Sunday, March 22, 2009

Somebody's Swatching You

Do you swatch? For those who may not know, swatching is when you knit a small square of fabric and you learn things about the yarn from it. Once knitted you can determine the number of stiches per inch, what the colors might looks like knitted, and once you wash and block this piece of fabric you know if it will shrink or expand. Pretty nifty little things really. So why don't more of us swatch? Or if we swatch, maybe we don't take it all the way. I don't know about you guys, but I rarely make it through the washing and drying stage. I've gotten pretty good about actually taking the time to knit the swatch and measure it to get my gauge but the idea of waiting another day while the little swatch dries just about kills me. I want to get started on my project.

So one of the things I'm trying to be better about is swatching. And better yet, keeping track of the swatches and the infomation to be learned from them. To this end, I went to Office Depot and purchase some nifty little tags and as I knit my swatches I am attaching a tag with the vital information of the yarn.

I'm pretty pleased with this system and I think it will be fun to look back on these little pieces of fabric and remember the excitement of starting a project, like a fabric scrapbook.

Meanwhile, I've been knitting swatches for socks too. I've realized the number of stitches per inch is really vital in socks and I absolutely have to take the time to at least knit a small swatch. One day while I was cruising the internet, I saw someone who knit their sock yarn swatch as a continuous tube. What an ingenious I idea! So the last few yarns I've gotten for socks I've knit in a continuous tube for my swatch.

I like this for several reasons. Again, the scrapbook affect is really cool but I also like that I can knit these swatches without having to deal with the headache of the first 1/2 inch of sock knitting. I don't like the first half inch of a sock with all the fussing to try to get enough fabric knit that you can actually grab it when you're knitting. Also the curling up of the knitted fabric meant measuring the gauge could be a challenge at best. By knitting one continuous swatch, I only had to cast on once and now I just knit, knit, knit. Even changing needle sizes is no big deal . And once I get a couple inches of swatch for my current yarn I just knit the next row of stitches onto the needles I have dedicated to this swatch and then snip the yarn. When the next yarn is ready to be swatched, I just join it in and knit along. The last step is to make sure I write down the yarn and needle size on the tag I've attached and I'm good to go. Neato!

So why all this talk about swatching? Well, I've gotten some new yarns lately and swatching has been a primary knitting activity. And this week, I think it's all paid off. Not because I'm done and I won't need to swatch again but because I learned something profound enough that I think it will keep me inspired when swatching is losing some of its glow. See what happened is this. I've been wanting to try out some Tofutsies yarn with the Chitin in it. It's supposed to be naturally anti-bacterial and sounded like a good fit for a pair of boot socks for S. I looked at the colors online and then looked at my LYS but I just wasn't thrilled with the way it looked. The colors were pretty enough on their own but they seemed all jumbled in the ball. Well this week one of our local yarn stores started a "Going Out of Business" sale and had yarn 30% off. I figured this was the time to buy some Tofutsies and check it out. Below is the first color I got.
Surprise, blues and greens. Like I said, the colors are pretty enough but they just seem kind of jumbled or something. Also, the yarn seems really thin and I was afraid it would make a really thin fabric. So I started knitting on my sock swatch. And as I knit, I realized that I was amazed with this yarn. The fabric was turning out to be really nice and firm on US 2s and even feels pretty soft. But it's not that which made me catch my breath. It's not the view of the yarn as you hold it feet or yards away. This isn't the view that wins you over...It's this one...This yarn, up close is so cool! It is composed of 50% Superwash Wool, 25% Soysilk Fibers, 22.5% Cotton, and 2.5% Chitin. Chitin is a fiber from crab and shrimp shells and gives the yarn its anti-bacterial qualities. But what I love is the colors moving through the knitted fabric when you get really close. Each fiber takes the dye just a bit differently and the way it all does together is just cool. Its got a pretty sheen you can't see in the picture too. So I learned a lot from swatching this week and I think I'm going to get some more Tofutsies. :)

No comments: