And after the swatches comes the cast on

All those swatches?  All those many many many swatches?  Well now that they’ve led to a stitch I’m happy with, now it’s time to start the project.

I’m going to have to do a post about how I cast on at some point…there are a lot of fuzzy ideas about cast ons floating around out there, and we should have a chat.

But for now, I’m talking myself into slogging through a good five inches of brim, and that’s taking all my motivation.  Remind me how I pretty much only wear hats with nice folded brims, and so it’s worth it put in the time.  Because I know somewhere around two inches I’ll start trying to convince myself that surely that’s enough!

Indomitable (plus giveaway)

So let’s talk socks.  Do you realize how long it’s been since I knit a new pair of socks?  I took a look and it was summer…summer of 2016.  That’s just not cool.  I needed some really awesome socks to break that streak, and Indomitable seem to have been just the thing!  They’re out on ravelry now (and you can get 10% off with the code UNSTOPPABLE).

These were more fun than they had any right to be.  That stitch at the top is sort of magic.  It’s fun to do, looks great with lots of yarn, super warm and cozy to wear.  And the nice, mellow ribbed foot just zips by in no time (even for big feet!).

And then…once the knitting is done…comes the only hard part of these socks.  You have to decide if you want to wear them just like you’ve knit them, or if you want to flip them inside out and turn down the cuff.  The first picture in the post shows them cuffed, the second shows how they come off the needles.

As far as I can tell, there’s really no wrong choice here!  They’re adorable cuffed, and equally charming with the leg straight.  Now, if you happen to not be a fan of cuffed socks, of course you could run that awesome texture pattern all the way down the leg (and the pattern talks about that option too).  But I sort of like having both options, so I did mine half and half.

I knit mine in a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend from Mineville Wool Project (sadly discontinued, but there are oodles of good mcn sock yarns out there, so don’t despair).  I couldn’t decide if I wanted solid or wild (that stitch at the top looks amazing with both), so I somehow ended up with both in my stash.  I eventually went with the solid (I’m boring like that), but I’ve got the variegated one to give away.  Swing by this post on instagram if you think it might want to come home with you!

And, for everyone I can’t send yarn to, I’ve got a coupon for Indomitable.  You can use the code UNSTOPPABLE to get 10% off between now and Friday.  Just put Indomitable in your ravelry cart, click on the ‘use a coupon code’ button, and type in the code UNSTOPPABLE.  You’ll see the change in price reflected right away.

Comments left on the instagram post between now and the end of the day (eastern time) Friday, February 16, 2018 will be entered to win.  I’ll pick a winner, contact them via DM on instagram to get their addresses, and arrange to send yarn their way.  If I do message you, I need to hear back from you within 72 hours or I will pick a new winner and contact them.

Swatches…So. Many. Swatches

So I know I’ve talked about how swatching is a thing…but I’m not sure if you really believe me.  I’m not kidding when I say that I sometimes spend as long swatching for a project as knitting it (especially for little things like hats).  I mentioned last time that I stared with some swatches to see how I liked the needles and the yarn together.  But that was just the beginning.

I doodled around with the blue yarn for a while, but didn’t like how things were shaping up, so I set it aside (and I did that at night when it was dark, so alas I don’t have a picture of that swatch, you’ll just have to take my word for it). I switched to a different yarn to see if what I had in mind would play better there.

It was better, but not quite right.  Good enough to take some notes though so I can come back and work with it more later.  But not quite what I had in mind, so I tried a few different variations on yet another yarn.  Still no love.

So I scrapped the herringbone thing I was experimenting with and decided to go in a totally different direction.  Might as well keep going with the same yarn though since it was handy.

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.  I mean I know this actually looks sort of like a pile of crumply bug pods.  But there’s potential there.  Enough that I went back to the blue yarn and tried it (with a few tweaks) there.

And now we’re getting somewhere.  This has lots of potential. Enough that it’s worth making the swatch bigger and blocking it to see how it behaves at a larger scale (meaning I’m not done with the swatching, but I’m done with the sort of experimental pre-swatching that comes before I get down to a proper swatch).

So that’s what, five or six different swatches (usually with a few different variations on any given swatch) tried out to get to an idea worth running with and doing a big swatch for.  This is totally normal by the way!  Taken all together, I’m pretty sure there are at least as many stitches in my swatches as there would be in the finished hat.  But the finished hat will be oh so much better because of the swatches, and I’ve learned all sorts of stuff along the way.

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.