Swatching – friend or foe

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After posting a swatch of some knitting recently I’ve gotten several emails asking questions about swatching.  I do not claim to be any expert, but here’s the answers to the questions/comments I received from my point of view.

Do I swatch for everything? — absolutely not. Shawls, scarfs, hats, mittens I never swatch for – with one exception.  I think the only shawl I ever swatched for was the one I’m currently working for the mystery KAL – and in that case your “swatch” was part of the first clue – you actually used it.   But knitting that swatch for the shawl reminded me of why I never used to like swatching — because you have to meet someone else’s gauge,  not your own gauge.  I was using the same yarn as the designer did, the same size needles and my gauge was too small.  I do not knit tightly so it makes me wonder how someone can get that gauge on that needle with the same yarn.  And that’s what can make swatching frustrating.   If you’re like me, you want to get on with the knitting and not have to do multiple swatches.  I ended up going up a needle size and consciously knitting even looser than my norm to get gauge for that pattern.

When you do a large swatch like for your new sweater, do you worry that you might need the yarn in it to finish your project? Do you leave the swatch as is and or rip it back to use later?  I always worry I might run out of yarn whether it’s socks or sweater or any other project.  Clearly I’ve run short on some socks but I never swatch for those – just have some socks with different colored toes.  I have some scarfs that were not as long or wide as a pattern stated — clearly because I didn’t swatch to get the designer’s gauge but not a big deal.  So far I have never had to rip out a swatch to use in my sweaters but that is mostly due to the fact that my sweaters are made using Amy Herzog’s CustomFit.makewearlove.com program which is very different from swatching for a regular pattern and because I use CF, I’d like to keep my swatches in tact for future reference if possible and not have to rip them out  which is explained later.

Do I make my swatches all a specific number of stitches/rows?  If you look at the photo above – clearly I do not. 🙂  These are from my swatch box.   Some are “pre-CF” meaning before I starting making sweater patterns using  CustomFit program and some are ones used for “CF” patterns.   The littles swatch in lime green texture at the upper right – that little swatch was before I started using CF.  That sweater is still in pieces (not all pieces complete) in the closet.  That swatch was also done before I understood how much “drape” can change the look of the project.  Not only will that limy green sweater probably not fit correctly, the textured stitch pattern in it as shown in the swatch makes the “fabric” more stiff and probably would not end up being a comfy cozy sweater.  Eventually the sweater will probably get ripped back.      The darker green swatch – that swatch was for my first CF sweater and still a little on the small size (I wasn’t convinced yet that swatching would be to my advantage yet — I was so wrong!  – but that’s why that swatch is smaller.  I don’t have a set number of stitches I use but I think most of my swatches – of course depending on what weight yarn I’m using – are anywhere from about 55-80 stitches wide and 5-6″ worth of rows.

