Swatches, how I love ya, how I love ya

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Well – not really. At least not until I learned how important a step to successful knitting they are, anyway

Ah the old days…
Buy Yarn
Buy (or find in the house) needles
Cast on
Knit

So simple. And garments that looked totally crappy.

Oh, I wore them. I remember that, when I was in college my Sister-in-law knitted a sweater – I think it was supposed to be for my father? Mother? Somebody… Anyway that thing hung down to my knees, it was tight and yet completely misshapen. But I wore it. Nearly every winter day (it was Tucson, Arizona – it wasn’t that cold) for almost 5 years.

I remember a sweater I knitted when I first moved to upstate NY. Hung on me like a gunny sack. But I wore it until it wore out.

I don’t like to waste things.

But it turns out that, by not checking my gauge – not learning how to – I wasted so much time and yarn – far more than a few little 4×4″ squares would have – in making garments that were ugly. And it really is so easy!! (http://youtu.be/cMom5EHQbPA)

So this little guy in the photo (like my blocking mat? I don’t know what princess she’s supposed to be but she comes in handy!) is a swatch for my next big project – another sweater for Becky. This time we reversed. She picked out the pattern and I picked the yarn. This is Valley Superwash from WEBS (yarn.com) in a beautiful dark magenta. This yarn is very soft and lovely – I can’t wait to work with it – but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to check my gauge!

Yeah – I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s important! It’s thrifty! It’s therapeutic – nothing more relaxing than breaking out the needles and some pretty yarn and whipping off a nice 4×4 square in stockinette…

I finished something!

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It’s DONE!! I finished a sweater!

Now, granted it was with a fairly hefty yarn (Spud and Chloe sweater – it claims to be worsted, but I’d put it more at a light aran) and it doesn’t have sleeves (but… but… it has a HOOD!!) – but I finished it! Blocking and everything. Warning: if you work with this yarn it takes a year to dry. I really need to get one of those sweater drying racks that’s like a mesh hammock for sweaters. I had this laid out on towels and it took 4 days to dry – no joke!

But none of that is the point. The point really is the satisfaction I get from finally finishing a project and having it come out looking like it’s supposed to. This feeling is still relatively new for me. I’ve made lots of stuff, but not a lot of it (other than home dec or crafty stuff) has turned out like it was supposed to.

Now, since I’ve been taking classes and have had such things as swatching, gauge and blocking demystified more of my projects are looking like they should. It’s exciting!

I’ve never been one who follows the pack. Not at all – unless it’s the Green Bay guys. But spending a lot of time and effort to make a sweater or pair of socks or hat, then to have them look misshapen and weird just isn’t cool.

Now that I know how to measure my gauge and block I’m proud to wear what I’ve made (well this project is for Becky, so I hope she’s proud to wear it). Stuff finally looks good and fits – it isn’t either down to my knees (because I understand row gauge now) or hanging off my shoulders (because I don’t just indiscriminately add stitches to make things bigger). And I’ve also made a leap to applying what I’ve learned as a seamstress to my knitting. A lot of the concepts are complimentary. The difference is that, with sewing you’re buying your fabric, then cutting it and putting it back together to create a garment. In knitting you’re making your own fabric and incorporating shaping in that creating so that, when you put the pieces together they fit correctly.

Knits that fit and look good… what a concept, huh?