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 Swatch Mitts and The Swatcher's Manifesto

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Clara Posted - 12/15/2010 : 7:34:59 PM
In my eternal quest to make happy swatchers out of each of you, this week I have released my Swatcher's Manifesto. Please, do tell - what's your relationship to swatching?

And for those who just hate the idea of treading water when they want to MAKE something, I offer a pattern that gives you the full swatching experience - either flat or in the round, depending on what you need - AND you end up with a very cute, simple pair of fingerless mitts. They're called the Swatch Mitts (that's a Ravelry link - if you're not on Ravelry, you can also get the pattern directly.

Have fun, and happy swatching!

Your friendly Knitter's Review publisher
20   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
mjhealy Posted - 02/17/2014 : 4:28:57 PM
My swatching is reserved for garments. That being said, this strategy doesn't always pan out. There's this bird hat (New Beginnings 2012) that is almost done. I'll be looking for to gift it to someone with a very large head like my brother in law. Not sure that a blue and white Nuthatch themed hat is for him though...
emmyc Posted - 02/16/2014 : 07:51:58 AM
I have definitely switched to the swatch side after knitting at least 2 sweaters that didn't fit and a pair of fingerless mitts that would fit on the jolly green giant!

The manifesto was really fun to read.

thanks Clara!

winchester ma
Janettoo Posted - 02/15/2014 : 7:36:56 PM
I don't call it swatching; I call it playing. When I swatch, I can do whatever I want and mess up as much as sometimes happens, and it's no big deal. I can sample different stitch patterns until I find the one that feels and looks right. Swatching has saved me from starting projects that would have been expensive, time-consuming disasters. Sometimes, just swatching is enough to kill the love of a new yarn. Better to stop after the first date then have to go through a messy divorce later.

I may not be following a pattern, or I might tweak a commercial pattern, so getting an accurate gauge is essential to me.

Janet in TN
patriciajane Posted - 02/14/2014 : 12:18:11 AM
I loved the manifesto! I was a 'just do the swatch for the gauge' knitter, until a few months ago when I watched Deborah Robson's video "Know your Wool", she showed her approach to swatches; knitting, washing and filing with tags so she had a record for the future. What particularly persuaded me was her explanation of how much the wool can change after washing and blocking. She described the feeling of change as it's in the wash, and she's right. I have several swatches that at first knitting were stiff and scratchy, with that first wash and blocking turned into lovely fabrics.
For me, a swatch is the best way to see the effect of a different needle size. It took me a bit to understand that it wasn't all about matching gauge, it was about the resulting fabric being created (stiff, soft, draping, firm).
I also use swatches to test a yarn, and testing yarn (buying one skein) before I make a larger purchase is becoming standard practice for me.
I have a binder full of swatches now, all with tidy white tags. It represents an accomplishment in what I've learned not just about the individual yarns, but so many other aspects of knitting too.
robinstephanie Posted - 02/13/2014 : 10:55:14 AM
I started reading KR very early in my knitting career, and understood the importance of knittiing, washing, and blocking a swatch from that early time. BUT I hated it, it felt like a waste of time, even though I knew it wasn't, and I just wanted to GET STARTED on my project. Then that feeling somehow shifted, and I found myself really enjoying the process of swatching. I began to feel like I WAS working on my project. Since then, I've continued to enjoy swatching, and even look forward to it.

Like Marfa and Jane, part of the enjoyment is, I think, the assurance that I'll end up with a fabric that I like, and also that I've learned so much on KR and from your books, Clara, that helps me to choose a yarn that will work well with my project.


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover Posted - 02/13/2014 : 08:49:41 AM
I hit send too soon!

Swatches are washed in a gentle shampoo, then spun in the washer, and finally dried in the dryer for several minutes. Lay flat to finish drying. Posted - 02/13/2014 : 08:46:23 AM
As the yarn production manager for Fibers by Nature (the retail side of Natural Fiber Producers cooperative), I swatch every yarn we produce, in every color. I bring them with me to the farmers markets, so customers can see and feel how the yarns knit up. Lots of handling tells me how they wear over time, too.

My swatches are on a grander scale than most, as recommended by Jacqueline Fee in her book, The Sweater Workshop. I need to know how our yarns knit up on a whole range of needle sizes, not just the "recommended" ones. Looking to knit a hat? Here it is on a size 4. Looking to do a sweater? Try a size 6 or even an 8. Want a loose or lacey scarf? What about a 9 or 11?

