Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reasons to love the swatch

I'm gearing up for Tour de Fleece, which starts this weekend! Here's my plan:
Spin a sweater's worth of yarn from a couple pounds of rambouillet wool from A Touch of Twist.  I sampled a bit of brown/green for a test run, and I'm having second thoughts about whether I should spin it up or go with my earlier plan to spin up the blue-orange fiber. It's a good problem.  The swatch is so soft, and I anticipate that I'll be able to make a lovely sweater with it!

Brown Swatch

I also am planning to squeeze in some spindle time using my new Golding. Wanting to push myself to try a new breed, I decided upon this gorgeous Dorset/Silk blend dyed by Dan at Gnomespun Yarns. It's one of his favorite breeds for making socks, so I thought that might help give me some direction to aim for in my spinning. 

Gnomespun Dorset/Silk Combed Top
Seeing this next to my brown and green swatch made me consider that fiber all over again for keeping a  color continuity, and I still have time to make a last minute switch. Time shall tell...

Aside from a bit of spinning 'training,' after I finished my green sweater, I found myself floundering a bit as to which project to hone in on next. Eager to begin another sweater but unsure about the details, I found myself swatching.

Segue into rant about swatching...
Hopping around on Ravelry, I came across one of those moments when one person is urging a fellow knitter to embrace the swatch. I felt the need to voice my own opinion on the matter, too, but as I wrote I decided it would be best to vent my feelings here instead of on some poor, unsuspecting soul.

Never fear, it's all warm fuzzies. Literally.  (Sometimes I crack myself up.)

Reasons to love the swatch
1. Swatching takes virtually no prep, except to wind the yarn and have needles handy- at least for stockinette stitch.
When you don't know where to begin, can't decide which color to use, or are overwhelmed with figuring out a part of a pattern, swatching gives you the chance to jump in and do something proactive.  And sometimes it helps you make those  tough decisions, too!

2. You don't have to worry about messing up. 
That is to say, you can afford to take certain liberties while swatching.
Swatching time

3. You don't have to let the swatch down gently if you decide the relationship isn't going to work. Knitting a swatch gives you a quick idea of what you might get if you combine a certain yarn with a certain needle and use a certain stitch. It's got the warm fuzzies of puppy love, the instant gratification of finishing, and the beauty of a bath and block - all at a negligible cost to you.
2013-04-15 17.26.38

4. Swatches are comforting--at least if you're as wool-crazy as I am. 
I know I'm not the only person who has fantasies of cuddling up with a nice yarn, or becomes a bit goofy when gazing at a freshly bloomed bit of wool. It's wool for wool's sake.
Marr Haven Sport - washed

5. Swatching is an exhilirating way to learn new techniques and a very smart way to try out an idea you're unsure will work. 
Seaming practice: mattress stitch

Again, it gives you the chance to experiment without the agony of an entire hat -- or sweater -- forever telling you that you have made a grave error. 
3-D Collar Swatching
Swatches are reusable, and they can be green, too!
And if you're one of those folks who brazenly declare that you don't mind ripping out an entire project, after the third or fourth time you may start to see what I'm getting at.  Ask me how I know.

6. Swatching is great for morale. 
Not all of us find knitting meditative and relaxing; we often play too hard for that to be the case. But knitting a simple square in a great yarn, or picking a stitch out of a stitch dictionary and just knitting away (again, in a beautiful yarn) can be cathartic -- even therapeutic -- once you've mastered the basics.  And for you new knitters, it gets better. 
Lace Sampler

Abrupt Rabbit Trail: that last line can be read with a different subtext. Knitting has played an important role in my personal journey in making peace with being gay and becoming comfortable in my own skin. A mere day after the Supreme Court took a stand for people like me, I rejoice that our prospects are brighter today than they were, say, fifty years ago. While I have gone through my own share of inner torture along the way, since my youth I have also been blessed to know a good number of conservative Christians who, while they have strong personal convictions that may not always be comfortable with my sexuality, have given space to a real and palpable desire to love the person and refrain from passing judgement. They have prayed for me, they have paid for me, they have given me rides, they have sat up with me, they have loved me as one of their own, they have wept for me, and they have talked and talked and talked with me -- and still talk to me. And I know, I know, I know that they love me. I am grieved that such experiences are often eclipsed by the horror stories that are so useful in our fight to be treated without contempt, and I feel it's worth mentioning there are many conservatives out there who deeply love gay people. I'm not saying that everything is easy-breezy, but having walked in both sets of shoes, I understand that it is a big obstacle to overcome in one's thinking, and I can appreciate the process. Even if attitudes in the conservative camp continue to become more favorable towards the GLBTQ community, there will always be a need to overcome  judgements and excuses for people to ostracize other people. I want to offer my gratitude for each person who makes that journey to extend grace to people so impossibly different from them in the conviction that those people are valuable and precious. The truth is that we are all far less different than we like to think. 


  1. what a personal heartwarming post, Will ~ yesterday was definitely a day of celebration

    I'm proud to know you :)

  2. I have so many swatches that one day I'm planning to sew them together into some sort of scrap blanket.

  3. I have a box full of swatches, and an other bunch of them lying around... sometimes I carry a recent one in my bag, sometimes I have it on my you can guess my relationship with them... I reguralrly talk to them, caress them, and still sometimes they do lie.