Me, Swatch?

I began knitting about 12 years ago, and in the beginning I remember thinking that swatching wasn’t necessary. At all. What a silly thing to waste wool on.  Of course, at the time I was making scarves with uneven stitches (not to mention the holes… oh the dropped stitches!), and starting and frogging the same hat three or four times.

If I ever decided to make something that I felt like, just maybe, should have some sort of fit, I would exasperatedly knit up something that measured about 8 stitches across and 6 or so rows, measure one inch quickly and then rip it out so that the precious wool could be used for the project, not the silliness that is swatching. I really did feel like it was a waste of wool. So naturally,  the swatches never gave me a true gauge and my hats were nearly always too big or too small. If the fit came out alright, it was purely by accident.

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Over the years I read more about knitting. I graduated to knitting actual garments and I began to finally see the need for a good, blocked swatch.  As my knitting matured so did my attitude about swatching. I’m still a bit stingy with my wool, especially if there’s only a skein or two to work with.   But instead of spending hours knitting a sweater that isn’t going to fit, I’ll actually take the time to knit a proper swatch, usually measuring about 5×5 inches.  Stockinette knits up pretty fast, and a garter stitch border makes everything neat and tidy, and lay a little flatter.

Designing knitting patterns of my own has really taught me to value a good swatch.  Its one thing for me to fudge something that I’m making for myself, but another story all together when I am putting a pattern out there. Imagine all the angry emails.  No thank you.  It can be a vital part of the design process, too. I love to flip slowly through a stitch dictionary, and test out patterns, textures, manipulating them just to see what becomes of the wool if I do this, or change that.  I’m not telling anyone what to do, but perhaps next time you find yourself rolling your eyes about a swatch, you’ll reconsider and make nice.

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The Mystery of the Missing Needles

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I was a huge Nancy Drew fan as a kid (not to mention Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames and Hardy Boys).  I would sit for hours under the mimosa tree in the back yard with my very best friend Gina and pour over those books, certain that when I was older and wore pumps I would be solving crime and unraveling mysteries just like my heroines.  Trixie Belden books were great, because there were always fun mysteries to solve set in the gorgeous lush hills of the Hudson Valley. The Trixie series had something the other books did not… a rich neighbor girl who had horses!  I loved that Trixie was a tomboy like myself.  I could seriously relate. Cherry Ames was a wonderfully plucky and clever girl who became a nurse at the outset of WWII instead of becoming a wife. Again, very relate-able. The series follows her through nursing school to the battlefield in titles such as Cherry Ames Student Nurse and Cherry Ames Army Nurse.  Then on to more banal nursing jobs after the war ended including Cherry Ames Department Store Nurse. lol!  I love the first six or so books in the series especially.

Which brings us to last night.  Last night I was looking for needles to cast on for a swatch and I KNOW I have a set of double pointed US5 needles. But where were they? It seemed as if my inner nine year old was hot on the trail of a new mystery.  I’m not exactly the neatest egg in the carton, but I’m not a complete wreck either, and my needles could only have gotten so far. I looked everywhere that I thought they might be and came up with nothing. Well not exactly nothing. I did find my missing needle gauge.  I need to begin my swatch tonight so I’m going to buy a new set on my way home today. I guarantee you that they will turn up shortly after my purchase.  They’re probably on some unfinished object in the bottom of a plastic bin, covered by yarn stash.  Hmmm. Maybe this weekend is a good time to go through my stash and organize a bit.  Or maybe I’ll just curl up on the couch and re-read the Mystery Off Glen Road.

-Marie