The Progression of a Swatch

You know how I’m always telling you to swatch? How I’m telling you that like 75% of knitting questions/problems can be addressed with a good swatch?  Yeah, that’s today’s theme once again.  I want to walk you through the swatching that happened for my next project.  Keep in mind this is just for a hat (that is, a small project, with no weird fit stuff…about as easy a situation as you could hope for).

It started with this (way back last summer…like I think last July).  I was futzing around, trying to figure out how a stitch I saw in a picture went together, when I did something weird and got a result I liked.

I wanted to make sure I really understood what was happening and make sure I could do it again, so I figured I’d try it again, this time taking some notes.  I had the stitch down, but I didn’t love the color combo with that stitch.

So I went back to the original colors.  But this time I wanted to see if there was a better way to transition into the pattern (I didn’t like the harsh line I had the first time), and I wanted to see how it looked if I reversed light and dark.  The transition worked, the reversed colors didn’t grab me.

So now I needed to make sure I could do something pretty to decrease in pattern (because if it’s going to be a hat, you need a pretty way to do the decreases for the crown), and try another color combo while I was at it.  Once again, I liked the decreases, but didn’t love the colors.

So for those of you counting along at home, that’s four swatches in three different pairs of yarns (four if count swapping light/dark for the orange ones) before I even get started thinking about which yarns I want to use for the project.  (That orange/white combo in the first picture is great, but it’s with scraps from the scrap bin and I’m not sure what yarn it even is, and I don’t have enough for the project.  Also, it’s fingering weight and makes for a small scale pattern that would not be dramatic enough on something the size of a hat.)

So next comes yarn shopping and stash diving.  Back in January I started thinking it was about time to come back to this one.  I knew from the swatching that I wanted a white yarn for the background, something in the dk/worsted neighborhood, preferably a plied yarn.  And then something bright and high contrast for the fancy bits, close to the same weight as the white, and single ply.  I bought some yarn and dug around in the stash a bit and came up with some possibilities.

And now?  Well now all I have to do is decide on a pairing and do the regular swatching for size.  (Translation, I’m not actually done swatching, but I’m getting close to being done.)

So that’s a minimum of five swatches (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being seven or eight) for a basic hat.  And I’m not even having to try and match gauge (because I’m writing the pattern, so whatever gauge I get and like is totally the gauge I’ll write the pattern for…if I were trying to match my fabric to a given gauge, there could be even more).

And is it worth it?  Well…I mean I guess we’ll have to wait and see what you think of the hat here in a few weeks.  But I suspect it will be!