Oct 5, 2015

Slow Fashion October: Small but Mighty

For week two of #slowfashionoctober, the focus is small and what could be smaller than knitting a swatch when it comes to a big project like a sweater?  If I'm going to change anything about the way I approach knitting this month, it's taking The Swatch seriously.  I have been much too lax, much too nonchalant, and much too frugal to swatch properly (if at all).  I imagine that a few of you are probably rolling your eyes right about now and thinking "Oh no, not another post about swatching," but I have to address it, for myself, if I'm going to break this dirty, little secret.

Every time I embark on a new project, I silently promise that I will swatch. But then I don't. If I am to be truly confessional, I need to admit that of the many reasons why I have not swatched in the past (and I truly am committed to swatching in the future), it's because I'm super frugal. Okay, I'll call it like it is: I'm cheap. Recently, I've tried with some success to not add to my stash. If I have bought yarn, it's been during a sale and with a project in mind. That's been a huge improvement from when I would wander into a shop, fall in love with a yarn, and buy one or two skeins, and then pack them away in my stash.

With my new-found self-control, I do some fast calculations and buy exactly the amount of yardage I need. To swatch with any real commitment, I should buy one extra skein and use that to swatch on different size needles and, in some cases, in different stitches. What would this mean to my wallet?  A difference of $10-$20 depending on the yarn, and that can be daunting sometimes.

But as the saying goes, penny-wise, pound-foolish.  After devoting hours and hours of knitting time plus a fair amount of cash on one sweater only to have it come out too large or too small, has taught me that my frugal ways need to be amended.  That extra skein will help me create a hand-made garment that I will happily and proudly wear for years. That extra skein will teach me a lot about the fiber I'm going to spend a lot of time with. That extra skein will save me money and tears in the future.

I spent this past weekend swatching with Manos Maxima using different needles sizes and different stitch pattern.  I took a genuis tip from Jared Flood's toolbox and knitted pearl bumps at the top of each swatch to note which size needle I used.  All my swatches were done with 20 stitches, and I absolutely loved this exercise.  I learned a ton about the yarn, my own knitting tension, and how beautiful some stitches look once soaked and blocked.  Most importantly, I think I've found the stitch I will use to knit my #slowfashionoctober sweater.  Stay tuned.....


  1. Love that slipped stitch honey comb-ish swatch, but all of them look great. I've been swatching much more, too, and it really does help me decide on a final stitch/motif/needle/yarn/etc. Looking forward to seeing your sweater progress!

  2. These swatches look lovely for a winter jumper. That is a smart trick to have purl bumps indicate what needle size was used. Yes, I agree, an extra skein or I try to use same type of yarn but different color if there's any leftover.

  3. Well I applaud your getting serious about swatching!!!! It is absolutely amazing how much you learn about a particular fiber from a particular producer during the swatching phase. Even the same yarn line in different colorways can act totally differently on the needles/hooks, at least I've found this to be the case. Your swatches look great, and I'm looking forward to seeing that sweater at the end of October.

  4. Yay! Another one for Team Swatch!! I am an avid swatcher. BUT: I don't buy an extra ball! I swatch with my yarn and then rip it out and use the yarn for the sweater. (I'm cheap too.) So sometimes that means knitting the swatch, finding that it's off, ripping it out and starting again with a different needle. So that leads to my dirty little secret: I don't ever block or wash the swatches because I'm going to use the yarn again! And I have to say, it's rarely been a problem. But I am also using yarns that I understand - I know how they'll behave. And my sweaters get worn very little, so I tend not to wash them but to use home dry-cleaning (Dryel) which doesn't shrink or change the fabric but just freshens the sweater.