Depending on the weight of the yarn, I'll start with a size 0, 1, or 2 needle. Cast on 26 sts. Garter stitch for 2 more ridges, placing stitch markers after the 3rd and before the 24th stitch. I end up with garter stitch edges and stockinette in the center 20 sts. After 4 rows, I knit 2, and then do a YO and K2Tog for as many holes as the size needle. Size two needle? I Knit 2, YO, k1, YO, knit to the end of the row. Then I'll do several more rows of stockinette. My final return row is also knitted, using the next size needle, so that purl row separates the sections. Keep knitting, and making YO's as you continue to increase the needle sizes, then finish with 2 ridges of garter stitch and bind off. Hard to explain, harder to imagine, but a picture is worth 1000 words:
Jane Posted - 02/13/2014 : 06:01:26 AM
I admit that I resisted swatching in my early knitting years. When I first started knitting, I don't think I even knew what one was, or how it could help. But I've come to appreciate the time spent getting to know a new yarn, or figuring out how to make the best fabric for a new project. And it's all Clara's doing!

Lately my appreciation for the swatch has deepened—the CustomFit sweater I'm working on wouldn't exist without all the swatches and measurements. My fondness for small shawls using yarn I have on hand wouldn't be the same without testing the yarn to achieve the desired fabric. Every test and swatch teaches me something, and that can't be anything but good.

When I encounter a knitter who doesn't swatch, and who declares that they never will, I think back to my first knitting. I wish I could show it to them—the sweater of my favorite handspun that hung like a sack, the hats that were too tight to fit on a head. If I'd known then what I know now...


Betty deserves everything and more: Make a Donation
Blog: Not Plain Jane
Photos: Flickr Album
marfa Posted - 02/13/2014 : 05:04:58 AM
How do.

Ceil, thank you for sharing your experience & tho'ts for the importance of swatching.

Clara, you have always made it an integral part of your reviews of all the yarns you profile & that has taught me so much about what to consider when choosing a yarn & planning a project.

This is especially timely as I need to get my butt in gear to start a sweater & your Mitts pattern which can be used as a swatch sample would be perfect.

Ceil Posted - 02/12/2014 : 11:40:56 PM
I am fine with swatching. What I didn't understand until just last year was that a swatch needs to be soaked and blocked to come up with the gauge on the yarn label. (I mean really, folks: why don't the yarn companies print "gauge after blocking" on their labels? I had no idea that just knitting a swatch wasn't enough, and is thought for a very long time that I was knitting too tightly and had to increase one needle size! Now I know that I knit AT needle size. But I block the swatch while it's still attached to the ball. That way, if I see that I'm running out of yarn, I'll undo it, soak it and let it dry (which may just be the case with my current project!).

Anyway, I'm a MUCH happier knitter now that I am blocking swatches. My sweaters fit now. It's worth it. Everyone, please learn this lesson! You'll be happy, too.

(Ravelry: ceilr)
Time is never a factor when joy is involved.
Clara Posted - 02/12/2014 : 7:07:33 PM
Hey there! In honor of the Olympics and all those skilled athletes who KNIT THEIR SWATCHES (metaphorically speaking) in preparation for the games, I thought I'd revisit this topic. How have your attitudes about swatching changed in the last few years? How would you feel, for example, about dedicating an entire skein just for swatching?

I was also fascinated to revisit this topic after having written The Yarn Whisperer - I didn't look at this piece at ALL while I was working on the book, and yet certain phrases managed to sneak their way right into my chapter on swatching. Utterly fascinating how the subconscious works…

Anyway, please chime in. I'd love to know your thoughts on swatching these days!

Your friendly Knitter's Review publisher
Patience Posted - 01/28/2011 : 09:36:03 AM
I swatch sometimes but only for as little as it takes to measure my gauge....I can't imagine swatching a 4 to 6" square as many do, but it's probably the way to go for a few reasons. I try to measure on an inch or so and it's no easy task, let me tell you, and the kicker is that it's probably not too accurate either. However, knowing that, I don't normally change my ways, sad to say.

