Beth Smith


So o.k.
(I seem to start a lot of thoughts with “so”)
I’ve been thinking a lot about swatching lately. You know about some of it because of the Faina design sweater swatches. Well the swatching hasn’t ended.

When I began knitting I had a teacher who never swatched and when I asked her about what the books were talking about with the gauge swatches she told me that she never did it. So I began my knitting career as a non-swatcher. Thing about it is, I got a few sweaters and knitted items that I didn’t like, didn’t fit or the yarn wasn’t the right yarn for the project. This was all due to lack of swatching. Now I’m not going to tell you that I’ve grown into a huge swatcher with mill spun yarns. I do make a swatch. It isn’t necessarily as big as it should be all of the time and I don;t always take it all the way through the washing and blocking stages like I should but I still think it’s important to make an informed decision about the yarn you are using for a project as well as a needle size.

Now I have to say that with handspun yarn the iffiness of the rules gets a little less iffy if you are spinning for a project you’ve never done before. If (lots of if’s huh?) you have made 20 hundred pairs of socks from your handspun then it’s a pretty sure bet that the swatching is the last thing you need to do. If, however you are making your first pair or second pair of socks from your handspun yarn then get out your swatching needles for crying out loud! Is the yarn springy enough? what size needles does it want? How does it hold up in the washing? You need this information. Making some mittens from that freshly spun fleece? You have to swatch! A sweater? Then swatching is even more crucial. You want the stuff to fit and last right? A swatch takes a tiny bit of time in the grand scheme of a sweater from sheep to seam and we don’t want it to be sleeping in the pond.

You can do teeny tiny swatches to know if you are on the right track. Jenny advises postage stamp size swatches right at your wheel to make sure you are on the right track. Just spin a few yards, do a plyback and get those needles working. If you like what you see then continue on. This does not, however, get you off the hook from the larger swatch. It just gives you an idea of what you’re doing.

Swatching handspun requires a washed a finished yarn and then a washed and finished square or rectangle so that you can be sure that you are doing the right thing.

Then there was today at the shop. This week I got a new Schacht Wolf Pup and there are words that Abby said to me not so long ago that keep resonating. I was telling her that I’m not a weaver. I’d like to be because I love the finished products but I’m not. And she said in her wise way,”Then be a weaver.” Hmmm. There’s a project I’ve been wanting to do. I bought some coned silk some time ago just for it. Have never gotten the courage up.

Now you may be thinking – Girl, what does this have to do with swatching? Well, I’ll tell you. A weaver came into the shop today. She’s good. It’s the first time I’ve met her and she signed up for beginning spinning and showed me some of her projects she had in her car. She even speaks at guilds and stuff. So I say to her that I have this project in mind. A single color silk shawl with some textured weaving and what did she think of the pattern I was considering. Know what she said?

She told me that I should wind a warp of like 2 or three yards in cotton and do a sample before I try it in the expensive silk. She basically told me to make a swatch to see if what I wanted to do was going to work.

Knitting, spinning, weaving….make a swatch.


I will probably follow her advice.

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