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 Swatch Mitts and The Swatcher's Manifesto
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queen bee

4415 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2010 :  7:34:59 PM  Show Profile  Visit Clara's Homepage Send Clara a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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

Chatty Knitter

176 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2010 :  8:40:27 PM  Show Profile Send Patshere a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Okay, I hate to admit it, but I'm one of those cast on 6 stitches more than the 4" gauge predicts, work 2" in the pattern, measure, adjust, measure, accept, cast on project kind of knitters. And, though most of the time this process hasn't bitten me, the times it has I've wanted to kick myself (i.e. see latest Metro Cardigan on Patshere's Ravelry project list).

I resolve to do a full swatch, then wash it, before I cast on my next project. I promise.
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Permanent Resident

1018 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  01:17:10 AM  Show Profile  Visit marjotse's Homepage Send marjotse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I dread to write this, but I hardly ever swatch.... I check when I'm a bit in a project if I get gauge and on the very rare occasions that I don't I frog and start over... Probably my biggest "knitting offense".....


my photos:
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Posted - 12/16/2010 :  03:13:03 AM  Show Profile Send a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't mind swatching. I do it most of the time, especially when I'm using a new-to-me yarn. I might skip it if I'm making a hat or scarf for donation and if I'm fairly sure of how the yarn is going to behave. If I'm designing something or making something from someone else's pattern, I swatch. I don't want to waste all the time knitting and find out I'm way off gauge-wise or disappointed in the final fabric.
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Permanent Resident

3095 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  03:51:33 AM  Show Profile  Visit BessH's Homepage Send BessH a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I swatch. not all the time, but often not for any reason either, just to talk to the yarn. I probably never swatch yarn for socks. I always swatch yarn for other projects.

Of course, those bags full of unfinished projects could all be called Large Swatches, couldn't they?

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Permanent Resident

1606 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  05:09:02 AM  Show Profile Send AngieSue a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I love swatching, especially with woolen-spun yarns that bloom. Swatching is my go-to when I'm tired of knitting a project and need a little yarn magic. However, I never swatch for socks or scarves. I'm thinking of making a swatch collage with all my squares.

My Ravelry
My Pictures
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Permanent Resident

1198 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  06:03:22 AM  Show Profile  Visit pjkite's Homepage  Send pjkite a Yahoo! Message Send pjkite a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I love swatching - in fact, a similar manifesto to your, Clara, is a part of many of my classes! You just never know how a yarn is going to really look and act until you play with it a bit. And so many yarns will do things you'd never expect unless you DO play with them!

Pamela Kite
East Tennessee

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Marg in Mirror
Permanent Resident

3205 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  06:06:56 AM  Show Profile  Visit Marg in Mirror's Homepage  Send Marg in Mirror a Yahoo! Message Send Marg in Mirror a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I hate swatching, and will do anything to avoid it! Generally, I view my first few inches of whatever I'm making to be the swatch. Also, I don't make many large garments -- I knit mainly socks -- so avoid swatching that way. If a garment goes terribly wrong (in 50 years of knitting this has happened only 2 or 3 times), I prefer to take EZ's advice: find someone else it'll fit!

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Seriously Hooked

688 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  06:16:11 AM  Show Profile Send knitree a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Swatching and I have a complicated relationship. Sometimes I'm honest and make a full swatch and wash and block it. Sometimes its honest and remains the same gauge and drape in a finished object. But, sometimes each of us lies. And that hurts. Last night I started a little neck warmer (purl soho's new pattern) and realized after about 4" the stitches were too tight. I ripped and went to a larger needle, knowing that things may change again if I were to wash my swatch, but this is a bulky 62 yard project and I might not even wash it until the end of the season, so I'm going with my gut. A sweater on the other hand, I always swatch, wash, block. And I love the mitts idea (although I'd have to make them a tad longer. I do not like cold wrists). Finally, I will leave you with my thoughts on making 2 swatches. Reminds me of a friend years ago who recommended we all insist our guys were 2 condoms at a time - just in case. Nah, I didn't do that either.

Taking simple patterns and complicating them...
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Permanent Resident

1136 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  06:25:53 AM  Show Profile  Visit PBELKNAP's Homepage Send PBELKNAP a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I do something similar to your swatch mitts...I swatch by making a hat. I cast on enough stitches to go around a 16" circular and start knitting. I usually knit in the round, so it's a perfect way for me to swatch - plus I get a cool hat at the end of it!

WIP = Granny Stipe Afghan (c), Yoke Sweater (k)

Done this year: Sheep-Go-Round Sweater (k), Sweater for Afghans for Afghans (k), Socks (k-2), Ladybug Afghan (c), EZ Set-in Sleeve Sweater (k), Afghans for Afghans Vest (k), Owls Sweater (k), Hooded Duck Blanket(k)

Twitter Name = WildKnitter


If I could only do this for a living...
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Warming Up

64 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  06:32:58 AM  Show Profile Send peggymchoe a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've been thinking about this topic and about knitters who swatch, I mean, really swatch. Swatchers seem to me the purest kind of knitter, knitting for knitting's sake. I think most designers must be like this to a large extent; at least it seems to me that you can't design without doing endless swatching. Clara's yarn reviews, with their lovely swatch photos, are endlessly beautiful and fascinating and magical, but me? I can't stand to swatch. I fit this profile:

"Some knitters view swatching as a waste of perfectly good yarn that could be used for something else. If forced to swatch, they'll knit a very small square until they get gauge, then unravel the yarn and cast on for their project."

