Tag Archives: swatches

Everyone is swatching for the weekend

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No? Just me? Oh. Well. I guess when you’re wrapped up in something it feels like everyone else is too. What am I swatching? Ah, glad you asked. (Also, I’m sorry if that title was an earworm for you. I’ve had that song stuck in my head ever since I heard Loverboy was somehow back on tour with Journey and Pat Benatar of all acts.)

So, first some business: if you are my sister or a friend getting married this fall, stop reading immediately and go find yourself some other entertainment. I love you both, but go away for now.

Anyway, where were we? Right, swatching. I actually hate swatching for things. When I have a new project in front of me, all I want to do it start in on it right away, and swatching seems like such a drag. But, when I’m making things to be given away, I swatch. (I didn’t actually swatch the baby sweater, due to time crunch, but it turned out pretty well anyway.)

Up first is Daphne, one of Cookie A.’s new sock patterns. I am in love. In love. I am going to knit these for my sister for Christmas, and I’m going to try and get them started now because I just want to feel like I’m being proactive. I’m going to knit them in Indigodragonfly Merino Silk 4 ply Sock, which is equal parts superwash merino and silk and very luxurious and smooth and soft and just the sort of yarn that will make my sister squeal when she opens them (I hope). Colourway: Don’t you have an elsewhere to be? (Cordelia). Man I love their colourways.

Swatched on 2.75 mm needles, for 8 stitches = 1 inch.

I don’t normally swatch socks because I knit so many, but there’s a lot of silk in this yarn and I just wanted to make sure it was going to behave like I thought it would. It totally does.

My other swatch project is for mittens, which will be a bridal gift for my friend who is getting married this fall. She has much smaller hands than I do, but it’s a lovely charted Norwegian pattern, so I can’t really fudge the stitch count. This is the reason I swatch, but also why I hate swatching. So far I’m on my third needle size, trying desperately to get gauge and failing. Somehow (and I’m not sure how), it makes no difference to this wool whether I knit with 2.5 mm or 2.75 mm needles. My gauge remains 18 stitches = 2 inches, which is exactly three stitches too many. Sigh. I’m on to 3.5 mm needles now, but I have a sneaking suspicion that will put me over, causing me to tear around Toronto looking for the illusive 3 mm dpn.

Swatch in progress. Grr.

BUT, that won’t be this weekend, because even though I’m swatching like mad, tomorrow L and I are heading back to Tobermory (to a different cottage) and I am bringing socks. Remember these?

Leftover socks! Still leftover, but almost done.

Yeah, they haven’t changed much.I’m about to divide for the heel on sock two, and I suspect that the 5-hour drive will go a long way to seeing them on their way to done. Since that will leave me with the rest of the weekend and the return drive, I am also bringing this (from my little shopping spree).

Fleece Artist BFL sock in Spruce. It’s a mix of dark green, dark blue, lighter green, and yellow. Should be interesting.

If it starts to stripe while I’m knitting the cuff, it might become Jaywalkers; if not, plain socks it is! I can’t wait to see how it knits up.

New skills

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I know, that looks like a regular swatch. Garter stitch isn’t new; stockinette isn’t new; ribbing isn’t new. The thing is, though, that I usually knit English (with the yarn held in my right hand) and this little swatch was knit Continental (with the yarn held in my left hand). In my regular life I am not ambidextrous, but I strive for more in knitting, apparently.

I should note, however, that when you learn new things it is slow. This little piece of knitting is more than an hour of work, which feels kind of pathetic. But, I did it by knitting in an entirely new way, and because of that, I’m proud of it. I’m proud of how even my tension is (even though it’s looser than I’m used to), and I’m proud I didn’t make any big mistakes, and I’m especially proud that now, three days after the class, I can still make my hands remember how to do it.

I can’t take a picture of my own hands, so, uh, here’s another picture of the swatch. Sorry.

The obvious question, here, is probably why bother. After all, I am a (mostly) proficient knitter as it is, so why do I feel the need to change it up so drastically (and if you don’t think it’s drastic, just try it – one woman got so frustrated that she gave up after 15 minutes; when you’re used to being good at something, it is really hard to accept that garter stitch might be tricky)? Well, there are two big reasons, I guess (if you leave out simple curiosity): the first is that it’s good to teach your brain new things. It’s really easy to get yourself into routines, and sometimes a little shock to that system is healthy, whether it’s taking an entirely new route home from work or learning to knit with your other hand. The other reason (the really big reason, if we’re being honest) is that I want to be able to do two-handed colour work (that is, hold one colour in each hand when working Fair Isle). I haven’t tried it yet – my swatch and I are going to spend some more time together first – but L gave me a gorgeous book of Norwegian mitten patterns for my birthday and I want to try some out.