Knit On, Patience

Crochet Me A River

Faith, Hope, Charity & Yarn Snippets

lori1551 Posted - 01/27/2011 : 10:45:11 AM
Just a quick note as I'm reading all the comments about swatching (which I have never done). If you all saved your swatches and sorted by texture,,, you could join together and make a small blanket, dishcloths, lap blankets etc. with the swatches,,, then you would not be wasting your yarn... just a thought...

I have never had a problem,,but will start swatching too.. I enjoyed Clara's article very much...
jkluender Posted - 01/13/2011 : 6:09:25 PM
I am a new knitter and have only made a scarf and hand mitts. I fear making a swatch for fear I will not get gauge. The thought of making a swatch, washing it drying it, and measuring it only to find you didn't get gauge makes me ill. How much expensive yarn do you have to waste before you get gauge? I am making another scarf so I will not check gauge for that. I am planning a shawl using Rowan yarn. I will check gauge for that, but at $17 a skein, I better get gauge the first time!

kkknitter Posted - 12/31/2010 : 10:26:21 AM
Wow you are organized! The notebook is a good idea since I tend to forget what size needles I used in some of my UFOs lying around.


Flickr pics: Posted - 12/31/2010 : 10:14:29 AM
In my 20s I swore I'd never swatch, but now I do swatch and savor the self-satisfaction in knowing I've grown. I swatch to find out what my gauge actually IS, but not to make adjustments or apologies for it. If the gauge I knit for a garment is looser or tighter than what the pattern calls for, then I go up or down a size. More often than not I take my gauge, DO THE MATH, and then start knitting one of EZ's creations - or something based on one of her creations. I've also started keeping a NOTEBOOK (I gasp, even at myself) where I note how many stitches I used in a baby garment (my favorite prototype for testing a new technique of color work), the size needle and the type of yarn. Moreover I've started looking back through it for notes that will inform whatever my next project is.

Susan - on MDI
linda-gail Posted - 12/27/2010 : 12:03:15 PM
I am a convert. I used to hate "wasting" yarn and time on a swatch. I saw the light, though, on a few projects of mine that I was less than pleased with and on my "knitting godmother's" projects (she taught me almost all I know about knitting), which always turned out just right. I now swatch all sweaters and hats, though I don't swatch for socks, scarves and only sometimes for mittens/gloves. Those are usually knitted in a yarn gauge that I am familiar with. I find that swatching helps but is not always a guarantee. I sometimes do not have the same tension in my swatch as I do in a project, and it changes for certain during the project, as I get more familiar with the pattern. I can account for washing bloom or shrinkage, which is pretty significant and unexpected in some cases.

The swatching I really enjoy is swatching different stitch patterns in a particular yarn or the same pattern in different yarns. I could be happy doing that for hours at a time.

Linda, knitting and spinning away in MD
prixby Posted - 12/27/2010 : 11:26:58 AM
I love swatching, in order to try out different stitches to see what will best show off the characteristics of the yarn. My problem is that my partner tries to run off with my swatch to use it as a hot pad in the kitchen before I'm done using it to determine gauge, washability, etc. for my project.

Industrious Bee, I just tried to convince my step-daughter to swatch before attempting her first sweater. She gave me the line about "even if it doesn't fit me, it will fit someone I know." How could I argue with that logic? :)

Life is what happens while we're listening to music.
Marie Posted - 12/23/2010 : 3:53:57 PM
I pretty much only swatch if it has to fit around a body...scarves, shawls, bags, mitts, even hats in most designs are forgiving enough that I can forego the swatch. I have ripped a few lace projects back to their start because I tend to knit tightly, and forget how much I have to overcompensate by going up needle sizes--but I still don't have the foresight to swatch since I cast on the full number and sail into the project with full confidence. (Admitting it now sounds pretty lame.)

I wonder if swatching preferences reveal some sort of hidden psychological tendencies...

Time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted. ~John Lennon
kkknitter Posted - 12/23/2010 : 06:37:29 AM
I must confess that I never ever swatch. But, then on the other hand I stick to socks, mittens, hats and other small projects. Usually it fits somebody. Once I retire and have a bit more time on my hands (ha!) I would like to try some bigger projects, and then I will swatch in order not to end up making a mess. Making swatches and sewing up finished projects though have the same lack of appeal for me. Funny how you get these ideas in your head, and then it is almost impossible to change. Old dog I guess.



Flickr pics:

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