few skeins to work new designs with. It’s very exciting and I look forward to working more with all of the yarns.

TNNA-Swatches-20130704

The question I receive most often is “Do you swatch?”. The answer is “It depends.”

Honest, it depends upon what I’m knitting or crocheting.

I need to know if gauge is critical to the project.

If it doesn’t matter, for instance if I’m knitting a lace shawl, I rarely bother to swatch and just tend to grab needles based on the yarn weight and desired fabric. This grab-and-go mentality comes with experience.

If gauge matters, for instance in a sweater, than I try to knit something useful. If I’m knitting a sweater, then I try to knit a sleeve as the swatch. It’s still painful to rip back, but if I like the fabric then I’m already a sleeve ahead.

If it’s a brand-new-to-me yarn I tend to knit a cowl out of it to see how it behaves with certain needle/hook sizes and stitch patterns. However, the samples shown here are all tiny skeins, most only a handful of yards each. These are all following the same general pattern of garter stitch, stockinette, a small cable, and some lace. This gives me an idea how how the yarn will behave in different circumstances. In general, when I’m finish swatching, I photocopy the swatch and paste it into my knitting notebook (i used to stitch the actual swatch into the notebook. it was nice to have them, but it made the notebook very bulky). Then they get tossed (with ID tags) into a plastic storage bin.

You can see photos of a few of my swatches in this flickr set. I’m trying to do better at remembering to photograph them and list them as swatches!

Here are a few additional resources on swatching I pulled together:

Pictured: Happy Fuzzy Yarn · Anzula luxury fibers · Baah Yarn · Red Barn Yarn