Swatching for Sweaters

by flowergirlknits

With Veste Everest finished and awaiting cooler weather for its public debut, it’s time to start thinking about the next Big Project – a sweater with sleeves. That means – swatching!

Like many knitters, I’m not all that thrilled about knitting swatches. It feels like a waste of time, an unnecessary delay till you can get to the fun part. But, as I have to remind myself every time, swatches are important and not just in preventing you from knitting a sweater that’s too big or too small; they can also tell you a lot about the yarn.

I’m not going to yammer on about how being off even one half a stitch per inch can cause you to knit a sweater large enough for an elephant (or small enough for a rabbit) – it involves math and calculations and counting and, well, I only just barely understand the reasoning; I’m sure that if I tried to explain it, it would fly out of my head. I knit my (tiny) swatches, count the stitches with my handy Susan Bates knitting ruler, mutter vile curses when, inevitably, I come up with the wrong number then sit and ponder for awhile whether I need to go up a needle size or down. (See? I told you I just barely understand this stuff) Eventually, I figure it out.

teeny tiny swatches (better than no swatches at all)

Upper Left: Shelridge Farms Soft Touch W4 in “Eggplant”, bought at Stitches Midwest. This is like knitting with butter if, you know, butter was stringy and didn’t melt. haha. Incredibly soft, gorgeous color. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but there are a lot of variations in the color (Buffy – who dyed the yarn – told me that this was how her purples always came out) It’s very subtle, similar to Malabrigo kettle dyed yarns. I’m hoping this will add depth to the finished sweater without being distracting. I had originally planned to use this for Flyingdales cardigan but just couldn’t get gauge; instead I’m planning on making a Daily Sweater with it.

Upper Right: Cascade Eco Wool in “Silver”, from stash. While not at all harsh when knitting with it, this yarn softened up beautifully after washing. It has a rustic look to it and is a bit thicker; this will be a sweater I can take on my next Arctic expedition. Or out shoveling sidewalks, whichever. This one is scheduled to become a Portland sweater (Ravelry link)

Lower Right: good old Cascade 220 in Heathers, from stash. If the color looks familiar, it’s because it’s leftover from Veste Everest. The yarn for the new sweater is another Cascade 220 Heather, but a light, herb green. This will be for Mr Greenjeans cardigan, but with full-length sleeves.

Lower Left: Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair in “Sky Blue”, bought at Stitches Midwest. I’m already in love with this yarn. While knitting it feels sturdy and not-quite harsh; after washing it is soft, supple and fluid. The color is subtle yet clear with a lot of depth. This is destined for a Flyingdales cardigan.

Interestingly, all four of these yarns are considered worsted weight, yet they range from almost DK weight (the Shelridge Farms) to almost bulky (the Cascade Eco Wool) – yet another reason to knit a swatch! I was also tickled to find that with the two Lisa Lloyd designs (Flyingdales and Portland) I got gauge with the recommended needle (usually I have to go down two or even three sizes) – maybe she’s a loose knitter like me?

So why am I messing around on the internet instead of madly knitting? I don’t have any of the correct sizes of needles needed in circs! Argh! Even now a needle order is winging it’s way to Jimmy Beans Wool. Until then, I’m back to working on the Livia socks (a break from them has helped) and a hat for a friend. And hoping that delivery gets here fast!

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