Larger swatches are more accurate for me.  And when swatching you have to get to that place where you are not concentrating on making a swatch — the first swatch I made for a CF pattern I was paying so much attention to – truly concentrating on making nice even tensioned stitches every stitch — that is soooo not  how I really knit.  LOL If it’s just stockinette stitch, my hands go on autopilot.  I don’t constantly watch what I’m doing – I’m staring out a bus window  (or looking at the guy across the aisle and wondering does he have an earbud for a phone in or is he just talking to himself?) 😉  or I’m home watching tv.  If I pay too much attention to the fact that I’m swatching it does not turn out in my usual knitting gauge. So a larger swatch helps you get into that zen knitting place so you get a true gauge in that swatch.
Now most of the rest of these comments relate to CustomFit system sweaters – because that’s where swatching really all made sense and became painless for me  and because it has totally changed how I make sweaters — actually it has mostly changed the fact that I DO now make sweaters and enjoy making them.
What is that white line stitched on the swatch?  I got this question a lot when I posted that swatch when I was working on that sweater.  It’s thread and it marks out the area where I counted stitches.  For CustomFit, you do NOT need to meet someone else gauge, you do not need to use the same kind of yarn the designer did, you do not need to use the size needles the designer did.  You choose the yarn you want to knit, you choose a needle size you think will work and then you knit a swatch to see if you like the resulting fabric and if that fabric will work for the type of sweater you wish to make.  You will see in the top photo I posted that there’s a couple swatches that look the same (same yarn) – that’s because after the first swatch I wasn’t sure I liked the resulting fabric — it might have been too loose and had too much drape for what I was thinking of making or it may have been the opposite and too stiff looking — so I did a  second swatch and changed the needle size to see how I liked it.  Okay back to the white   CF info suggests you mark out an area line that and then count the stitches within that area and the rows within that area.  I marked that first swatch but I don’t bother to mark them off any more.  I just check several places within the center to make sure I’m getting the same row and stitch count.
The other wonderful thing about CF — how you count stitches and rows.  Rather than standard patterns where you need to get so many stitches per inch, you just count your stitches and then look at what that measurement is in inches is. Quilting rulers are very hand for this.   So rather than trying to figure out 30.5 stiches and 25 rows equals 4 inches and having to get meet that gauge, in CF you could count out 30 stitches and then look to see how many inches it is and if it’s 4+5/8″, then you enter that into the program – no counting half stitches or quarter stitches.  Same for rows and you do not need to measure the same distance (so it does not need to be a 4″ x 4″ area you are measuring).  You can count out 25 rows and if that measures 3+1/2″ – those are the numbers you use.
So with those measurements – stitches per a certain measurement, rows per a certain measurement, you add in how big the overall swatch measures and how much it weighs in grams, add all that info to your measurement chart in CF and the style sweater you want to make – pullover, cardigan, or vest; vee neck, round, boat or scoop neck; long or short sleeves or somewhere in between, flared straight or tapered sleeves — lots of choices – and a pattern is generated with your swatch info using your measurements.  Love this program.
swatch1Do I swatch in pattern?   It depends.  For CF swatching is done with stockinette stitch.  Some patterns do not alter that swatch but some will affect it.
In this blue swatch – a summer cardigan I’m ready to block and start sewing together.  I did swatch the lace inset I was going to use up the front of both sides of the cardigan.  I tend to knit lace a bit more loosely  but as you can see from the swatch it didn’t really alter the fabric so was good at the same gauge.
One time I should have swatched the pattern stitch and didn’t – those two swatches in the brown tweed yarn – I was going to make a sweater with cables up the front but I didn’t swatch the cables.  I have the back of the sweater done – which is plain stockinette, and when I started the front the cables don’t show up at all.  The particular type of yarn does not make them pop and stand out and since I’m not a fan of making cables in the first place, I’m certainly not going to make them if they are going to fade into the sweater!  So that sweater is in time out – I will probably just make the front plain, which is fine, but lesson learned.
What are the holes in the swatch.
swatch3You can see four holes in the top of the blue/yellow swatch.  As I said earlier, I like to keep my swatches if possible.  That’s because if I decide to make another CF sweater and use the same type of yarn, I can refer back to that swatch.   The green swatch that had the white thread on it – that’s Wollmeise DK yarn so if I want to make another Wollmeise DK yarn and I want the same short of drape as that swatch has, then I already know what my gauge will be and won’t need to re-swatch but will need to know what size needles I had used to get that gauge.   I’m getting better at adding that info into Ravelry project pages but sometimes don’t so in the case of the blue/yellow swatch – the four holes means I used a US size 4 needle. Most of the other swatches are marked differently (because I hadn’t learned this method of marking them yet) and the rest have knots tied in the starting or ending thread tail – so four knots would indicate a US size 4 needle,  3 knots a size 3 needle etc.
Do I block my swatches?  Absolutely.  You need to know how that yarn will react with blocking.  Some yarns bloom, some grow in length  and shrink in width and all those changes will happen to my sweater when it’s done.  CF uses the “blocked” gauge measurements so you block/wash your swatch however you will great your sweater and then take your gauge measurements.  If it’s superwash and you will put your sweater in the washer and dryer, then I would do the same to my swatch.  I usually just soak the swatches, squash out the water and let them dry  – which is how I would care for the finished sweater.  No pinning out of the swatch  to a certain size – I just sort of smooth it flat so the stitches are looking even and let it air dry.
If you want to learn more about CF – the link to the website is above and there’s a great discussion board on Ravelry where I’ve learned so much more – a very valuable resource.
ETA – I just had to go back and look at that blue swatch – the picture looks like it has coffee spilled on it.  Sure enough.  Did I mention that they sometimes become mug rugs for my coffee cups while I’m working in  the sewing room if one is left out — clearly I slopped my cup on that one.   Oh and swatches do also make great Barbie doll afghans/blankets — or so I’m told my some little girls who have visited and taken some home with them. 🙂
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A pile of pieces

After finishing off the last sleeve for the red sweater, I pulled out a prior sweater I had set aside — why I simply didn’t finish it before starting the next – who knows. LOL  I only had about 10 rows to go to finish off the last sleeve on that sweater too.

