Category Archives: swatching


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.


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.


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:


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…


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


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

*Thank you, Fried Green Tomatoes.


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:


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:


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?



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:


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


Filed under fair isle, swatching, venezia