Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Swatching! Lessons Learned

I'm swatching for Kirsten Kapur's Wood Hollow Vest. I don't usually swatch. Most of the things I make are small - socks, hats, scarves. Accessories, as it were. They are so small, they are almost swatches in themselves. Either gauge doesn't matter, or if they don't fit you, they become gifts :0)
But when you make actual garments. That have to fit your body. That's a whole lot of time investment to get gauge wrong. So swatch we must. Here are a few of the things I learned from my swatch.

1. I learned to read the pattern. Not just the written pattern, but the actual pattern in the fabric I was creating. I can tell just by looking at the fabric in the few rows before, which direction my next cable is going to travel. This means less time reading the written pattern.
I already knew how to read stitches, but this swatch was like a practice session for these particular cables/travelling stitches. When I cast on, I'll be hitting the floor running.
2. Having multiple, superfluous charts on a page is a distraction. Some patterns you can cut & paste on your computer. But not this one. So, I cut out the necessary charts and taped them to a clean sheet of paper. Crude, but it works. I now won't look at the "Large" chart, instead of the "Medium" chart and waste 30 minutes tinking back and trying to work out why my stitch count doesn't work. Again!
3. Spreadsheet the chart row numbers. This pattern has 3 different cable charts. None of which are numbered the same. So while I'm knitting row 16 of chart 1, I'm knitting row 4 of chart 2 (for the 4th time) and row 8 of chart 3 (for the 2nd time). Who can keep that straight in their head? Not me, so the spreadsheet was the answer.

4. I've really got to tighten up my transition between knit and purl stitches. There are ladders between these stitches, where the yarn is very loose. I came across this phenomenon when I was researching the TKGA Masters I did a couple of years ago, so this is no surprise. See the stitches on the right of this photo? Slightly bigger/looser than the stitches to their left.

5. Use small stitch markers. I think this one may have contributed to at least one of #4's ladders.

6. Washing and blocking really can help you achieve gauge. Before I washed this sucker, it was approx. a whole inch off the width for the stitch count. After washing, I blocked it out to the size I needed it to be to match that magic stitch count. I saw that the fabric stretched out and the stitches lost none of their integrity - still just as pretty, and the fabric is nice and drapy.

So, to cast on this evening. Wish me luck on this journey - I hope I remember to alternate balls of yarn!
Disco xo


Jo said...

This is a conundrum for me - like you, I rarely swatch... but I love complicated cables. I hate charts - especially when there are multiple charts like that and you are somehow expected to piece the bits together. There has to be an easier way.

Zonda said...

Whew, love that colorway! I so hate to swatch, but I do it begrudingly. I do the same thing with charts, helps so much more