But often I just cast on and the project is my swatch, so I tend to do a lot of frogging, which I've gotten good at, i.e., I'm now good at recognizing the need to frog and accepting it. I'm cautious in the rest of my life, but in knitting I like just plunging in and knowing that if it doesn't work out it's easy to start over.
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New Pal

31 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  06:50:33 AM  Show Profile Send kplante a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm way too type A not to swatch. I swatch for almost any project - at least 6" square. I always block my swashes too. I had too bad experiences when I was a new knitter who didn't know enough to swatch, and I'm never going back to those days!
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Warming Up

69 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  06:58:15 AM  Show Profile Send stitchellen a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I swatch every time I use a yarn I haven't used before. Valley Yarns "Amherst" is my favorite worsted; Louet "Gems" is my favorite fingering weight. I assume that they will behave consistently regardless of color used; thus far they do. My first experience with bamboo yarn taught me a lesson: always swatch. I was in a rush to knit a sweater that I planned to wear on an imminent trip, so I knitted the sweater and tried it on before I washed it. Perfect fit. I packed it and put it on when I was in Washington, DC for my granddaughter's wedding. It had grown at least two sizes after washing, and it continued to grow as I wore it. Until I discovered itchfree merino wool, I used synthetic yarn. Synthetic fibers tend to be very stable, so swatching never was necessary. Even cashmere itches if it touches my skin; merino never does. I now use merino for virtually everything I knit, even use machine washable merino for hats for new babies. Some merino yarns are exceptionally stable and remain true to size when washed; some relax and grow a little or a lot. I view swatching as necessary insurance.
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Gabber Extraordinaire

583 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  07:57:30 AM  Show Profile  Visit NutmegOwl's Homepage Send NutmegOwl a Private Message  Reply with Quote
While I do - always - swatch for garments, not so for accessories. In fact, sometimes one of my small projects IS the swatch - especially cowls. By now, I've a pretty good sense of my tension and various yarns and the finish on my needles. (Which absolutely affects gauge. Two same-sized needles with different finishes do not produce the same gauge for me.)

However, I'm afraid I need a special classification: the over-exuberant swatcher. Somehow, too often, the gauge on my swatch is not the gauge I get in the actual knitting. I just must have a wicked case of start-itis which makes my swatches tighter than my actual knitting.

That's why I'm so grateful that knitting - unlike life - gives us do-overs ...

Nutmeg Owl
Quaecumque sunt vera
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New Pal

2 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  08:36:04 AM  Show Profile Send ShariK a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I do swatch, but I'm one of those that do a small swatch, about 4 inches, but I don't wash and try to destroy the swatch, . I'm going to try the Swatch mitten and see how that works.

ShariK in MI

ShariK in MI
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Gabber Extraordinaire

582 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  08:58:11 AM  Show Profile Send Consuelo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm in the swatch and frog team. But you bring up a good way to do it: make a tiny project. I like it - it suits my functional and frugal sensibilities. One could try the mittens, of course, or one of the many cozies out there: for mugs, for cell phones or a discloth - those are handy. Well, if it's wool, may be a hotpad instead.

As usual, you've persuaded and enlightened us. Thanks.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice" Mark Twain
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Permanent Resident

2145 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  09:14:06 AM  Show Profile  Visit kimkrafty's Homepage Send kimkrafty a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't always swatch. I have found that my knitting often changes when I'm actually knitting vs. when I'm swatching.

I found out recently that my gauge is different when I knit with dpn's and when I knit with circulars. This hadn't been an issue for me until I started knitting a sweater for my son. I don't have 16" circulars in many sizes and I'm not a fan of the magic loop method, so I started kntitting the sleeve on a dpn. My sleeve was too going to be way too big for him. Now I know I either have to purchase 16" circulars in corresponding sizes for sweaters or swatch with ciruclars and dpn's AND hope my gauge doesn't change too much between swatching and actually knitting the item. LOL

Kimberly, knitting in VA
previously at
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Warming Up

65 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  09:34:14 AM  Show Profile Send terpsfan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Clara, you converted me to swatching after I realized how much a yarn can change character after being washed and blocked. It's especially important if you want something that will drape or, conversely, structure to show off a knit-purl pattern. I don't do the "destruction" tests, but I do now make a decent-sized swatch of every new yarn, thanks to you.
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New Pal

2 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  09:37:11 AM  Show Profile  Send mzcruse a Yahoo! Message Send mzcruse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I love this review and forum about swatching. I have not done swatching on a regular basis, nor the wash and test - but then I have not done any fitted garments either. I have done accessories and all that. Just learned socks and typically don't do swatches for those. However I am doing a shrug (Plymouth Yarn N026 pattern) and am doing a test garment - in a different yarn than the original yarn chosen, mostly because I want to see how to seam it together in the end and would rather have that for me, in a more cost friendly yarn, in case I muck it up and have to frog it, before I do it for someone else out of another selected yarn. It is not the pattern itself, but sizing and finishing that I want to see.

However, having read this, I do believe that I will began a practice of swatching more often and regularly. The ability to do it, to talk to the yarn and listen to the yarn, and always have something going, it's a reality check and a sanity check. And we all know I am in need of the sanity check.

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New Pal

13 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  09:45:41 AM  Show Profile Send Whoopdedo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You had me with the meditation aspect,(loving that)but lost me at the wash your swatch part.Thanks though for a new view about swatching.
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Gabber Extraordinaire

551 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2010 :  10:05:38 AM  Show Profile Send susan14_23 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Great article Clara. I usually swatch, but might skip if it's a familiar yarn and a project where gauge doesn't matter much (scarves, etc.) I don't mind taking the time to swatch but don't like the idea of "wasting" yarn as you said. But I do it anyway. I have to find a use for all my swatches.

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