And, yes, another shot. In case all this swatching has made you wildly curious, the yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers in colourway 9450 – it’s sort of a soft green-grey.

I also recently bought Knitting with Two Colours by Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen, so I think I’ll try swatching some stranded colour work before I dive right into fancy mittens. I know swatches are boring to look at (even when they’re surprisingly exciting to make, at least in this case), but if my colour work ones turn out, maybe I’ll post them. I’m especially interested in experimenting with yarn dominance…

Have any of you tried switching your knitting style? Who knits Continental full-time? Tips?

Swatches, Socks, and Skeins – oh my!

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I’m sure there will be many a multi-barreled Friday post in my future, and I suppose that makes great sense since Friday is the day you sort out the week so you don’t have to carry it into the weekend. I mean, it’s not just me who does that, right?

First up, my first lace work. About a month ago I decided to focus on socks for a little while because they are both practical and a great way (in my mind) to learn some new skills that I can apply to larger projects in the future. So, L and I went all over the city looking for The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes, which had been recommended. Sadly, I couldn’t find it; however, I did pick up Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd, and it has been excellent. Since finishing my mum’s socks, I have been knitting Almondine (rav link) and I am quite pleased with how they’re turning out.

Almondine socks in progress.

Almondine socks in progress.

I’m just finishing up the foot of the first sock (they’re knit top-down, clearly) and once I’ve got it all finished I’ll write about what I’ve learned/what little pattern changes I’ve made, etc. I will say, though, that for someone new to lace but not to socks, this is a very satisfying knit: the pattern is clear and has enough repetition to become natural without becoming boring, and seeing the lovely little almond shapes come together is never-ending excitement. It was also great trip knitting (I started it in the airport lounge last week).

Sock knitting is not quite all-consuming, though, so I’ve been puttering around and doing other things as well. First, I’ve been trying to clean up my stash a little bit. For a relatively new knitting, I have certainly accumulated a lot of wool, and I’m not complaining, but with a yarn-happy cat around, I do need to keep things somewhat orderly.

Ganymede loves to chase knitting.

Ganymede loves to chase knitting.

So, I took an hour or so this week (while watching some silly TV) to wind up some of my ends. I like to knit from the middle out – as opposed to from the outside in – which means that if I don’t entirely finish a cake, it ends up flat and floppy and libel to get very tangled indeed. The solution (for me) is little balls, and now that I’ve gotten the hang of making them even, I quite like them.

From left to right, these are two colourways of Abuelita Mysterious Blend Bulky ( 95% merino-corridale, 5% silk – so soft and gorgeous to knit with), used to knit L a hat, and my leftover Tanis Fiber Arts DK weight 100% Merino. What will I do with this ends? I’m not sure yet, but at least when I get to them they will be easy to knit with.

Finally, I realized I have never done anything with the wool I bought in Switzerland in December. I picked it up from a market stall in Bern and, because I don’t speak German and the man selling it didn’t really speak much English or French, all I can say is that it s indeed Swiss wool, but what breed of sheep it comes from and where it was spun remains a mystery.

Swiss skeins

Swiss skeins

One skein is a sort of grey-green and the other is a grey-blue (which you can’t tell in this photo), and they’re both quite wooly and finely spun, which is nice.

The market gentleman was only equipped to sell skeins, which means it still needs to be wound somehow. I’d like to know just how much I have, but ho-hum, I suppose I can add that to its mysterious characteristics. But oh, what to do with them?

Also! I completely forgot, but you remember that nice Maritime wool I bought when I was at home? Well I’ve been swatching it (ostensibly for mittens) and I must say, it is even lovelier to knit with than I first imagined. There’s just enough lanolin to make it soft and almost buttery in your hands, but not so much that it smells or sticks. It also has just the hint of a hallow and although I haven’t quite settled on what I’m going to do with it yet, I am getting very excited to do something with it.

Here’s my swatch (knit on 3.75 mm dpn, which gave me 7 stitches and 9 rows to an inch), including a little section of colourwork, just to see how it went.

Maritime swatch