So here’s what I’ve got  – piles of pieces – three sweaters’ worth of pieces – all sweaters I made using CustomFit.

3sweaters Believe it or not – I finally got a photo of these where the colors are true – well the red is a bit brighter but it looks better here than it usually photographs.

The aqua sweater on the left is a pullover with sleeves about to my elbows.  It has a very wide lace panel on the front and I forgot about how that much more width of the lace might affect the measurements across the front and compiled with the fact that I tend to knit lace patterns looser than my stockinette stitch is, it may end up more baggie that I had originally planned but not a big deal.

The sweater in the middle is a cardigan with a lace panel in the center back (I think even the same lace pattern as the aqua sweater because I really like it and it’s so easy to do), and then there’s a small lace section up each side of the front.  That one has either elbow length or 3/4 sleeves – can’t remember which.  The red is another cardigan with a different lace pattern across the upper back shoulder area and plain on the front with 3/4 sleeves.

 

So after finishing off one of the blue sleeves last night, I was looking to see what else was in my knitting basket.  My Featherweight cardigan just needs the ribbing added around the neckline and front – that will take a while since it’s very wide ribbing in fingering weight yarn.  I had to finish off the blue sleeve because I needed the longer cable needle I had been using for that sweater in order to pick up the edging around the Featherweight.

Since I was rearranging bedroom furniture yesterday, and there are several yarn storage containers I had to pull out from under the bed, while I had them out I grabbed the yarn I need for the Featherweight ribbing and that is now wound and ready to get started.    I may go digging through them today before putting them back to see what might work for upcoming projects I want to make.   But since the bedroom is back in order except for a bookcase I need to declutter and dust, I think later today it may be time to pull out the blocking boards and get one of these sweaters blocked.

So far today, I made a trip to the grocery store to pick up a couple things I forgot last time I was there and forgot last time that I’d be home on vacation so had to definitely get more coffee!  And during my cleaning frenzy yesterday, the alarm clock took a bounce on the floor from which it never recovered.  Good thing I broke it when I didn’t really have to get up to be somewhere on time! 🙂  So stopped and got a new one.

Also found this sock in the knitting basket

Image2 I love this yarn.  When I pulled it out of the basket it only was finished to just after the heel so I’ve made great progress on it but that ball of yarn is dwindling so it may be a race to the finish to see if I finish first or if my yarn finishes first.  The other sock is already done.  I don’t think I finished a single sock all last winter so it will be good to get some new ones done to add to the drawer for when that wooly sock weather returns.

Off the Needles – Friday, July 27, 2015

therapyYes – finally something off the needles to add to my finishes.  Just a little bit ago I bound off the picot edge and cut the yarn tails.  It’s my Therapy shawl I made for summer shawl KAL at Laura’s Workshop on Ravelry.  You had your choice of several of her shawl patterns to make for the KAL.  This one is really easy and great tv watching/bus riding knitting.  I wanted to use up most of my yarns I was using so made it a good bit bigger than the pattern called for. It’s way too humid (and actually raining off an on between bouts of sunshine which just make it feel more humid) to block it now so it will wait until the weather changes but that will open up the mesh knit areas more.

The blue yarn is Malabrigo Finito (so soft!) and the color is 196 Mares.  The other two colors are Tosh Sock in Steam Age (which is a multicolor) and Sugar Plum.  You can see the colors on my Ravelry Page here.   I looked back and the Tosh Sock colors I bought back in April of 2012 so they have finally made it out of the stash pile.

I’ve updated the yarn stash page and I’ve knit so far just slightly more than half of what I’ve purchased (it was my Loopy Legend color that really skewed my numbers) 🙂 Now I need to get back to the four? (I think) sweaters that are in various stages on the needles.  Some are really close to completion.  I need to pull them all out and see where I am at on each of them.

Check out what’s on everyone else’s needles over at Judy’s Patchwork Times.

Friday’s On the Needles Report – 3/6/15

Gosh I can’t believe the first week of March is nearly done.  I’m looking forward to the second week of March tho since just maybe we’ll get above the teens in temperatures.  It’s be bright and sunny all week which is nice, just too cold to  actually melt anything.  So I’m thinking there will still be plenty of time to get some wear out of my Wiggle Wrap.

DSCN4122  It’s still not blocked but eventually I’ll get around to that.

So off the needles this week – my Wiggle Wrap.  It’s got a whopping 2,600 yards of fingering weight yarn in it which brings my total knit so far this year to 4,936 yards.  (a mere 1,380 yards have been purchased so far, and all of that for my Loopy Academy projects so it’s already back off the needles and used up.) I still have one project to buy for yet for this semester of Loopy Academy but I haven’t been able to decide which slip stitch project I want to do.

