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!

More swatches

Remember when I said I swatched a lot…I really do mean it.  I showed you the first swatch the other day, the one where the yarn was a tiny bit too fuzzy for the sort of stitch definition I wanted.  Next up was this lovely yarn from Green Mountain Spinnery.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it’s a good bit firmer in person than the Infinity Shawl was.

Alas when I swatched, the fabric I was getting wasn’t what I wanted either.  It’s a bit pricklier than what I can comfortably wear as a hat (my forehead is weirdly sensitive), and it’s not quite as cohesive as I’d like when knit up this way, so it’s not the right choice either (once again, for the record, saying ‘this yarn isn’t a good fit for what I want from this project’ is not the same thing as saying ‘there’s something wrong with the yarn’…the yarn is awesome, it’s just not what I’m going to use right now).

I think at this point, the right choice is going to be to swatch the original Hedgehog Fibres yarn and do the math and see what sort of cast on I’d need to make that feasible.   It won’t be a fast project, but it could end up being the right choice…

But what I want you to keep in mind here is that I’m learning this from little tiny swatches, not from big giant hats.  If I’d cast on for a hat and knit the first 5 inches of ribbing and then started with the pattern stitch, I’d be so invested in it that I’d probably keep going, even though it was the wrong yarn.  But because it’s just a few minutes of swatching, I’m happy to pull it out and start over until I find a really great match.  I promise promise promise that swatching saves time in the long run, and it dramatically increases the chance of ending up with a really awesome final project.

Oh hey look, more swatches

Yup, somehow there are more.  I think I’ve found a stitch I like…this is both cute and awfully fun to do.

But I’m hesitant to use that yarn combo (it’s yarn from two different companies, and I’m trying to lean towards using yarns from the same company in any one piece).  I love the blue (it’s from Dream in Color), but can’t seem to get my hands on a gray from them.  So, a quick stash toss revealed another promising combo.

I will, of course, need to swatch it too (are you sensing a theme?), but I suspect it will work out just fine!

Swatches…that’s really the secret

I’m liking this stripes that don’t look like stripes / things that aren’t colorwork but look like colorowork thing (like the purple and gray hat you’ve been seeing).  So I’m playing with another version of it.

And another…

Neither of these are quite where I’ll end up, but they are fun to play with!


My deep and unabating fondness for sets continues.  And I happen to have another skein of that speckly bit of pretty from Spun Right Round (someone will ask, the color is bug jar).  So it seems like there should be another hat to go with the first one, don’t you think?

swatchesThe only real question is top or bottom?  They’re both rather nifty, and I can make a convincing argument for either.  Any strong feelings on this end?