Sunday, September 27, 2015

Gauge Swatch: A New Sweater

I was playing with one of those ridiculous Facebook surveys that's supposed to analyze your profile and list your three best attributes and one of your worst.  The positives didn't seem so bad, "goal oriented,"  "unbelievably charismatic," and "quick perception," but then came the negative: "Slacker." 

My first reaction was to get offended. "Hey!" I thought.  "Who are you calling a slacker?"  Then I thought about it... and the pile of clothes next to my bed that have been there for over a week, the pile of dishes in the kitchen that I totally plan to do right away... or after the next episode of the show I'm currently binge watching.  Remember my ratio of sweaters that fit to those that don't?  I thought about all the wasted effort I put into those full-body sweaters just because I couldn't be bothered to do an adequate gauge swatch.   They are my secret shame and I've been hiding them from my knitter mother for quite some time now.  Like I promised previously though, I'll be sharing ALL OF THE THINGS with you- so here are some of my more embarrassing sweater debacles, for your viewing enjoyment.

Perhaps my 2016 New Year's Resolution will be to reclaim all of the beautiful yarn I've mishandled.  I usually knit a few rows, eyeball the stitch to inch ratio, and decide if the fabric looks obviously flawed before disregarding what little information I've collected to just dig right into my projet du jour.  I like to pretend to be surprised when I pull the sweater on and find that I can fit a small elephant in there with me.  Keeps things interesting that way.  So what can I do to kick this bad habit of mine?  I can take my time and make a true, honest to goodness gauge swatch.  Not just any gauge swatch, a fantastic swatch.  A swatch that my mother could be proud of.  I'm not na├»ve enough to promise I'll keep this up for all of my future knits but I'm starting a new sweater soon and I vow that I will not knit this sweater twice!

Seems like there are HUNDREDS of articles on the internet for creating a swatch and I've read quite a few. Some people get really zen about swatching, like the little squares are a way for calming the mind and centering one's Chi before starting the main event. Some people just want get it over with as soon as possible and race through tiny samples.  I know it's hard to believe, but there are even some people out there who enjoy knitting swatches almost as much as the intended project.  I have also heard whispers of a magical people who knit so consistently that they no longer have to swatch, but can accurately predict the effects their static gauge will have on a pattern.  I am not one of their number, no matter how many times I brazenly declare that I am and dive head first into another woolen disaster of my own making. 

Now, of all the articles and demos and tutorials I've absorbed, I do particularly appreciate the Amy Herzog Design team's method, and I love that they took the time to provide the rationale behind it.  In case you haven't heard of them before, they've developed a system called CustomFit for knitting a sweater with  any weight yarn and your gauge instead of trying to match someone else's.  I haven't really delved into it yet to be honest, but I'm thinking it's something I could really benefit from eventually and I do follow the blog regularly because they've always doing something new and interesting!

I love that sultry raspberry color and it really pops against black!

So here it is.  Queue the fanfare.  This is my first honest effort at a useful swatch in Filatura Di Crosa Sportwool.  Not only did I knit it up, but I washed it as I would the sweater and I'm glad I did.  It's superwash wool and it felt kind of scratchy like acrylic when I was knitting it up, but the yarn softened up so much upon washing that I think it will be comfortable with direct contact to skin.  I bought a quantity in this luscious magenta and in black back in May with the expressed intent to use them for Tin Can Knits' Snowflake.  The crisp New England mornings we've had this week have reminded me that my sweater pile could be bigger and I love how simple and classy this design is.  I could wear it to Thanksgiving dinner, to the office, or out on the town afterwards.

So what about you?  Do you have a preferred swatch method or do you like live dangerously?   I've just about finished up what I expect to be my first Rheinbeck sweater, and a few Christmas gifts are off the needles now.  I'd also love to hear what other people are casting on!  Are you working on something for you, or getting a head start on seasonal gift knitting? 

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