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On Swatching

Very few people are neutral on the idea of swatching.

I’m not saying whether you like to swatch, or not;  but whether or not swatching should occur.

I fall into the ‘swatching is a necessary and valuable process’ camp.  Others feel, quite adamantly, that it is a worthless waste of time, their gauge never ends up matching their swatch, they are always on gauge and thus need not swatch, etc etc.

Do I swatch everything?  No.  I do not do a swatch for every pair of worsted weight house socks I knit up in my (nearly gone) stash of Lamb’s Pride.  I’m happy with the fabric I’ve gotten using the size needles I use each time.  And even for regular socks — I’ll take an educated guess at the size needles I’ll most likely need for the yarn in question, and view the start of the sock as my swatch, and frog & re-knit as necessary (which does occasionally happen).

But I do think swatching is necessary with yarns with which you’re not familar and/or new stitch patterns.  I don’t try to slavishly match a pattern’s given gauge;  I’d rather adapt a pattern to the fabric.  Note I generally don’t use the yarn called for in the original pattern — if I did, I probably would try to get the called-for gauge.  I certainly prefer to swatch (and wash the swatch!) if I’m going to be making a long, involved project, or if I’m using expensive yarn.

For designing, obviously, swatching is very necessary.  While working on my fingerless mitts I went through multiple combinations of stitch patterns before finally deciding on which I liked best.

Swatching is also key in Fair Isle or other colorwork if you’re coming up with your own colorway.  Colors can look very different once knitted together than even when the skeins are held close together.  (Needless to say natural light, or a natural light lamp, also is key!)

What are your thoughts on swatching?

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