swatch

Lessons I've Learned: Importance of Swatching

Knitting is an expensive hobby. Designing knitwear might be even more so, at least in my case. Why? Because at least one skein of yarn is going towards just the swatches, meaning I have to make sure to purchase one more skein of yarn on top of the set amount. I'm quite particular about my swatches, since different yarns will produce different results. Once I swatched a lace/nupp design using wool-based fiber and it didn't work out at all. Then I swatched it on linen yarn and the results were remarkable.

I still wasn't satisfied with the top two swatches. The bottom one doesn't count since it's pretty much needed.

I still wasn't satisfied with the top two swatches. The bottom one doesn't count since it's pretty much needed.

Sometimes, however, when I am working on a design and I already have all the yarn I need for the project, I have to make extra swatches, apart from the standard stockinette swatch. The pattern I had envisioned to use for the project doesn't work well with the yarn and I can't simply just use a different yarn because... I have already invested quite a bit of money into the skeins. So I have to make changes and adjustments and use up just a bit more yarn until I have swatched a design that is to my satisfaction. Designing knitwear has taught me to be patient and flexible. I believe that the more I work with different yarns, fibers and weights, I'll be able to know which ones are best suited for different types of projects, like lace, cable, colorwork, accessories, garments and even seasonal knits. 

Confession time: I actually enjoy swatching for garments (I never swatch for accessories unless it is to test a pattern), since the information I gain from them is rather invaluable - gauge, how it reacts to blocking, drapiness of the fabric, etc. It's just a part of the process of designing!

On My Needles: Linen!

This past week, I have been working non-stop on a project for my first magazine pattern publication! It's a small knitting magazine based in Chicago but I'm excited to get my foot outside of self-publication. Of course, I've continued to submit designs to other publications over the past few months (Pom-Pom mag, Twist Collective and amirisu to name a few...) and I find that will each new submission cycle, my understanding of garments gets better and better, as I have to study up a bit on garment design. The best way for me to learn how to design garments is to actually make them however, so in addition to submitting garment designs, I'm also drawing up sketches for garments for self-publishing. It's been really nice to go back to my notebooks and just draw, since drawing/sketching was my first love growing up. Combining knitting and drawing makes me extremely happy.

Swatch in Quince & Co's Sparrow line

Swatch in Quince & Co's Sparrow line

This garment is knit in the round so I had to learn how to swatch in the round. It's a fascinating technique but so wasteful on the yarn! Sparrow is 100% linen and if you noticed, I just knit in stockinette stitch and there is no curling! Apparently this is a feature of the yarn (I'm not sure that it's because of the fiber properties), which just makes me go "Wow!". I still have so much to learn about fiber characteristics.

Look at that drape!

Look at that drape!

I also love how this yarn drapes. I was really nervous about working with this yarn, which led me to learn another important lesson: needle size and type makes all the difference. I was using a size 4 nickel plated tip needle and the stitches were really uneven and I was just no satisfied with how the stockinette was coming out. Then I purchased a size 3 Hiya-Hiya Stainless steel needles and wow, it made such the difference! Firstly, with the smaller size made the gauge more to my liking and the steel held better on the linen but also allowed for quick knitting.

Currently, I have about 1 and a 1/2 skeins of Sparrow left (out of 5, and one of those skeins went to knitting up a million swatches) and I still have to finish up the main body of this design. I really hope I don't have to buy another skein because I really don't like waiting for the mailman.