In the running are:

Slip-Zag  – tho I would not make it as long as in the original pattern – probably about half that length is more wearable for me.

From Russia With Wool

Slip It Good

But then how many cowls does one person really need.  I think great nice Eleanor may need a hoodie for spring since I came across this cute one.

 

 

You can see all the finished projects for this year by clicking the yarn stash button in the right sidebar. If you click on the photos there, they’ll enlarge.

Since I finished this project, I pulled back out my purple CF Deep Winter KAL sweater.  I’ve got the back and one front done and I’m just about ready to start the armhole shaping on the second front.

On and Off the Needles – Friday recap

I just could not bring myself to turn on the computer when I got home.  But here’s my “Friday recap” —

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I did finish the second pair of socks for my Mom earlier this week and sent them off in the mail to her yesterday.  Two pairs of socks finish so far this year – that might be possibly more socks than I finished all of last year.  I really need to get back to some of my socks.

My plan is to take down all the knitting swatches on this rack in my sewing room

DSCN4055— the rod is quite a bit longer than shown here — and pin up all the single socks that need to have mates made.  Not only will they look pretty hanging there on the wall but it will be a constant reminder that I need to finish the second sock for each one!

Some of them may never get finished — the size is not right; some of them I need to try to see if I can figure out what size needle I used because I was not good at writing it down – thinking I’d get back at that second sock quickly (yeah right!) 😉   and some I need to see if I can remember what pattern I was using and find it back.  These are all very good reasons why I should start a Ravelry project page for each new project as I start it and make sure to put in that info — I’m generally very bad about putting in needle size  but am trying to remember to do that.  But will have to figure out which socks I want to finish once I pull them out.  The smaller size  ones I originally was going to give to finish for my sister but she can’t really wear wool anymore  — most of those are small because of the pattern I chose (cables so the sock doesn’t stretch as much or colorwork so it doesn’t stretch) so will have to decide if they will work for Mom or otherwise there will just be some lovely single socks hanging on my sewing room wall for decoration.  Heck, I hang quilts on the wall — why not socks! 🙂

My project too and from work has been my Wiggle Wrap.  I’m so ready for this project to be done!  It’s now longer than I am tall — probably about 6-1/2 feet long.

DSCN4115The photo does not do it justice.  It’s going to be so lovely and warm but I shall continue on since I don’t want to waste any of the yarn and after that lighter blue comes the two colors I like the most out of all of them so another foot or so to knit.

And here’s my vest pieces —

DSCN4116all blocked and waiting for me to stitch the shoulder seams so I can pick up the front bands and knit them.  I’m hoping to get started on this later today.

 

Right now I need to go wind a ball of yarn for my Loopy Academy stripe project.  I think I should have this project done by next weekend.

As for the Yarn Stash progress– no yarn in this week so my tallies are:

Stash Yarn knit up to date:  1886

Yarn added to Stash to date:  1380

 

You can see photos of all projects completed so far this year on my yarn stash page

And check out all the other knitting reports at Judy’s.

On the Needles, Friday, December 26 – knit the stash recap

The last on the needles report for 2014 — that whole Knit the Stash thing — while I did knit from the stash, heck I was adding to it on a regular basis.  I stopped updating my tally in the blog widget so the last couple orders are not included.  Suffice it to say, I knit a bit less than half as much as I added to the stash.  Pretty much all of my adding in the last four or five months has been in preparation for next year (how’s that for an excuse)!   I have several projects lined up, I needed sweater quantities and the stash does not contain SQ -it mostly contains sock quantities.  And there was the lastest Wollmeise updates so now I can make striped Wollmeise sweaters too since I don’t have enough of any one color.

Anyway here’s what I’m currently working on.

DSCN3999 It’s a CustomFit v-necked cardigan front vest that will have one button to close it – garter st hem and edgings.  This is the photo I took of it yesterday morning but forgot to post it.

 

The second photo is the one I took this  morning, outside my door where the sun was actually peeking through – finally! sun!

Anyway I was trying to get a true color photo and as you can see, I probably added about  6-8″ to it yesterday  – tho actually the first photo looks more true to color.

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I’m still working on my CustomFit Featherweight Cardigan.  Another 2 inches or so and I think I’ll be ready to start the underarm shaping on my first sleeve.  That project is much slower going (knitting) since it’s fingering weight yarn.   And of course there are various socks and scarfs (wiggle wrap) on the needles.

