Spotlight on Techniques: The Other Reason You Should Swatch

Swatching is my not favorite part of knitting a sweater or a shawl. As we talk to all of you in the shop, we can confirm that knitting a swatch is low on many knitter's lists. As you all know, if you want a sweater to fit properly, knitting and blocking a swatch to check your gauge is necessary. Many people skip that step and hope for the best. If fit is not a good enough reason to swatch, let me give you another: yarn to pattern marriage. Read on for this week's swatch journey!

I am in love with the Beaufort 5 cardigan by Isabel Kraemer.  It has been on my list since its release last year. I am also in love with a new yarn on our shelves, Sea Change Fibers Fjord Tweed Sport, and to be specific, the color Undercurrent. I was positive that this pairing would be the perfect match. Beuafort and Fjord Sport were going to go on a trip with me, lucky duo!

When I got home I sat down to swatch for gauge in both stockinette and in the subtle textured stitch that created the fabric of the sweater.  Isabel says, "The stitch pattern for this cardigan reminded me of the effect that the wind makes on top of the ocean. With a gentle breeze, ripples in the form of scales appear on the surface of the water with small wavelets." Ocean, waves and my Undercurrent color had to be perfect, right? Nope. The stitch pattern, which slows my knitting down a bit, does not pop. If I am going to put the work in, I want it the pattern to show. Don't get me wrong.  I love this yarn and will happily store it away for my next project but for this project, it wasn't what I envisioned.

My next choice was Joseph Galler Heathered Prime Alpaca in a pretty color called Lavender Fog. This yarn is gorgeous,100% superfine alpaca, that holds up beautifully. It doesn't pill and is incredibly soft.  The light color was sure to highlight the pattern, right? Swatch, swatch, swatch again....and nope. It had too much drape for me. I like a fabric with some structure to it and this was just too slinky.  Yes, I purchased and wound yet another skein, but that is ok, I am going to knit a little shawl for a friend. A project where that kind of drape will be better suited.

Now, I thought to myself, I have the answer, I am going to mix Hudson + West Weld in Lake and Biches et Buches Petit Silk Mohair in Blue Grey together. Weld would give the structure while the Silk Mohair, the softness. Nope!  I didn't even block this one. Love the combo but the textured stitch once again was lost. 

Time to swatch a trusted friend, Rowan Felted Tweed.  Maybe it is not the most hip of our yarns, but it is a tweed that will show even the most subtle of stitch patterns. The color is a bit unusual for me....a greenish yellow called French Mustard. It has specs of natural and blue that really shine when you see it in person. I don't have a sweater like in my closet and it is, spoiler alert, appropriate for my trip. My daughters like it which means I have the most important stamp of approval in my book. I got stitch and row gauge on a US 5 and the rippled pattern shows up quite nicely.  After 4 swatches, I have a winner!



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