Thoughts on swatching
As designers and yarn dyers, much of our knitting time is spent swatching rather than working on full projects. In fact we have boxes of swatches!
A big messy jumble of knitted swatches.
We swatch when we try out new yarns to see if we want to add them to our yarn line.
We swatch when we dye new colourways and want to see how they knit up.
We swatch when we have an idea for a new design. Often many, many times.
Many knitters avoid swatching and I admit that I used to be one of those knitters. I was always impatient to get to the good part of starting a project instead of wasting time swatching. "I'm usually close enough to gauge, right? I'm sure it will be fine."
Things started to change as I began designing my own projects. Yes I can sometimes wing it (Leif the Lucky was designed on the needles with no real plan in mind), but the vast majority of the time I need to swatch as part of the design process. And somewhere along the way I've grown to love swatching for its own sake.
Swatches on display at the studio, artfully arranged by Sarah.
Many of these are for Sweet Paprika patterns we've designed over the years.
For those swatch-avoiders among you, I encourage you to think of swatching beyond whether or not you get perfect gauge for a project. Instead, consider swatching as a way to get to know a yarn, to understand the structure of a stitch pattern, to decide which needle size will give you the fabric and drape you're looking for. You certainly don't have to be a designer to find it helpful to know these things before starting a project. You don't even have to swatch for a specific project! You could pull out a skein of yarn from your stash and swatch with it before you decide what project it should be paired with.
August Swatch of the Month - Waffle pattern in Minuet DK
Because we want to share our love of swatching with you, Debbie and I have started a Swatch of the Month feature as part of our monthly email newsletter. (If you haven't already joined our mailing list you can subscribe below.)
Each month we’ll be sharing a little bit of our behind-the-scenes swatching. Many of the swatches you’ll see will show up in future designs. Some of them may be stitch patterns that we love but just didn’t quite work for the design we had in mind. We'll provide a PDF download with full swatching instructions for those of you who feel like swatching along with us.
Look out for this waffle pattern in a new design next month!
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One of our big goals for Sweet Paprika this year was to source a new line of Canadian wool yarns. We started contacting farms and mills last January, researching options, connecting with farmers, and collecting samples.
Eventually we settled on working with wool from Circle R Livestock, a family farm in southern Ontario. Over the spring we worked out the details to have the wool milled in New Brunswick, and we then spent the summer doing dye tests and creating colour recipes for our new Winfield (worsted) and Sutton (bulky) yarn lines.
Lately a lot of my crafting inspiration has come from my son, who is growing and needs things, and from my goal to live more gently on this earth and think twice before buying and using things.
My values of living frugally and buying ethically-produced clothing that is not damaging to the environment sometimes feel completely at odds with each other. For me, this is where mending, crafting, and buying second-hand come in. Can I mend something to extend its useful life? Can I knit or sew more of our everyday wardrobe basics? Is it something I can trade or buy second-hand rather than purchasing new?