Category Archives: swatching

Trusting the Process

Swatching is a bit part of knitting (and getting knitting right), and as such is a constant and necessary task. In fact, if I were to make my list of Times When Swatching Is Necessary, Nay, Imperative, I’d start with:

1. When you’re knitting with a yarn or stitch pattern that is new to you and you need to know how it behaves on your needles, particularly for gauge purposes.

Still, I continue to be more convinced than ever that swatching for gauge is almost beside the point. To wit:

2. When you really want to start the project but you don’t want/need to actually start the project yet. (See Sublist: Dealing with Startitis).

But most importantly for this week in my knitting life:

3. When you are knitting a stranded colourwork project in no fewer than 11 shades and stubbornly refuse to go with the pattern’s prescribed combination.

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This is all a roundabout way of saying I am swatching for Autumn Rose, and it’s all going wonderfully indecisively. For the last year I’ve been saying to myself I was going to start this sweater. I even flirted with the idea of making it for Rhinebeck last year, but the Cabled Swing Cardigan turned out so nicely and besides…there was the indecision.

I have more Knit Picks Palette fingering weight than one person reasonably needs, I could easily make three Autumn Roses in all different combinations, but deciding on a colour scheme has been what’s held me back the most. I started swatching for this project back sometime in late 2008, but knew there would need to be more swatches to come. (And yep, I’ve seen the other 3 suggested schemes put out by Knit Picks in the fall of 2008. Did I mention my stubbornness?)

So that brings us to this week, when I saw Elspeth queued up Autumn Rose on her Ravelry, I summarily harassed her about it, she threw down the gauntlet by stating this was going to be her 2009 Rhinebeck Sweater #1 (because yes, she makes more than one Rhinebeck sweater), and some sort of switch flipped in my brain and I knew I had to get back on this. Because Elspeth is a teeny tiny little person who also knits like the wind, and the thought of watching her zip through the (potential) sweater of my dreams while my yarn gathered more dust was just too much to handle.

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And so I am back to the swatching. I spent more hours than I would care to admit yesterday working on the swatches. It is true that there may have been some avoidance of the grading (oh god don’t make me face another stack of exams…aghldhlhglddlhgkl), but mostly I just want to decide on a frakking colour scheme already.

I’m close, I’m getting very close. I’m using, from the Palette arsenal, a collection of purples, reds, and greens, in what, in my head at least, calls up images of a beautiful art deco garden or stained glass window. It pains me to admit that there is going to need to be at least one more swatch before I can finally nail down a scheme. I think the final decision will be some combination of the two swatches above, but slightly more like the second of the two (also pictured here below). The lipstick pink in the bottom of the first swatch is right out, and the third will incorporate some further fine-tuning of the cross-hatching panel colours and the outer shades of the ‘rose’, and use the duller green in the top half of the second instead of the paler shade used in the bottom.

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And if you’ve followed me this far, allow me to pause for a moment and just say how much I love the brightness of the middle section. I could stare at it all day. It makes me think of sun shining through windows, which is not only attractive in a colourwork pattern but also very appropriate for something to knit in the spring. My term is inching towards being finished and I can just about see the respite at the end.

Respite which will, hopefully, be composed of knitting and not just swatching. And I bet that Elspeth already has her colours decided, Drat.

Onwards, yes? Yes.

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Filed under fair isle, swatching, sweaters

It’s the hardest part

Not the knitting, not the bobbles, not the psychological stamina of getting through all the seaming and then remembering to still knit the sash…nope. The hardest part is waiting for the danged thing to dry so you can sew the buttons on already and call it a day.

Aran-weight wool sure is warm and toasty but after a hand-wringing and two towel rolls it still needs another day’s air dry. The Blooming Cardigan is almost there….

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Check out that hot bobble action.

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The next hardest part? Figuring out which sweater to knit next. It’s a good thing swatching fills that between-time nicely.

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One more knitting week left in February. Better make it count!

