Anatomy of a Swatch

Let me say that I am a born again Swatcher. I used to hate swatching – HATE it. I remember many years ago showing a swatch to Jillian and having her say, “Well, first of all, it’s not big enough! You can’t measure it and have it be accurate.” (Remember that Anne Norling weekend vest I did in Colorado?)

So, over the years, I’ve swatched and resented every minute of it. I just wanted to get to the knitting. Then it hit me – I was knitting when I swatched. It isn’t wasted time, it’s prep time and time well spent in that I can make mistakes and figure out how to fix them before actually starting on a project. Plus, it lets me play with the yarn – and we all know what a bonus that is.

Here’s my latest swatch. This is for the Debby Bliss Baby Cashmerino Cardigan.

The ball band says to use a US 3 and since I usually knit to gauge, I started with that. I wasn’t really happy with the way the swatch felt, not boardy exactly, but not as soft as the yarn is. Then I switched to US 4. The hand with this was perfect – soft, but stable.

I wanted to put a small lace panel in on both sides of the front of the cardigan, so I started messing around. I was knitting this at my son’s hockey practice, so I winged it. The first small patch you see is 10 stitches of seed stich bordering a 7 stitch lace panel. The lace panel got absolutely lost (I saw this after about 4 rows). So I switched to 7 seed, 7 lace, 7 seed and was very happy how this came out. You can’t see the holes very well in the scan, but what I wanted to emphasize was the line created by the decreases anyway. When the line of holes is moving toward the right, I knit 2 together (k2 tog). When the line of holes moves to the left, I used a decrease Jillian just showed me, knit 2 together through the back loops (k2tog tbl). The holes are sort of hidden and the lines show up beautifully. Exactly what I wanted.

All I had to do then was pick a ribbing. This sweater is tunic length, so I wanted the look of a ribbing without the pull in. I picked out 2, the one on the left is (I think) called a garter ribbing. It’s 2 rows:

row 1: knit 2, purl 2

row 2: knit across

It creates verticle lines of garter stitch between verticle lines of stockinette. Very nice, but I didn’t like the way it looked with my lace panel. The ribbing on the left is called twisted ribbing. You knit 1, purl 1, but on the front of the work, you knit through the back of the knit stitches and on the back of the work you purl through the back of the purl stitches. This creates a twisted pattern that’s firm and stretchy, and not too snug.

Then I took my measurements and plugged them into Sweater Wizard, creating my own pattern. This swatch took almost a whole skein of yarn, but I consider it well worth it. Now, I’m fairly certain what I’ll be getting is exactly what I want. I plan on keeping this swatch around, but I can canibalize it – if I need to.

So, to all you non-swatchers I say step into the light, swatching is a good thing.

One last thing, my childhood was spent riding in my dad’s Ford pick-up truck listening to 8-track tapes sung by this man…



rest in peace Johnny, mama’s calling you to the supper table.

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