In the beginning…

…there’s always a swatch.  Or, I suppose I ought to say there should always be.  I always swatched…a little bit.  But honestly, after the 5th time ripping and re-knitting one starts to see the obvious advantages to taking a few days extra to perfect the swatch.  I have become a painstaking swatcher – a relatively new thing for me but well worth the effort.  Kate has also made me appreciate the washed, tugged on, blocked and steamed swatch to truly know what you’re getting after all your knitting efforts.

And although at first glance the fabric swatch above looks fairly uniform there is a lot going on. I swatched the garter stitch on a 2mm to see if my guess about needle size was correct, and I felt it was so I continued onwards. After 18 rows of garter, to get my desired depth of the sweater’s bottom border, I changed to a size 3mm needle.

I had been wanting to work the Canopy Fingering (shown in River Dolphin) in a very geometric knit/purl pattern to show off the iridescence of the yarn. I found the perfect stitch pattern while paging through old Bear Brand Cardigan book and set to swatching the design.

The first repeat of the pattern, just above the garter border, has five rows of stockinette after the garter, and then three rows between the parallelograms. The second repeat of the pattern has five stockinette rows between the parallelograms.

I bound off. I blocked. I thought about it. I measured. I realized that the five rows of knit/purl pattern plus three rows of stockinette was just the slightest hair over one inch.  I had been leaning towards that as the better looking of the two options and decided it was destiny. A designer couldn’t ask for a better way to measure/size a pattern than to have a built-in measuring device.

I began swatch number two.

I kept my same number of garter ridges and still agreed with myself that the 2mm needle was definitely the way to go.  However, the fabric on the 3mm needle wasn’t pleasing me 100%. Second swatch? 2.75mm. Perfection. And, the row measurement went from just a hair over 1″ per one half repeat to exactly 1″ per half repeat. Kismet.

Now, if I could just remember what I always tell our customers: The yarns are all handdyed so be sure to alternate skeins as there can be a slight variance even within dyelots – see ripped out cardigan front from here!

So much for feeling smug about all that swatching.

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