Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weekend Wonder #4

Swatching: An Open Apology from a Recent Proselyte

This week's Weekend Wonder is about my new love/hate relationship with swatching. I've never really swatched before, though I've certainly started and frogged something when I didn't like the emerging result. I've read and read and read the advice of numerous knitbloggers who teach the holy way of swatching, and yet I never really felt it applied to me. (Not the least of which is the Yarn Harlot who teaches by example both the wonder of swatching and of not.) Part of my reasoning was that I had never made anything BIG until the shrug, which might (in retrospect, I say MIGHT) have benefited from swatching. It definitely would have benefited from a book on design. My most complicated project - the Calla Lily Bag translated to the loom - had a swatch only so I could test-felt the fabric, having never done that before.

Having decided to make my first crochet sweater (from Amy Swenson's Sensual Crochet - Ravelry) I initialy went with a yarn I already had in my meager stash - one of only two not committed to an already ongoing project. (Yes, I'm stashless. I know that's weird.) The two are Lion Brand Landscapes a super bulky acrylic that would never work for this sweater and organic cotton from Bernat in (ironically) Hemp and Oasis colorways. I was considering using the Hemp for the sweater - numerically, it matched the pattern suggestions perfectly.

(You'd think this lawyer would know the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of it.)

Finally beginning to see the light, though not yet truly believing in it, I made a swatch per the pattern. A swatch that was supposed to be a 4" square. You can see it in the picture above - a lonely little number that was only 2-and-a-half inches on either side after vigorous wet blocking, even though I used an I hook instead of the smaller H called for. (I sensed the yarn wasn't fluffy enough, but wasn't really understanding what a difference it would make and that a hook size or two wouldn't be enough.)

Facing the obvious shortage of my stash, which I'm okay with, I headed to A.C. Moore and bought a few skeins (plenty) of this alpaca blend from Bernat in Peony. (The last photo below is the truest in terms of color). All swatches are shown above. The alpaca swatches were done with H, J, and finally a K hook (my largest) and all fall short at 3", 3.5" and about 3.75" on a side respectively. This is my third and most recent swatch - all wet blocked and hung to dry with weighted pulls.

I think the yarn is lovely, and it feels very nice to work with. But I'm having a damnable time getting a big enough swatch. This is more open than I expected the fabric to be, so I don't want to try to hunt down a larger crochet hook. K is my favorite anyway. I'm thinking, therefore, of proceeding with this even though I'm a little bit short on the swatch dimensions. (For those of you not into crochet, I can tell you that stitch gauge is much more important than row gauge (height). My swatch may actually be 4" wide if I didn't wet block it so hard to get row height, which is where I fall shortest.

I haven't decided what to do (and therefore am instead making notes on a new pattern idea and finishing up other little projects (more on that later this week)) but I think I'm going to spend a little more time with The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes before I actually begin this project. I love this book. :)

And I am now officially a believer in swatching. Imagine the blog posts you would have had to sit through had I (stupidly) gone ahead with that cotton yarn, or even with the new alpaca and the pattern-suggested hook? Now imagine how I would have felt writing those posts? Save yourselves while you can!

All that said, will I turn into the perfect swatcher? Am I going to swatch for the beanie I'm going to make soon? Heck no. What's the fun in that? My point is only that taking a little time to make something we love better, is definitely worth it, in this girl's book.

Advice done. I'll just add one more thing. I've got 9 thesis defenses to sit through this week and may be neglectful of the blog, against even my own wishes. :) Hopefully I'll be back soon, but if you're interested, my latest FOs are up on Ravelry.

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