There’s even these slippers which I worked on one night last weekend — the slipper pattern I learned long ago. Didn’t everyone learn to knit making these?  I did – and made many many pairs in my younger years for everyone in the family.  These will be interesting since the second one will turn out a bit different in color (or maybe very different in color) since I’m using some long color change yarn – holding two strands together.

DSCN4006These are just a slight bit too big since I wasn’t really following a pattern, but I plan to wash them and toss them in the dryer to felt them just a little before adding the big pom pom on top — they Must have a pom pom 🙂  But they are cozy and warm.

Among my final yarn purchases – this arrived earlier this week

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The hanks are the Wollmeise Pure I ordered.  The purple and navy will be used together in a sweater I think.   The blue and gray are lace weight and will be used to make Spring Kerchief.

There is yet one more order coming (isn’t there always one more order) – from Miss Bab’s gratitude sale – some Yowza in a pretty purple for a sweater.  I have one sweater from her Yowza yarn and just love it and wear it all the time.

So my knitting plan for 2015 — finish some of the projects on the needles, search the stash for new projects to go on the needles (I have several lined up to keep me busy for a while.)   I probably won’t be doing Loopy Academy for the second semester and I’m not sure about Camp Loopy — I want to concentrate on the projects that I want to knit and not necessarily on ones that meet certain requirements.  Besides doing Fabric camp loopy and yarn camp was a bit hectic.

You can see all the projects finished in 2014 here.    Eighteen projects finished in 2014 – several which were sweaters and it takes a whole lot of yarn and time to knit me a sweater – so I think that’s pretty darn good with all the other things that keep me hopping around here.

On the Needles – Friday 12/12/14

DSCN3965  I’m still knitting along on the Wiggle Wrap.  Last time I showed it I think I was at the red/orange (before the dark purple/black) on the right hand side.  That’s how far the first balls of Kauni took me.  I’ve added on the next ones and knit about 6 or 8 inches so far this week.

The Shawl Collared Cowl – which I showed earlier this week

DSCN3959will get blocked this weekend and I’ll hunt through the button bin.  It’s a gift for a friend and should be snuggly warm.

 

But check out these cool bowls I found tonight.  I had to buy them!

DSCN3964Love the knit/cable designs on them and the bright red insides.  The larger one is the perfect size to hold a large half grapefruit so I think that will be my grapefruit eating bowl. 🙂  They are just to fun.

 

Unlike friend Judy who was very good not buying yarn this week….yep, I’ll have a couple packages arriving.  The Wollmeise I ordered a couple days ago should arrive Monday.  Plus, I was looking at the projects I want to make in the not too distant future and one of them is Spring Kerchief which is made with two colors of lace weight yarn. I happened to find a lovely combination in the Last Call section of discounted yarns at TLE so those will be arriving as well next week.

This weekend may see the new Christmas tree removed from its box and set up and maybe even decorated but I really need to spend some quality time in my sewing room getting the borders on the wedding quilt so I can start quilting on it.

And the big news here today – an early baby arrival this a.m.  I’m now officially a “Great Aunt” to a new little girl.  Which also means there’s a baby quilt that needs to be quilted too. 🙂

Shawl Collared Cowl progress

This was really a quick knit – especially with the bulky yarn.

DSCN3959  One side looks more green in the photo – that would be where the second hank was added in – but actually in looking at it in real live you don’t really see much blue at all – it all looks like shades of dark green.  Funny how the flash changes up the look of things.

All that’s left to do is block it, bury ends and then sew on some fun buttons.

Shawl Collared Cowl Progress

DSCN3957

I made great progress last night on my shawl collared cowl  once I found the right size needles.  I finally quit for the night (or wee hours of the morning) when I used up the whole first hank of yarn.   I’m more than half way done and now that I just wound the other hank, I’ll be moving on to starting the decreases in the shawl collar.  If you’re looking for a quick project or last minute gift – with the bulky yarn this one knits up in no time and is easy to make.

But think I’ll set this aside for the morning and sew together some quilt rows.

Just in time

I got the scarf fringe added — just in time for the snowstorm on the blog!  LOL  I forgot it’s set to automatically turn on the snow on the screen.  It is turned on for a couple weeks if I remember right and today must have been the “start” day of the winter storm. Good think there’ a warm scarf to ward off the cold.

No purl ribbed scarf -  started 10/2014 finished 11/30/14

No purl ribbed scarf – started 10/2014 finished 11/30/14