Pairing

Have I mentioned recently that I believe in swatching?  Swatching teaches you all sorts of things.  It tells you what size your finished thing will be.  But it also tells you if that yarn and that stitch want to play well together.  And sometimes…sometimes it tells you that your yarn and needle combo is not meant to be.

You’ll recall I was all excited to go back to knitting a hat on DPNs (after having grudgingly knit the last one on circs).  I had my awesome new Indian Lake Artisan needles all lined up and ready to go.  And I had some lovely Manos Silk Blend yarn all picked out.  And when I put yarn to needles, I pretty much instantly learned that this yarn and these needles do not want to play together.

Now, this is not the fault of the yarn or the needles.  They’re both lovely.  I like them both very much.  I will happily use both.  But the loosely spun, slightly grabby, single-ply yarn does not want to be knit with the wooden needles, no matter how silky smooth they’re sanded.  My stitches were uneven, I kept splitting the yarn, and the whole thing just felt frustrating.

I switched to metal needles and things instantly got easier.  No more splits and much more even tension.  Knitting this way will be a much more pleasant experience.  And I’ll save the wooden needles for the next project.

But this is the sort of stuff that you just have to swatch to figure out.  You’re not just swatching to check needle size (though of course that’s a big part of it).  You’re swatching to check the overall pairing between the yarn and the needle and the stitch.  That means you’re looking at the texture of the needle (grippy? slippy?), the sharpness of the tips (blunt? pointy? long or short taper?), and even the color, as well as size.

So swatch.  Swatch early, swatch often.  And don’t be afraid to have lots of needles to choose from.