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Filed under finished object: sweater, swatching, sweaters

The Season of Stuff

‘Tis the season, right? For knitting things…and buying a few things…

I’ve always been a bit hesitant about sock clubs. On the one hand, there is the excitement and mystery of getting an unknown package in the mail; on the other hand, there is the element of risk. A trade-off between getting exactly what you want and the element of surprise. Well, at the end of October Robyn was advertising her ‘ultimate’ sock club kit for November as a more-than-usual sock club kit, and the idea of getting a whackload of stuff in the mail was enticing enough.

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Lo and behold, this is what arrived. It is indeed a whackload of stuff! All in all I think I call it a win, although I haven’t yet examined the patterns (these are all on the CD, interestingly enough). 3 skeins of yarn, 5 patterns, DPNs, 3 pairs of stitch markers, assorted treats…A fun pack to be sure. 2 of the 3 skeins of yarn are colour combinations I can use pretty easily…sadly the 3rd is too candy-electric for me so I might end up trading that one away. On the plus side, I like the tape measure and trinkets, and the tote bag is lovely and sturdy.

On the minus side, all of the DPNs are short 5-inch ones, which is a size I never use. I’ve stuck with sets of 4 7-inch straights my entire sock knitting life thus far and, well, it’s hard to change. I’ve tried the short ones in sets of 5 before but they’re just not for me. These might be for trading away also. My only other concern is that while the yarn is beautifully dyed I hadn’t expected all 3 skeins to come from the same dyer. Some variety there would shake things up a bit – after all, if you try one skein and the texture doesn’t suit you, it would be refreshing to have something different to turn to next.

So, there we have my latest foray into sock clubs. I do like the 1-month shot, I might try it again in a bit when I need some more mystery in my life. I look forward to contemplating these new stashlet additions.

And in other news…I’m swatching again. Just about on schedule given that this is about exactly what I was doing a year ago.

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I’m looking forward to see how these colours blend…and will be sure to report further as events unfold. And now, back to Wednesday! May your knitting be close by.

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Filed under fair isle, stash, swatching, sweaters

Towanda!*

Monday, Monday, Monday. I know you have to come every week, but honestly this is starting to get annoying. Are you sure you and Sunday can’t work out some kind of a truce?

At any rate, nothing distracts from Monday-dom like cutting up some knitting, am I right? ;) I was so flattered and warm-fuzzied by all your lovely comments on my Ivy League Vest last week. A lot of you expressed your own fear over doing a project that requires you to cut things – and really, one has to sympathize. Every knitter who is a steek-cutter was once a knitter who was not a steek-cutter, who in fact probably exclaimed “you want me to do WHAT with that thing I just knitted out of 8 colours and 2 months of my life?” at the very prospect of cutting a steek.

So, I was thinking about this, and if you’re in the WHAT? category, ::coughcough::mymother::coughcoughcough:: here’s something you can do about it. First, you knit yourself a swatch. Find yourself 2 shades of fingering-weight wool (this only works with wool, sadly), cast on about 70 stitches or so, and work it in the round in a pattern of your choice. I used the chart from the Endpaper Mitts, since the pattern was close by and that can be worked in 10-stitch increments. Here, I used Knit Picks Palette in ‘Red’, and ‘Blush’ (a little bright, in retrospect – next time I attempt a demo, I’ll choose a combination that’s easier on the eyes), and my 2.75mm bamboo DPNs.

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If you’ve never done stranded knitting, this is a good time to practice holding one colour in each hand, too. (There is a video clip of one method of this at the Philosopher’s Wool site under ‘Video Clips’ – viewable in I.E.). Somewhere in the swatch, be sure to insert a steek – a column of 8-10 sts which you will later cut down the middle. Here, I worked the steek stripe pattern similar to the Ivy League Vest, alternating colours and keeping the 2 centre colours the same: A, B, A, B, A, A, B, A, B, A.

