Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Swatching is Fun! Who knew?

The Olympics are great for knitting! I have watched nearly 18 hours a day and there is hardly anything I don't want to watch. Command Central is set up in the living room with two remotes, all of my knitting materials, and Talia on my lap as I knit. I had to sneak a break right now to post - Australia and USA are tied in soccer and I can listen as I write.

The Masters Level II swatches are just flying off of the needles. I feel like I am really making progess, even though most of them have had to be ripped out and started two or three times. I went yesterday and got the yarn for the argyle sock (while taping the Olympics in case something good was on - there wasn't really) - and I'm swatching right now.

A note on swatching. I am reading Knitting Lessons, by Lela Nargi for one of the four book reviews I need to complete for Level II. She talks about swatching as a main part of her knitting. In the book she introduces others who swatch like crazy and don't always work on projects. Being a "project" knitter, this initially made no sense. Why on earth would anyone want to use valuable time to create something that can't be used?

When I began knitting, like most knitters, I rushed to the pattern and never swatched. I was lucky. My gauge, even from the beginning, was almost exact and the garments I made fit well. My first swatching was done when I made a love sweater for DH. Because of his size, I had to modify an existing pattern. The only way to do that, and be sure the sweater fit, was by swatching. I hated it. It felt like a waste of time.

After that, I realized the importance of swatching, but most of the time I began the pattern and measured my gauge early on. If something needed to be changed, I ripped it and restarted the project, measuring again until I had the right gauge. Again, most of the time I was lucky. If a change needed to be made, I could easily get the gauge I wanted after one needle swap.

Then came the TKGA Masters Knitting Level I. Being a Virgo, I love order and purpose. This Knitting Masters program is perfect for me. I ordered the materials and axiously ripped open the folder when it arrived. Swatches? I would need to submit more than 15 swatches? My first reaction was sorrow. I didn't think I would like the program as much as I had originally thought. I worked away, not always doing my best work, rarely working a swatch more than once and sent off my work. I had to redo several swatches. Some more than once. I didn't like it.

Now I'm on Level II and the materials have sat for over a year after seeing I would need to submit another 20 plus swatches. But something changed. After reading Nargi's book, I began to look at swatching differently. I tried to find ways to challenge myself by new patterns I would previously only attempt for a project. I started to feel a sense of accomplishment by completing these difficult patterns. They were beautiful (even though they often took two or three tries to get right). I have morphed into a "process" knitter. I'm starting to go swatch crazy. I now look at stitch patterns, and instead of saying, "I wouldn't like that in a sweater," I say, "Gee, that might be fun to try!" And if it doesn't work out, I haven't ruined a sweater, I can throw out the defective product as though it never happened and start over.

So, when you want to try something new, think about swatching. I have joined the swatching craze, after 20 years of proclaiming, "I don't need to make a swatch," I am planning all kinds of swatching challenges for myself.


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