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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top O' the Swatch to Ye!

and the word for the day is : SWATCH!
I'm putting this out there. You must swatch. Do not brush it aside like an annoying gnat. If you don't swatch, it's possible that your hard work and  long hours knitting will result in a garment of unidentifiable proportions -  if not simply unidentifiable.
You must swatch if you don't knit to gauge, that is - in just the exact proportions of number of stitches to inches and so forth stated in your pattern. Most people don't knit to gauge, although a lucky few can just jump right into their next project, like my friend Debbie. Everyone is different and if you swatch just a time or two you'll understand your particular style and will be able to quickly make allowances for needle size. The end result is, of course, that you'll end up with a garment you're proud to wear or give, and there will always be that amazed  cry of "You made this?" from the admirers or lucky recipient. (Like my cat in the previous post)
How to make a swatch:
Cast on the number of stitches as directed by pattern direction and knit for the corresponding number of rows. The DK project I'm currently working on calls for 21 stitches and 25 rows, for example. (I've knitted the swatch up already and it's waiting to be measured.)
If I'm doing a gauge for a particular project, I won't cast-off before I measure. Once I get the gauge right, I'll frog it (unravel).
If I just got a new yarn for my stash and don't have a project in mind, I'll cast off and block for future reference. I put a ball band on the swatch with the size needle noted, and staple or tack it to my swatch before it goes back into the stash. For current projects, I'll make the necessary notes on the pattern itself .
Due to my annoying stubborness and hard-headedness tenacious nature, I will grapple with a swatch like I'm mud wrestling a pig until I get it just right.  After swatching so much, I now know that I have to start with the size under what's stated in the pattern. Sometimes I have to go down a size further, and use a larger size for my purling needle if the pattern is stockinette stitch. The pattern I just got calls for size 7 but I had to use a 5 for purling and a 4 for knitting before the gauge was even close.
Swatching can be very pleasant, especially if you just feel like knitting with no particular goal in mind. It's also a good remedy for that first surge of enthusiasm for a new project, since you can work with your new yarn immediately without committing yourself!
This is my new project:
I did it in the yarn specified, Sirdar Summer Stripes, but you can knit it up in any yarn that fits the gauge. The yarn is a cotton acrylic blend so, as my check out lady said, "It will wash up nicely."
Keep swatchin'

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