Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The importance of being swatched

Gauge is important. Correct tension is critical to knitting success. You should knit a swatch, measure it, adjust needle size and wash and block your swatch. You should do these things, and most of the time, I don’t.

Those of you who have been following my knitting adventures for the past month (yes – today is indeed my 1 month blogiversary) may have gathered that I am not exactly a hotshot in the swatching department. I take liberties with patterns and I only swatch when I knit for other people, and on the very rare occasions I make something fitted.

I don’t swatch because I am lazy, but mainly because instant gratification takes much too long – when I finish a project, I want to have a new project up and on the needles ASAP – and swatching takes too damn long.

I have had a couple of knitting disasters, but my standard no maths method of pattern adaptation (eg knit on a size or so larger needles because patterns don’t usually come in a proper 16/18) generally works OK. It works because natural fibres – especially wool - are forgiving. It also works because I am willing to take any disasters on the chin and frog when necessary.

In fact, some years ago, what should have been a non-swatching disaster turned into my very favourite jumper. I had made a red mohair jumper which I loathed when it was finished. So I frogged it (yes – frogged mohair) and had a play with a design and started knitting – on much bigger needles. At that time I had just lost a jumper I adored because I broke up with the man who owned it, so I was trying to recreate that size and style (I was slim, young and likely to wear only this jumper in the mornings). I started knitting and realised I was going to run out of wool – so I bought more mohair, different type and slightly different shade. I striped the front and the sleeves. I knitted a very loose funnel collar. The neck is so wide it always slips off one shoulder. It comes down to my knees. I roll up the sleeves by around 30 – 40 cms. Even now, it is almost possible to get someone else in there with me. It ought to be a disaster, horrible, unflattering, awful.

But it’s not. I adore it – I love wearing it. Every time I wear it, people offer to buy it or ask me to knit them one. Whenever I wear it I feel sexy and snuggly and warm and gorgeous. I love wearing it over black pants, black boots and a black skivvy. It is a dream of scarlet fuzziness and I have only just managed to hold on to it to protect it from acquisitive friends and boyfriends over the years.

So, maybe one day, it will happen again. I use the right needle size for socks. I swatch if I knit for others. I almost always substitute yarn and knit on larger needles. I generally knit clothes I love and love wearing. I wait for the wrath of the Knitting Goddess to descend on me. I will humbly accept the penance she is no doubt planning to give me after she wreaks her vengeance upon me. I willingly frog and tink disasters.

I accept all this – and one day I may create another perfect jumper, because I didn’t swatch.


Kate_knits_a_bit said...

que sera sera!
Go you brave thing! Creativity, persistance, courage!
Woot!! (I'm an intermittant swatcher)

Five Ferns Fibreholic said...

A swatch???? Isn't that just another name for why you knit the sleeves first????