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Work to a length that feels good. Don’t be too stingy, either. This is also a good opportunity for you to consult what gauge you’re getting, if that’s a piece of information you’d like to know. Bind it off and then have a nice ponder over the fact that you’re about to cut this up down the middle. Feel free to have a sip of wine or eat a bag of chocolate chips or do some push-ups, or whatever it is you need to do before diving in. But remember, this is only a swatch. If you mess up, then it’s not as though you’ve ruined a precious gift. And then, you cut:

My little clip here is definitely not the only YouTube video that shows cutting a steek. This one has particularly visceral sound-effects (heh), and also displays a different steek pattern option. And it also shows you how important it is to keep one hand inside the knitting to make sure you can keep the scissors’ path steady – you don’t want to end the cutting only to discover you’ve just sliced the entire works into two pieces. If that happened, I would need something a whole lot stronger than just a sip of wine.

You’ve just cut an unreinforced steek. I think it’s nice to just leave it out on the table, or in your purse, or even let the cat paw it around a bit. Let it stay unreinforced for a bit and get a feel for how sturdy it is. But eventually, you can do some trimming on the cut edge and some reinforcement. Sew it down with sewing machine/needle and thread, fold and whipstitch it down, or just a line of single crochet will do:

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Congratulations! At this point, the swatch has done its job and doesn’t owe you anything else. But if you’re like me and can’t turn down the opportunity to make something more, you could, say, fold it in half and sew up the sides…and pick up some stitches around the base of the steek…

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And throw some ribbing on there, and get a wee little pouch out of the deal.

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Cutting up your knitting – it’s good for what ails you. ;)

*Thank you, Fried Green Tomatoes.

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Filed under fair isle, fearless knitting, swatching

More with the swatching

I’m still totally on the love train for Venezia, but believe me when I say I have twice had to hold myself back from casting on for the Ivy League Vest, just to take the edge off my impatience. After two swatches I had lots of love for all the colours, was extolling the virtures to myself of being able to mix and match different shades according to one’s preference…and then I knitted 2 more swatches and now my brain is all OMG just pick a danged colour combination already.

In the last chapter of this Venezia journey, I did 2 swatches, a blue/green and a red/purple, and disliked 1 shade of the blue/green one so I decided to try a different combo to make sure I was sure whether or not I liked it. Along the way I decided to also pluck out the bright yellow shade in the centre of the motif just to see what that would look like. The only colour I wear less often than brown is yellow, and I was concerned it was getting in the way of me fully committing to either set of options.

Version #1, take 2:

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I think the blue/green combination is much better here, and I am actually pretty sold on the removal of the yellow, too. With the new shade of dark green, I think the more balanced combo of the foreground shades is rather soothing. On the other hand, I’m not sure if yellow was actually harming anything in the 2nd one.

Version #2, take 2:

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Here I think the centre pale purple shade washes out the light tan (which is indeed different from the two foreground shades before and after – but it is totally lost here), and eliminates that nice sort of glowy vibe I was getting off of the previous red/purple combination. Well y’all, I dunno. I might be back where I started, contemplating the nice rusty red/purple variation I swatched in the first round.

Wanna see them all together?

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Oh yeah, and I also switched in an actual ‘white’, in the process of bumping everything in the foreground forward to eliminate the yellow. Somewhere in here, I am convinced, is a lesson on colour theory and the value of…something. This is valuable stuff, don’tcha know, G? Revel in the virtues of shades, be not afraid that thou hast not yet begun thy sweater.

The next time I talk about this sweater, I swear by my stash it will be to report on a hem, or a sleeve cuff in progress, or something that constitutes actual knitting. Gotta be with the moving forward. But in the meanwhile, it’s winter now, and I pulled out my pair of convertible mitts to discover one had been chewed by mice (I am convinced of this, the work was so precise. They went right for my right mitt and left my 8 foot Harry Potter scarf untouched. Surely moths would not be so discriminating). So, I’m making another one, with a skein of yon Briggs & Little Regal that’s waiting patiently to become a Brennan Cardigan one day:

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I love the heathery-ness so much I could just plotz. It soothes me.
Onwards!

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Filed under fair isle, swatching, venezia